These days the Appstore is crowded, nay infested, with zombie games of all shapes and sizes, so it takes something truly special to stand out from the stiff (geddit?) competition. Enter N.Y.Z, a title that in spite of casting you as the reluctantly heroic survivor of the two hundred and sixteenth zombie apocalypse so far this year, featuring a plot that’s the very definition of cliched hokum and starring hordes of decomposing flesh-eaters, still manages to feel remarkably fresh.
Rather than simply jumping on the zombie bandwagon and hoping for the best, Foursaken Media have striven to deliver a game that will breathe new life into the stalest of iPhone gaming genres. And from the moment N.Y.Z.’s first monster comes crashing through your apartment door, it’s evident we’re in for an action-packed gore-fest that will surprise, and yes even scare, the most jaded of survival horror aficionados.
This initial skirmish with the undead showcases the game’s jaw-dropping graphics, attention to detail – from the clouds of flies that swarm around the kitchen to the near photo-realism of your cannabalistic attackers – and faultless control system. Viewed from a first-person perspective the ensuing action gets right in your face and has a wonderfully gritty feel to it.
The stripped down controls work incredibly well, and it’s obvious the developers have put a great deal of thought into their implementation. In each stage you are rooted to a single spot, you can’t move, and instead must swivel around by swiping the screen, whilst shooting at the freaks trying to turn you into lunch. This simplistic set-up could have been an absolute disaster, but actually makes for some thrilling gameplay, perfectly capturing the frantic nature, I’d imagine, of a real life zombie attack.
The, again non-complex, tap-to-shoot mechanic allows for pin-point accuracy when blowing away zombies, meaning head-shots and killing streaks can be pulled off with ease, while trying to avoid shooting other survivors adds a layer of complexity to the proceedings. If you’ve got the stomach for it, you can also pinch to zoom in on the zombies.
As you can see from these screenshots, you can arm yourself with a number of munitions and other items before tackling each level. They range from melee weapons like a knife or baseball bat (perfect for some up close and personal monster mashing and slashing) to a more powerful assortment of pistols, boomsticks, railguns and even that horror movie staple – the almighty chain-saw. Very groovy!
In addition there’s a number of other items available, such as flares (useful for temporarily blinding foes), body armour, medi-packs and much, much more. As you progress through the game you have the option to upgrade your arsenal between every level, spending the cash given to you by grateful survivors you’ve rescued along the way. These tooling-up sections introduce an element of strategy to what might have been a mindless blaster, as you agonise over which weapons to bring with you into battle.
Often the outcome of a level will be decided here, because if you fail to choose the right combination of gear you’re not going to last long against the ravenous hordes. This means adopting a trial and error style of play, replaying stages so as to accumulate enough funds to afford better equipment, and experimenting with what weapons work best against different types of zombie.
And there’s a staggering variety of enemy types to work your way through. We’ve got Romero inspired shuffling corpses, grotesque fatties, eight-foot tall freaks, hulking dead cops, and even monsters that can leap tall buildings in a single bound (the first time I witnessed a zombie hurtling through the air I almost dropped my iPod in surprise)!
N.Y.Z‘s twenty levels are as diverse as the zombies that inhabit them, taking in the claustraphobic confines of gutted apartment blocks, eery subway tunnels, rooftops, corn-fields and some explosive face-offs with armies of the undead on the streets of a ruined New York City, to name just a few.
The action is driven by a wittily written storyline that refreshingly revels in its own schlockyness, and provides plenty of giggles amid the bloodshed. Sample Line: “Blasted every last one of those things that came at me, everyone except my neighbour Mrs. Jones…I just punched her in the face and locked her in a closet. Granted she was a zombie, but she’s the nicest lady I know.” Funny stuff, right?
All in all, N.Y.Z. is a massively entertaining horror shooter, granted the inability to move and explore environments may put some people off , but honestly I never found this a problem, and really enjoyed the visceral, kill or be killed style of gameplay the fixed perspective allowed for. Replayability wise the game is also onto a winner; a second mode in the shape of Survival, unlockable trophies and an online leaderboard fleshing out a package already bursting with zombie killin’ goodness.
If Gameloft’s forthcoming, shameless Resident Evil rip-off and Bulkypix’s Undead: The Last Refuge are shaking in their boots right now, then good, they bloody well should be, because N.Y.Z is going to be one hell of a tough act to follow.
iFanzine Verdict: Proving there’s still plenty of life in the zombie genre, Foursaken Media’s mightily impressive debut offers up a nerve-shredding blend of gritty action, razor sharp wit and strategic gameplay. This is an instant classic; iFanzine ♥‘s N.Y.Z!