Zombies. It had to be zombies. At first glance, Spooky Xmas looks like your run-of-the-mill tower defense game. You actively defend your samurai character’s dojo from an oncoming horde of the undead who are decidedly filled with holiday cheer. As zombie-related titles go, having them dressed in ugly Christmas sweaters and attacking you from reindeer-drawn sleighs is probably one of the highlights of the entire zombies-in-games tropes.
However, what sets Spooky Xmas apart further is that unlike your run-of-the-mill tower defense games, you take a much more hands-on approach to defending your sanctuary. With samurai sword in hand, you slice, dice, and chop up the approaching zombies with swipes of your finger, lending a certain Fruit Ninja-esque feel to the proceedings. You can slice them from any angle, and the zombies tend to act accordingly.
“Ethel! Get the turkey on, the kids are here!”
What (theoretically) prevents the entire practice from becoming one big scribblefest with your finger is the approach of survivors among the zombie legion. Not the best place to be, but regardless, each one which makes it to your dojo gives you 15 coins to spend on upgrading your defenses with various barricades and traps, or repairing the damage that’s already been done. You can also earn coins by performing combos and taking down multiple zombies at once (or by simply purchasing them with real money), but be careful– you lose money for chopping down innocents.
Initially, the concept works well enough. However, progression here basically means that they just add more and new types of zombies until the entire screen is filled with them. It becomes a bit ridiculous, especially as zombies can be obscured by the HUD, or simply by other zombies. As a result, you’ll need to slash more frantically to keep up, but in doing so, you’re more likely to cut down an unseen innocent or ignite the dynamite of a suicide-bombing zombie obscured by the crowd. The latter is a double-edged sword, of sorts; it clears the screen of zombies, but also does the same of innocents, and doesn’t seem too healthy for your dojo, either.
God bless us, everyBRAAAAAAINS
Throughout the game’s story mode (the only mode available until you beat it, unlocking the endless ‘Eternal December’ mode), the scenery never changes, save for the time of day, and it can feel a little repetitious, though not quite overly so. The real problem is that so many enemies eventually approach at once that you’ll find yourself entering that frantic ‘scribble’ mode just to take them all down, and that eventually takes its toll, unless you’re willing to fork over some of your own hard-earned coin to buy the in-game coins to keep up.
Spooky Xmas isn’t a bad game, but isn’t very deep, and feels like it adds difficulty just for the sake of difficulty (or, again, parting you from your cash for upgrades). We can’t say you won’t like it, but nor can we give it a particularly strong recommendation, either.