The Walking Dead: Assault
When there is no more room on your computer, the dead will walk the iOS. Skybound delivers a gritty comic-book styled action realtime-strategy experience with The Walking Dead: Assault. Roughly following the events of the wildly popular undead-packed comics, the game stars police officer Rick Grimes as he wakes from a coma in a hospital some time after the city has already been overrun. Being made of sterner stuff than you or I, Rick opts not to lay crying in the corner eating SlimJims and instead takes up his trusty axe and gun to hack and blast his way to freedom. Over the course of the game, you'll recruit more survivors from the smash-hit comic series, all with their own abilities, and direct them through sprawling levels packed with zombies, raiders, people to save, and much more. No experience with the comic or television series is necessary to play and enjoy!
The in-game tutorial will walk you through each new element as its introduced, but the basics are pretty simple. Double-tap a spot to move the character you're in control of there, or press and hold to have your entire party move at once, picking up any supplies or ammo they pass over. Your characters' ranges are marked by blue circles around them, and they'll automatically attack anything that comes into it. While melee weapons may have a smaller range, in addition to not needing ammo, they're also silent, which is important if you're hoping to avoid making a big enough ruckus to bring a massive horde down on you in later levels. Keep an eye out for green highlighted objects like fresh corpses or car alarms that can be tapped to cause a temporary undead distraction.
Each character has both a passive ability that imparts a bonus to the team, and a special ability that has to be manually activated after it cools down ranging from briefly but drastically increasing your party's damage, to distracting all the zombies to go after one specific person, forcing headshots, and more. Your goal is usually to wipe out all the zombies in each level, though the game will frequently throw you choices or secondary bonus objectives, and between each stage you can spend the supplies you've earned on upgrades or hiring new party members so you have more heroes to choose from when assembling your group to tackle a level.
Analysis: Though it lacks any sort of real story or characterisation beyond what you can gather from each character's special abilities and the locations you visit, The Walking Dead: Assault is still a surprisingly good game for a series that's had its share of tie-ins already. It looks fantastic to say the least, implementing the comic series' signature style with flair, and more importantly, the actual gameplay is both fun and genuinely strategic. Bulldozing your way through each level will only get you so far, and you'll soon have to learn how to issue orders on the fly in order to move characters around individually to take down threats and survive both with force and stealth when necessary. The actual movement and swapping of weapons seems a little sluggish, with hold-to-activate becoming annoying to try to move to areas you may not realise aren't valid or taking an extra spare second to happen you don't actually have. It seems like "tap once to move one, twice to move all" would have worked better, as well as a simple on/off melee toggle.
These quibbles aside, however, The Walking Dead: Assault is a surprisingly frantic, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience at times, with distractions and character abilities integrated in clever ways. While you can purchase extra supplies to spend on characters and upgrades via optional in-game purchases, the game never feels like its really forcing you to do so through unfair balancing, and you can always replay stages. As of this writing, only the first batch of levels are available, but there are more planned on the way as well as additional characters and new weapons. (Note that it isn't immediately clear if these will be free updates or additional levels for purchase.) If you enjoy simple but challenging real-time strategy games and have always wanted to send Shane hurtling all by his lonesome into a massive crowd of zombies, The Walking Dead: Assault is massively entertaining and well worth the price of admission.
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad (1st Gen.). Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.