A Zombie Game That Pushes the iPhone to the BrinkS

The problem with some iPhone games is that maybe they shouldn't be iPhone games.

The machine they're running on has limits. Its screen is smaller than a back pocket. It has no control sticks. It has no buttons. These facts are not problems for simple games, like the elegantly terrific Angry Birds, but for today's Gaming App of the Day, Zombie Wonderland 2: Outta Time those facts are, at the very least, annoyances that interfere with what should be an entertaining game.

Zombie Wonderland 2: Outta Time is a strategic action game, one that will feel familiar to people who enjoy tower defense games. It has parts of Call of Duty's zombie mode to it and parts of Plants Vs. Zombies as well.

You're a zombie-killer/janitor who spends level after level holed up in various stores, barns and castles, doing his best to both keep the zombies outside from breaking in and to keep the floor of the place he's in from getting covered in zombie goo. You accomplish these things by boarding up windows, setting up turrets, mopping the floor and shotgunning any zombie who gets to close. That's a lot to manage, but that kind of plate-spinning should be—and usually is—fun.

The core gameplay here is proven and joyful. It's inherently challenging because there are so many variables of violence and cleanliness to getting the job done. But a player also has to battle the iPhone itself and probably should play the game on an iPad instead. The phone's screen is too small to show all of the interior of the protected building without severely cropping the amount of exterior space you need to spot approaching zombies. The touch screen can barely handle all of the distinctions of a player tapping a window to board it up, a zombie to shoot it, a turret to repair it and so on. It's technically not the fault of the phone and rather the fault of development studio Xoobis for asking so much of the device.

Most of the control confusion in the game would be alleviated if the iPhone had even one control stick. Clearly, this game would play better on a Nintendo 3DS or PlayStation Portable or Vita. But we've got the game on the iOS and its strong gameplay loop must simply battle against the limitations of the device on which it runs. Ultimately, the fun of the game outweighs the frustration. I was aggravated by many mis-registered tap commands, but I was swept up in the timed levels and I was compelled to keep upgrading to crazier weapons and to mop zombie guts with more and more vigor. There's a good game here. You'll just have to suffer a little to enjoy it.

Zombie Wonderland 2: Outta Time [iTunes, $0.99 (sale price for launch) usually runs $2.99]