I admit with some hesitation that I did not buy the original Zombie Highwaywhen it was first released. I’m not sure why; maybe I was dumb and didn’t think it looked that great, or maybe I was off saving a princess or twerking or something and missed it. Either way, it eventually ended up on my device at the too-generous price of Free and I wound up loving it to death. It had it all: Zombies, cars, guns, endless-ness. So when I heard a new one was being released, I didn’t care what price it was. I had to have immediately. Folks, don’t make the same mistake I did the first time. Auxbrain, Inc. has another winner here.
As the title suggests, Zombie Highway: Driver’s Ed (out now, $0.99) is sort of like a training course for the Zombie Highway world. The game almost has a prequel vibe, in fact, with its simplified mechanics and lack of guns. Yep, you read that correctly: Despite being a huge part of the first game, there isn’t a single firearm to be found at all in Driver’s Ed. And you know what? I don’t miss ’em one bit.
You see, for me, anyway, by far the most fun part of ZH was racing up to a barrier and scraping a pair of undead scum off the side of my vehicle. And while this opinion may not be shared by everyone, I actually love that the follow-up has no guns. It simplifies and streamlines the entire experience and shifts the focus more to the actual driving. It’s a brilliant, maybe even brave choice, and it’s executed perfectly.
And speaking of execution, those of you who might miss the carnage and convenience of offing a zombie passenger when no barriers are nearby will be pleased to know that the sick individuals at Auxbrain have come up with the Popper. It’s the game’s lone weapon, and it’s a doozy. To activate it, you simply tap the screen and any zombies currently hitching a ride will suddenly find themselves without a head. Pop!
Now back to the driving. Like the first game, Driver’s Ed is controlled with tilt. Unfortunately, there are no options to set the sensitivity or switch to touch driving, but you probably won’t need them. Unlike the first game, the road you are driving is not miles and miles of perfectly straight wasteland. The road meanders around and even goes through darkened tunnels on occasion. Because of this, the driving mechanics are a little different this time around and you have much more control over where you go. Instead of just a left-right avoidance mechanic, the driving actually feels like driving, and it’s awesome.
The overall goal of the game, much like the first, is to simply see how far you can go and get the highest score possible. Helping you out are a series of upgrades for both your vehicle and the Popper. Thankfully, all the upgrades are extremely fairly priced and make a noticeable difference to the game. I’m a huge sucker for a well-done upgrade system, and they nailed it here. Simple, yet effective. Beyond the high score chasing there’s also a list of missions to complete, like driving a certain distance without killing anything or popping a certain number of zombies over the long run. My favorite thing about the mission system is the fact that you aren’t forced to complete one or three at a time like most of these sorts of games; rather, they are listed in a menu and you complete them in whatever order you want (or happen to).
Sure, it’s not all sunshine and gore. There’s only one vehicle, environment, and game mode. I’d absolutely love to see the game filled out a bit more with updates (like the original was), but what’s amazing is how fun what’s on offer already is. I’ve been playing for over a week now, have fully upgraded everything, and nearly completed all the missions, and I still find myself excited to keep playing even though it’s essentially the same thing over and over. That’s as good a testament as any as to how absurdly fun and subtly deep the core mechanics are.
iFanzine Verdict: Despite a lack of content in terms of vehicles and environments, Zombie Highway: Driver’s Ed is one of the most fun zombie AND endless games I’ve played in a long time. And consideringjust how many zombie games and endless games there are on the App Store, that’s no mean feat. 99 cents is a more than fair toll to take a drive on the Zombie Highway once again.