Zombies are all the rage in games these days, and you can find them infecting nearly every kind of genre. First person shooters like Call of Duty and Red Dead Redemption have mini-game zombie modes. Hack and slash fans can enjoy Dead Rising or Onechanbara. Even point and click adventures have been zombie-fied with The Walking Dead. And casual gamers have Plants vs. Zombies. Now the undead have invaded color matching puzzle games with Containment: The Zombie Puzzler, a creative new game for iPad.
The object in this puzzler is to clear all the zombies from each field. Fields have rows and columns of people and zombies. To clear out zombies, you must completely surround them vertically and horizontally with people who are wearing the same color as each other. But you’re not limited to sliding two people side by side. You can switch out a person with another who may be clear across the field using the touchpad. But be quick about it. Zombies can infect people next to them over time, and if enough zombies are on the field, you lose!
Each color person in the game represents an occupation. There are blue police officers, green military soldiers, brown punks, and pink scientists. When you clear out zombies using one of those colors, they’ll drop a specific power-up based on their job. Green soldiers will drop grenades, and pink scientists will let some of your group don protective gear, for instance. Again, use the touch screen to open power-up crates, then drag them onto wherever you want them used on the field.
There are two main gameplay modes. Campaign has a set number of rounds and stages (about 15 total), with a basic story to tie everything in. In Survival mode, you must try and last through a progressive number of rounds. Aside from the creative puzzle rules, the best part of this game is the presentation. After each round, the camera will pan across abandoned streets and buildings in a deserted zombie-ridden town. This aspect and some of the menu screens give it a B horror movie feel.
I only had two main problems with the game. One, sometimes the control didn’t feel as responsive as I would’ve liked. When sliding people around, sometimes the game wouldn’t register right where I wanted them to move. Plus it can be hard to see where you place your power-ups. The other main problem I had was that thanks to the subdued and dark hues, it was sometimes hard to tell where to place matching colored folks. I guess I know now why most puzzle games use bright, differentiating colors. And because the rules are a bit more complex, it’s harder to see combo moves ahead of time.
Because of the more intricate rules, Containment: The Zombie Puzzler is more of a hardcore gamer’s puzzle title. But it’s still a fun and creative game, and doesn’t feel like the makers just pooped it out, like many other iPad puzzle games feel. Best of all, this game was featured as one of the PAX10 games at the recent Penny Arcade Expo, so you know it has to be good.
On the App Store, Containment: The Zombie Puzzler is rated 12+ for Frequent Intense Realistic Violence, Frequent Intense Horror Themes, and Infrequent Mild Profanity and Crude Humor. Although those descriptions make it sound worse than what it really is. There are a bit of blood drips on the title screen, and both humans and zombies can splatter a bit of guts before disappearing or getting exploded. Zombies make creepy guttural sounds in the game, while humans scream with fear. Some of the people will yell out curse words to the zombies, and there are a few in the story text as well. And just a little bit of off color humor here and there, like “He finally got laid…to rest.”
But because of the faraway camera angle, the game doesn’t really seem that intense since it’s not close up. It would certainly bother very young kids, but I could see older preteens being OK with this. If your kid just HAS to play a zombie game, this would probably be your best choice (either this or Plants vs. Zombies anyway). Definitely don’t want them playing The Walking Dead or Onechanbara anyway. Best of all, this puzzle game will make them think! Really, the biggest reason why it’s best for older gamers is the complexity and difficulty of the puzzles.