In Britain, a few inches of snow is the equivalent of an apocalypse. A country-wide dusting of the white-stuff brings the nation to its knees, grinding all economical and transportation activity to a halt. Whilst a major headache for the working world these snow days are a blessing to children, giving them a day off and the chance to swap algebra for snowball fights.
My youth however was not a lucky one, living in the coastal city of Plymouth that only ever saw rain. So as all other pupils enjoyed a jovial day of freedom and snowmen, I was forced in to carry on my studying. It was snow-mania all over the country; I could not believe how unfair it was that I was still being dragged into school. My trials though were nothing compared to the poor children in Zombie Bus, who are being made to study even during an un-dead outbreak.
Zombie Bus’s premise is simple: help the ‘protagonist’ (who we think evil and cruel) bus driver intent on dragging helpless children back to their class-rooms rather than off to safety. Instead of controlling the bus itself players must draw roads for it to follow, collecting children on the way to the school situated at the end of the level. Points are gained for collecting pupils, with bonus points earned for killing zombies and picking up health packs.
Levels are made challenging by a variety of obstacles standing between the driver and his school. Whereas zombies are fairly harmless enemies that can be run over with ease, inanimate objects such as bins and radio towers are the real foes of the game. Not since GTA and its cornered off islands have traffic cones presented such a big problem to vehicles. There are a variety of power-ups to help the driver on his quest, such as nitro boosts, ploughs and top-loaded canons. The advantages of the power ups though are never really evident with only the bomb, which causes the bus to jump, presenting any substantial help.
The bus, zombies and obstacles are all controlled by a rag-doll physics engine. Although a nice touch, its unpredictability makes the game more challenging than it ought to be, with the bus often getting stuck on top of bins or being trapped on user-drawn roads. Zombie Bus certainly is a very challenging game and with no option to skip a level it may test the patience of even the most tolerant of gamers. Getting to the end of a level can be made all the more frustrating when the driver isn’t satisfied with his level of forced education, insisting that more children need to be returned to school to pass the level.
Thirty levels across two different settings are on offer with the game’s release, with more promised in the future. The two settings feel fairly similar, with only the city obstacles of bins and telephone poles changed for trees in the second stage. The forest levels do feature falling boulders, which offers a new challenge. As before mentioned levels cannot be skipped but both settings are unlocked from the start, giving the player variety if truly stuck on a level.
Graphically Zombie Bus is nice, with the cartoonish style being presented in a crisp and clear fashion. The game’s sound effects are functional but the feel is let down by not having any background music to accompany the action; sounds of a bus’s engine and zombie groans become the main musical theme.
Whilst Zombie Bus is a nicely put together package, it lacks the final polish to really stand out from the crowd and feels a lot like an online flash game. The fact that this is an independently created game made by one developer and a graphics artist means though that it’s lack of polish can be forgiven. Overall Zombie Bus is not the best or most ground breaking game available on the app store. It is, however, a nice little game with a simple enough premise so that anyone can give it a go but with enough of a challenge to keep people playing.
+Simple to play
-Physics engine can be hit and miss
+Clear, crispy style
-Lack of variation
+Good sound effects
- No background theme
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