Updated: Thorn: Zombie Dungeon Survival Review

When we first encountered Thorn: Zombie Dungeon Survival, we weren’t very impressed. The developers have since made some meaningful changes to the game, and– while we still think it’s missing some key elements– it’s now a more compelling package.

Most importantly, Thorn is now free to download. Those who have already purchased the game will gain access to the game’s new mode, Escape, which is available for 99 cents otherwise. This new mode adds lightly narrated, untimed gameplay, featuring a battle against the Evil Lord Evil. It’s not bad, but the experience isn’t that much different than the free portion of the game.

Thorn now has Game Center support too, which makes chasing scores in survival mode much more engaging. There are also a number of smaller improvements to the game, such as being able to tell what an item is before you pick it up. However, Thorn has a way to go before we can say it’s one of the better games on the App Store. There’s no character progression, and the animations and collisions still don’t seem to line up quite right. But you can’t argue with free, so check it out for yourself.

Thorn: Zombie Dungeon Survival’s title doesn’t leave much to the imagination, and you shouldn’t be surprised by the content of the game if you choose to download it. You play as Thorn and survive in dungeons against zombies, but unless you really want this specific combination of elements, there’s not much to recommend in Thorn.

You could call Thorn an isometric dungeon crawler, but that sort of phrase evokes games that are much more interesting than Thorn is. There’s no character progression and no reason to be involved in the game, except for its simple, arcade-y framework. You have a certain amount of time to find the exit of a level (all of which have the same look and a seemingly random design), and then you’re given a score once you find it based on how long you took and how many zombies you killed.

First, hack. And then slash.

The only loot in the game is limited to the different ranged weapons you can pick up. You use them by tapping the main character and then drawing a path on the screen. It’s a pretty neat way to deal with enemies, but you only have one slot for these items and the game manages what little inventory it has in an entirely inelegant way. One example of this would be, if you pick up three red bombs and were already carrying one, you don’t end up with four of them. You can only hold one ranged weapon at a time, too, and you can’t pick up the weapon you just dropped if you don’t want the new one. It just makes the game feel like it was put together in a weekend and not meant to be released until someone said, ‘why not?’

The game has decent graphics for the most part, but it’s hard to tell what specific kind of weapon you’ll be picking up, which compounds the issue of the game’s oversimplified equipment system. It’s also hard to intelligently interpret the animations of the zombies you face. It’s not obvious when one of them is attacking you, or if they’re close enough to hurt you.

The action is mostly solid, but there’s just nothing propelling it forward. It just doesn’t give you any good reasons to play, unless you’re somehow really into the game’s simple mechanics. There’s no story or anything even vaguely resembling one. The only thing compelling you to stick around is a local leaderboard, which isn’t really enough given how many games have OpenFeint and/ or Game Center support. Thorn is only a buck, but there are a lot of free games that have more to offer.

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