This is a combined review of 3 exciting games, we will be reviewing Age of Zombies, Air Mail & AirAttack
When Barry Steakfries is sent back in time to battle zombies, he encounters a zombie Tyrannosaurus Rex in prehistoric times. As impressive as this boss encounter could be, it ends up feeling small and predictable, and when the T-Rex is dead, Barry quips that he’s better off having known him. Ok, but what about us?
Age of Zombies is the latest game from Halfbrick, the studio behind the best-selling Fruit Ninja games and Canabalt-style high score runner Monster Dash. Barry Steakfries hardly says a word in Monster Dash, but in Age of Zombies he won’t shut up. He’s surprisingly foul-mouthed, too, which may upset parents who assume that Halfbrick’s games are all as family-friendly as Fruit Ninja.
Barry travels to five different time periods (prehistoric times, a 1930s gangland, ancient Egypt, feudal Japan, and the future) to blast away the zombie menace using twin-stick controls. In each stage, a few new zombies are introduced, along with appropriate background music and sound effects.
For example, Barry grunts in a caveman voice when he picks up a power-up in prehistoric times, and he uses a wiseguy accent in the 1930s gangster level. It’s a fun detail, and it complements Barry’s amusing dialogue. Barry’s banter is pretty funny, and he’ll fire snappy one-liners at a machine gun-rate.
Another thing we liked about Age of Zombies is the sheer number of onscreen enemies you’ll have to mow down. Instead of dying with one touch like in many shooters, Barry can withstand a few seconds of zombie clawing before he dies. It’s frightening to see a horde of zombies hone in on you, but the campaign mode can be pretty easy if you keep your distance and head straight for the game’s multiple power-ups.
These power-ups are not nearly as clever as the ones Barry used in Monster Dash. There’s no machine gun jetpack, for example, and instead you’ll have to make do with the same old machine guns, shotguns, and grenades we’re used to from countless other games.
Except for the boss fights, we found Age of Zombies’ campaign mode to be fairly dull. The clever settings, dialogue, and sound effects don’t really make up for the fact that you’ll continually run and gun in small, enclosed environments without much gameplay variation. Age of Zombies is purely an action game, but we wish it didn’t have to feel so mindless.
Age of Zombies also lets you replay any level in survival mode and post your high scores on OpenFeint and Game Center. As a simple high-score shooter, Age of Zombies is worth a purchase, but we did find the campaign mode to be a bit lacking. Halfbrick is also promising more updates for Age of Zombies, and they’ve impressed us in the past with their continued support of both Fruit Ninja and Monster Dash. For now, Age of Zombies is just a simple shooter, but we do have to admire its style.
There have been other successful flying games on iOS, like the dogfighting sim Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy, but nothing available today matches the charm of Air Mail. Air Mail is inspired by lofty anime like Porco Rosso, which combines colorful characters and environments with iconic early 20th century technology like biplanes and zeppelins.
In Air Mail, you play as a young boy or girl who gets a job delivering mail by sea plane, but very few of the game’s levels actually have you picking up and dropping letters. Very quickly, you’ll engage in a series of brief missions (all are around 2 minutes long) that will have you chasing pigeons from rooftops, harvesting fish from the sea, and igniting fireworks to raise the town’s spirits.
Then, war is declared. Instead of placing a couple of machine guns on your plane like in most other flight sims, Air Mail takes a refreshingly unique approach to combat. You’ll sabotage the enemy fleet and help the resistance, but only by stealing ammo from flight decks, or clipping the cables holding their airships together. So without firing a single bullet, you’ll become a war hero through your flying skills alone.
None of this could work without a sensible control scheme, and Air Mail offers three. You can use a virtual joystick, tilt the entire device, or employ a complicated “advanced” mode that lets you pull off extra moves like barrel rolls. We preferred the basic tilt mode, and had no trouble navigating our creaky plane through narrow alleyways and under rocky bridges.
Air Mail is also a delight to look at and listen to. The colorful graphics perfectly match the anime films it’s inspired by, and the music is professional film or TV quality. The voice acting can be a bit grating, especially the wizened Japanese sensei who almost sounds like a caricature, but some of the supporting characters sound genuinely enthusiastic when you perform well in a mission.
In addition to the main story mode (which is punctuated by windowed and poorly animated cutscenes), Air Mail offers a few fun bonuses. There’s exploration mode, where you can kick back without a time limit and search for bonus collectibles, and a few delivery missions that you can replay for a high score. You can also replay each story mission for a five-star rating, but there’s no multiplayer mode to compete against other players.
Despite a few very minor issues– namely, the cutscenes and some of the voice acting– we loved this bright, beautiful flying game. It has a charming story, even if it’s not always well-delivered, and the gameplay is everything you could ask for in a casual flight sim. Whether you’re igniting celebratory fireworks, defending your town from attack, or barreling through a giant dragon skeleton, Air Mail is packed with moments that will put a smile on your face.
What do you call a top-down vertical shooter that’s not quite as frantic as a bullet-hell game like Espgaluda II? Would it be bullet heck? Bullet purgatory? Whatever it is, that’s the category the excellent new twitch-reaction game AirAttack falls under, at least until the later levels, when the screen fills up with cascades of hot lead, and it’s all you can do to stay alive.
Like in any good shooter, destruction is the primary concern of AirAttack, and there’s plenty of it to go around. Enemies stream on and off the screen, begging to be blown out of the sky, while land vehicles and buildings can be bombed into heaps of twisted metal. You can wreck just about everything that appears onscreen, which grants players an awesome feeling of power.
Your standard gun fires a nonstop stream of bullets as you maneuver your plane freely. Every control method you could want is accounted for, but the default ‘touch’ one suited us just fine. Double-tapping anywhere on the screen drops a bomb, which is useful for destroying tanks, turrets, and buildings, and touch buttons appear as you purchase new weapons from the store.
Of course, not all of the destruction will be at the enemy’s expense. Under the Normal difficulty mode you’ll occasionally find yourself massively outgunned upon starting a new level, and you’ll lose all your lives in no time. This could be a game-crippling flaw, but if you make smart purchases from the in-game store and memorize enemy attack patterns you should be able to plow through after a few tries. The well-placed checkpoints are helpful, and if you still can’t stand the heat, there’s always Easy mode.
Every building you bomb and enemy formation you decimate yields either points, ammo, temporary upgrades, or money that you can spend at the store that appears at each checkpoint. Money is extremely desirable, because it allows you to purchase helpful upgrades and special weapons. Points, on the other hand, seem less valuable because the game doesn’t have online leaderboards. While AirAttack is very fun, there’s not much reason to go back and replay it without online scoring.
But despite this, AirAttack is a seriously fun game. The bosses are super-sized and terrifyingly well armed, but if you can figure out the optimal patterns to fight them, you’ll do just fine. The music that accompanies the game is also top notch and fits the gameplay perfectly. If frantic shoot-’em-ups are your thing, AirAttack is one you’ll play to the end.