Zombie Samurai Review

Alawar Entertainment sure is getting into the Halloween spirit! A few weeks back they brought Artifex Mundi’s Haunted Domains to iDevice-owning time management fans, and now it’s the slicing genre that’s getting a seasonal treat with Zombie Samurai (Out Now, $0.99 Sale), developed in collaboration with Alcomi and Eye Interactive. Zombie Samurai carries a simple moral: if you’re a zombie searching for brains in feudal Japan, you should not, under any circumstances, walk into a samurai dojo in the middle of a practice session.

A great way to think about this one is “Fruit Ninja meets the Castle Defense genre.” You view the action as if you were the samurai looking across the battlefield, where zombies march toward the dojo in side view perspective. The player’s job is to swipe down the incoming horde, taking individual zombies down before they get close enough to claw away at the dojo. Thanks to a nice ragdoll engine and a body zone targeting system, the player can have fun slicing up the zombies every which way, but beware: a zombie will keep heading for the dojo if it has so much as an arm left to drag itself along!

Lopping down undead hordes is a cinch at first, but the zombies get rather creative once they realize the usual swarming method isn’t quite working. A few waves in and they’ll be swooping down with kites or air balloons, yanking out dynamite sticks the player has to be careful to avoid detonating, and attempting to ram fire trucks(!) into the dojo. Even Godzilla makes an appearance or two for good measure. Once the more advanced zombies are busted out of their vehicles they’ll approach on foot as a normal foe would. The sheer variety of enemies on offer, and the different ways they have to be dealt with, bring some much needed depth to the slice-everything-you-see formula!

Keeping the player’s haphazard swiping in check are civilians mixed into the crowd. Not only is an ill-placed swipe bad for the player’s conscience and leaderboard score, it’s downright bad for the dojo; human survivors kindly pay for shelter there, and the player can purchase upgrades with that money between waves. The dojo’s appearance beefs up nicely as the player slaps on barricades and metal doors, or even digs a moat to make it inaccessible to ground enemies. These upgrades break down under all the zombie scratching or otherwise wear out over time, so splurging reward cash on less costly repairs is also a sound option. The player can bump up his or her gold stash by finishing off multiple zombies with the same swipe.

Although you’ll be sure to forget it as Zombie Samurai’s “Adventure” campaign stretches on, it does have a conclusion. At that point an “Endless Night” mode unlocks, promising all the zombie slicing the player could ever handle. All the zombie appendages flopping around, and the visual effects of the dojo’s breakdown and repair, are impressive. Balloon zombies have an unfortunate tendency to drop in right behind the score, cash, and dojo health display, but this seems purely an aesthetic issue and not one that interferes with the swipe controls. I’d love to hear a few more music tracks; Zombie Samurai currently has one for nighttime waves and one for daytime waves, both making prodigious use of creepy animal howls. Zombie Samurai should last a good two to three hours before it begins to wear thin.

iFanzine Verdict: The slicing genre may compete with the endless runner for most worn-out concept on iOS, but Zombie Samurai is a compelling package thanks to the way it marries the depth of the Castle Defense genre with swipe-at-everything gameplay.

The iPhone/iPod Touch version of Zombie Samurai is reviewed here. iPad owners, don’t forget that an HD alternative is available.