A couple of years ago, PlayForge, wanting to get in on some of those sweet Farmville dollars, released the first Zombie Farm game. Combining the strangely addictive gameplay of Farmville with the neat concept of ‘growing’ and building a zombie army to invade your neighbors, the first game became one of the most successful freemium games for the AppStore. Now they’ve gone and made a sequel and, well, let’s just say that we’re glad it’s free.
For the uninitiated, here’s the lowdown: you play as a farmer who grows and harvests all manner of weird crops like bread-fruit, venus flytraps, and candy-corn. Most importantly though, you can plant and harvest zombies. And not just your average, run of the mill zombies, but variants like girl zombies, headless zombies, teeny-tiny zombies, and tomato zombies. After you’ve built up a sufficient number of the walking-dead you can take your army of brain munchers and attack other farms. If you win the battle against the other hapless farmer, you get rewards like gold, items, and the most important thing… braaaaaains!
All you hard work and loot can grant you access to more zombies to raise, stuff for your farm, and more crops to plant. Zombie Farm 2 also has an interesting social aspect which allows you to visit other farms and trade, or gift, items between you. However, fans of the first game aren’t going to find anything terribly unique or revelatory here. There are some things done to streamline the gameplay experience, like eliminating the ‘withering’ effect, or adding some new zombie types, but basically this game is more of the same.
The game is constantly presenting you different goals and objectives to achieve, and doing these things gives you experience to level up your farmer (your zombies that hang around level up as well) and can give you more gold, too. Sometimes you’ll have different crops you need to plant, or fields you need to plow, or zombies to harvest. You can even combine zombies to create mutant zombies, which is how you end up with creatures like the undead carrot/ tomato abomination. You also have to manage your numbers and keep everything under control. Doing all of this nets you even more experience and gold. The number of tasks you have to contend with is practically endless and could potentially keep you entertained for a long time.
The problem is when you hit that oh-so-obnoxious ‘freemium wall.’ You eventually will come to a point where you can do nothing but wait… or spend your own hard-earned dollars. Some crops can take as long as 24 hours to grow. There are all kinds of items you can buy to speed the process up (like instant plows or instant-grow feed for your crops) but all of these have to be bought, and your resources dry up pretty fast. You even have to wait hours to attack a farm. And again, you can buy a ‘ticket’ which will allow you to instantly attack, but costs a lot of currency.
Items for your farm, pets if you want them, landscaping items– all of this costs. The only way around waiting forever is to spend real world dollars and buy more in-game currency like brains and gold. So if you don’t want to spend any actual money, then be prepared to do nothing for quite a while. And even though there are lots of things to do, the tasks also get repetitive as there isn’t too much variation beyond planting, plowing, harvesting, and attacking.
The game has a host of technical problems as well. You’ll encounter long load times between screens and game crashes while loading. When the screen gets crowded it’s quite easy to tap on the wrong thing, place something where you didn’t want to, or give the wrong commands. For some actions the game will ask you if you’re ‘sure’ you want to do that, but not for everything. Also, our save-game/profile was erased more than once, which meant starting over from scratch and made the waiting around for things to happen even more interminable.
The game is also constantly shilling for other games made by the company and even goes so far as to make one of your objectives downloading and playing another game. The graphics are also pretty terrible, with some of the art looking fuzzy and slapped onto the screen, and some of the assets look like they were lifted straight out of the first game and then animated by a first semester Flash student.
Zombie Farm 2 seems like nothing more than a cheaply made app wrapped up in a cute little package. We actually love the concept, but a lack of variety, poor design, technical problems, and overt necessity to spend more money to get anything done just leaves a bad taste in our mouths.