What’s better than a mall full of zombies? Answer: a mall full of zombies on your iPhone. Yes, Capcom has released an iPhone version of its hit console zombie game, Dead Rising. The plot for the mobile version is similar enough to the original: users play as Frank West, a photojournalist and zombie killer extraordinaire who gets trapped in a shopping mall full of the undead. But the lack of story, movement issues, and overall thin gameplay make Dead Rising a rather ho-hum port of a classic console game.
Users fight to survive, using random scattered objects. The items range from the reasonable (light sabers, rifles and katanas) to the absurd (trashcans, lawn mowers and frying pans). You can only hold one item at a time, however, and you can’t use them forever. Once you lose a weapon, you either must run around to find a new weapon (which isn’t a huge problem considering they’re everywhere and almost anything can be used) or fight the zombies the old fashion way with your fists.
Unfortunately, the mobile version of Dead Rising lacks a true story. The consoel version tasks the player with missions like saving a hostage or sleuthing to find out why the zombies have taken over in the first place— but in the iOS version, there is not a lot of narrative depth. Most tasks have to deal with executing X amount of zombies in a certain area of the mall, or killing Mad Zombies, which are just normal zombies who can take more punches and do a lot more damage to you. You can also gain new combat moves by collecting books around the mall. For the most part though, there’s just a lot of wandering around and zombie annihilating.
All this slaughtering can naturally work up an appetite, so be sure to keep West well fed. He doesn’t eat brains, but you’ll have to search around for hidden sustenance like green onions, apples, and even bottles of beer. You keep track of his health by his hunger meter; let it dip all the way down and he will starve and die. Once that happens, you will lose all the items you’ve collected (like books), your experience points, and you can even get knocked down a few levels. That is, of course, unless you send out a rescue call via Facebook or Twitter (ah, social networking, will we never escape it?) so one of your pals can rescue you. But if you don’t want to be “that guy,” who bothers friends on Facebook because you suck at a videogame, there’s no other choice but to die.
For any game that thrived on the luxuries of a console setup, comparison and criticism can only come so easily. The graphics and ease of the control buttons for the iPhone are lacking, and I found myself struggling to make West move as agile as I wanted. Making him turn around just to deal with a zombie behind him practically required him to jog a lap around a field. There were also a lot of pop-ins and instances of clipping, so when I approached a scene or room thinking it was empty, -surprise!- five zombies and a couple of inanimate trees and chairs would just appear out of nowhere.
Given its drawbacks, I did find the game entertaining. And knowing that while waiting for the bus you have a mall full of zombies in your pocket just waiting to get their heads smashed in is enough to make you play this game many times over.
[Lynn La is a frequent contributor to Macworld.]