Maybe I’ve got some kind of weird Stockholm syndrome thing going on, but I’m really starting to feel for zombies. I mean 97.5% of iPhone games (figure correct at time of going to press) involve slaughtering as many of the undead as you can in the cruelest and most unusual ways imaginable. Poor blighters.
And while, to an extent, Behold Studios’ stylish new RTS The Gravedigger continues this trend by offering up a hefty dose of monster mashing, rather refreshingly, it also allows you to play through the flip-side of this well-worn scenario, taking control of a rampaging army of deadites as they lay siege to a town and feast on the flesh of anyone who gets in their way.
At the outset of the game you have the choice of taking control of either a flaming torch and shotgun wielding angry mob led by a stern looking Priest or an unholy horde of zombies brought back from the dead by his sworn enemy, the titular Gravedigger.
What follows is an eye-poppingly gorgeous and hugely enjoyable slice of real time strategizing as Good and Evil go at it in the streets. Each side has their own campaign which comprises of 8 missions apiece. These bite-sized (no pun intended) quests are for the best part based around seeking out and collecting a set number of hidden objects, upgrading your troops, or killing a certain amount of enemies. All leading up to the main event: the assassination of the opposition’s illustrious leader.
Controls are unfussy and work quite well. Tapping a zombie or human selects that character, a double-tap gives you control over every nearby unit, while another tap on the map tells them where to go. Should they encounter a group of enemies en route a skirmish will automatically ensue, with the cartoony armies beating the bejesus out of each other in a hilarity inducing manner. However, there are some inconsistencies with this control set-up that take the edge off the madcap action. For example, sometimes your troops don’t follow your commands to the letter and have an irritating habit of wandering off in the heat of battle. Other times they’ll stand around uselessly while your frantic taps seem to go unheeded.
To be honest though, these minor niggles didn’t have much of a negative impact on my overall enjoyment of The Gravedigger, as the game more than makes up for them with its fiendish sense of fun.
Laugh-out-loud moments include the Gravedigger walloping attackers over the head with his shovel, Flesh-eaters zombifying the human occupants of houses as they make their way through the town, and a huge red hand reaching up out of the ground to drag the slain preacher to hell. Priceless. The highlight of the game for me though was the palpable thrill of looking on as your undead army march through the streets, decimating everything in their path – mwhahaha! – predictably it’s much more fun playing as the baddies.
Overall, The Gravedigger is a well made little RTS with lashings of style and a blackly comedic streak. The biggest let down is that at a meagre 16 missions, this title’s running time is disappointingly brief. However, Behold Studios have promised to rectify this in an imminent update that will add more levels, control tweaks, an endless mode, and a multiplayer mode to the mix.
iFanzine Verdict: This zombie flavoured RTS is a riotous good time from start to finish. It’s just a shame the end came all too soon for my liking. That said, if, as promised, Behold Studios expand the campaign mode, tighten up the controls, and bung in a multiplayer mode for good measure, they just might have a mini classic on their hands.