Zombie Quest – Mastermind the hexes! Review

Update: Since publication, Synaptic Wave have ironed out the bug(s) mentioned in this review, so as promised, we’ve increased the score accordingly. Pavel Tarabrin and Synaptic Wave’s Zombie Quest – Mastermind the hexes! (Out Now, $0.99) may feature some of the scariest antagonists horror cinema and literature have to offer — The Wolfman, Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Dracula, to name but a few — yet the most blood-chilling aspect of this potentially brilliant game is a nasty bug that renders its single-player mode unplayable past a certain point!

That being said, there is still quite a bit of quality content on offer here — including a perfectly functional and very enjoyable pass-and-play multiplayer feature — so I guess I should persevere with this review regardless, and fill you in on all the good stuff.

At its core, Zombie Quest is a strategy-focused board game that plays similarly to Reversi (or Othello). The twist is that instead of moving plain ol’ black and white disks around a board, the player is thrust into the role of a classic “Big Bad” who commands an army of evil minions and must lead them to victory over rival supernatural forces. The game’s turn-based battles take place on various sized hexagonal grids, and are won by whichever army manages to outmaneuver and overwhelm their opponent first.

On each turn you get to move one of your minions; you can either move one space, cloning that monster and giving you an extra piece on the board, or try to possess enemy pieces by jumping a few spaces and landing beside them. Each army also has a special power or weapon at their disposal which can be used once per game, for example Wolfman has a shield while Dracula packs explosives. It’s neat touches like this — not to mention the lush visuals and funny ‘taunt’ animations — that help Zombie Quest’s gameplay feel fresh and unique, despite the board game that inspired it being pretty ancient!

The fact that opponents and armies you conquer in the single-player ‘Quest’ mode are then usable in the multiplayer mode provides a great incentive to complete the challenging solo campaign in its entirety …Or at least it would if Zombie Quest didn’t become so horrendously buggy around the game’s mid-point and start crashing every time you manage to topple Lector and his minions. Synaptic Wave really do need to stamp out this irritating, game-crippling bug pronto because less than half of Zombie Quest is actually playable at present, and the fact that the game crashes at such a pivotal moment is likely to anger early adopters and could generate bad buzz.

Moving swiftly on, the pass-and-play mode is a whole lot of fun. Going up against the computer is cool, but sharing an iDevice and playing against a flesh and blood opponent is a lot more unpredictable and exciting. I can also see online multiplayer feature working really well and attracting a wider audience, so hopefully that’s something Synaptic Wave may consider adding in the future. Beyond the two gameplay modes, Zombie Quest also boasts both Openfeint and Game Center integration/achievements. Overall, this is a great little game, and once the developers roll out a bug fixing update, I reckon it has the potential to be a must-have for horror lovers and fans of the turn-based strategy genre alike.

iFanzine Verdict: Zombie Quest fuses the time-tested gameplay of the board game Reversi with some nifty new features and a charming gothcute aesthetic to utterly engrossing effect. Whenever Pavel Tarabrin and the rest of the crew at Synaptic Wave see fit to stamp out the game-crippling bug that plagues the single-player mode at present, we’ll most definitely be tacking an extra star onto this review.