Review: Zombie Typomaniac17 Sep 2013 0
Probably the breast thing about Zombie Typomaniac is how thoroly it commits to being both a typeing, and an educational, game. What could have easlly been a minimal vocabulary throwaway with the barest challengre is instead a finger-numbing, brain-wracking title which incorporates words from cat to orphan to xylene to... yods. Of course, it's also just, you know, kind of a basic stand your ground, shoot a bunvh of zombies affair. Hmmm? Misspellig everything? Oh, yeah, look at that. Several times. And yet I got xylene...
So here you are. There are zombies. They appear on the right, walk towards the left, and you have to shoot them. Et cetera, et cetera. Except, as this is a typing game, you can't just go ahead and shoot any old deadie as quick as you please. First, you must either tap out the word that appears over their head--using a super spooooooky approximation of your standard iDevice touchscreen keys--or do that weird drag across all the letters that I'm pretty sure's never worked for anyone, and only exists as a Sisyphean challenge for gullible Gen Y-ers who like The Strokes too much. (And for those wondering, there's no wireless keyboard support here. Greasy ol' screen or bust.)
That's essentially it. Essentially. But Zombie Typomaniac is, if nothing else, a stickler for details, and it hashes out its conceit as far as possible. Take, for example, the power-ups. Med-kits, dynamite, ammo to both blow up multiple zeds at once and to more easily wear down the "brute" zombie types which take multiple word-bullets to splat. Standard stuff. Except, when they appear, you can't just click on these bonuses to use 'em. You have to type a word first! Typing game!
Okay, not the most thrilling example. But then there's the enemy types. Aforementioned tough guys take consecutive shots, jogger zombies are predictably quick, and purple zombified birds (?) are a sudden threat that zoom across the screen at you like feathery undead SCUD missiles (???). The latter are quickly dispatched with a single typed letter, but just as easily replaced. Mafia zombies, in addition to perpetuating Italian stereotypes from beyond the grave, also throw crap at you from a distance (they're quite irritating). Best are the nerdy zombies, whose life-words must be spelt without typos. Screw up, and these lumbering linguaphiles will demand that you start over, while the whole class watches too. Utterly embarrassing.
There are some boss fights too, which just involve typing lots of words at one big fella. Easy compared to the game's standard levels which, as it happens, are damn hard (or... can be, if the game's touted adaptive difficulty deems you worthy). Zombie Typomaniac throws a lot of zeds at you, from all those uniquely language oriented walks of undead unlife. I can't recall a single match I'd qualify as an easy win. Even the nimble-fingered will probably find most of their bouts ending with a mad scramble to send the proper signals for "efficacious" from their brain to their dumb, swollen hand-meat while the last few zeds on screen gnaw on their health and ridicule their inability to handle double consonants.
It's surprisingly easy, even with a loaded screen, to parse out which words floating above the horde correspond to which zombies. This is key, since beyond the actual typing component, the play of Zombie Typomaniac comes from weighing word complexity against the difficulties particular zombies carry. You don't just have to decide if you can type "rekindled" quickly, but if you can do it without messing up, at all, and if it's more important to type that one longer word now, or two shorter ones for the speedier zombie that might be at your throat any second--and you need to decide this in an instant. Risk, reward, and gratification if you get everything right.
This ease of picking words out of the crowd comes in part from the fact that Zombie Typomaniac is butt-ass ugly in just the right way. Thick outlines, garish color composition, simple design--it aims to get the job done and stops the instant it has. Zombie-punk at its finest.
But while it's easy to identify words and their attendant zeds, actual, smart target selection can be a pain in the ass considering how Zombie Typomaniac handles its version of "aiming." Once you've started on a word, there's no bailing out, and barring one of those perfectionist zeds (who could be considered a boon, in this sense) you need to finish. Accidentally point your keyboard-gun at a zed instead of the dynamite you really need, or at a weakling in the back row instead of the killer right in front of you, and you're finished. A small enough issue, and yet one that diminishes the element--and curse--of choice which makes Zombie Typomaniac more than "just" a typing game.
Still, this one's a pleasant surprise. Again, the lack of wireless keyboard support is a massive oversight begging to be fixed, and will surely limit the longevity of the game for some, but all in all Zombie Typomaniac is an unexcepted... unexpectodly... nunexciptedly, uh, a good game you might not expect to be good, but is.
The game was played on the iPad for this review.