iPhone Game Review: Rotten City

It’s a dirty job, but Nadia’s gotta do it.

In my recent iPhone Zombie Game Countdown, I mentioned the newly-released Rotten City, and since then I’ve been neck deep in this deceptively cute-looking shooter/RPG.

As the story in the game goes, a plague has caused the undead to rise up and devour most of the populace, leaving only the hardiest to try and survive. The only way out of the hellish nightmare of walking corpses is the airport, which promises passage to a safe haven over the sea. Nadia Mincemeat, an unfortunately named greenhorn zombie hunter, is longing to take a flight, so you’ve got to guide her through the city’s many infested zones, collecting blood gems (taken from zombies) in order to buy the coveted plane ticket. In between that, you’ve got to gather weapons and ammo, find food and equipment, armor and other items that will keep Nadia alive and one step ahead of the always-hungry, ever-dangerous undead. There are no missions, just that one goal of freedom being worked at to guide Nadia’s every step outside her door.

A girl, her guns and lots of undead goons…

This game can be a bit daunting at first, throwing you into Nadia’s life without so much of a tutorial. However, most stuff is pretty easy to figure out. You start off in a secure safe house which, while a bit cluttered, is pretty comfy. There’s a computer terminal where Nadia can surf the internet and pine for the outside world (actually all you do there is Save/Load, see options or go back to the main menu), a trunk where you put all your items, from food to weapons and equipment, and a bed where Nadia can rest her pretty little head (and regain HP)- she sleeps like a log though, so be prepared for a bit of a wait if you let her snooze.
Finally there’s a door to the outside world, and hordes of zombies to kill. The safe house (and others like it) are the only places where you can save your game, so you’ll have to make your way back there after every foray.

Controlling Nadia may be kinda confusing at first, but it’s totally easy, and after a bit very intuitive. There’s no analog pad or any visible controls aside from the basic HUD that shows Nadia’s life bar, active weapon and items, and a timer. In actuality, the whole screen is your pad- just swipe or drag your finger gently in any direction to make your heroine move that way. To fire your ready weapon, simply tap anywhere on the screen.
At first this may seem kinda weird, but once you get used to it, the control scheme is quite elegant and nifty, leaving the screen free of unsightly and sight-obscuring directional pads. Every stage/zone in the city is one screen, so you’ll need to see every bit of it at all the time to guide Nadia safely away from being trapped or cornered by the zombies. Of course, Miss Mincemeat isn’t a cowering wallflower- give her some guns and it’s the undead who’d better run for the hills.
UPDATE: A patch has been released that gives an option to use an alternate control method, placing a visible D-pad and fire button onscreen. IMO I prefer the old method, but anyone coming in new will probably want to use the more conventional controls.

Available weapons range from basic pistols to grenades and crowd-clearing shotguns to rapid-firing SMGs and even impressive miniguns. To take down some of the more advanced enemies quickly and efficiently will take combining some of the weapons’ special effects, and not just firing off tons of bullets. Weapons/ammo can be found both as item drops from zombies or at in the city’s one gun shop- Pro Tip: KNOW where that is right away.

Aside from guns, Nadia also needs to scarf down some food every so often, and there are items that can be useful to success, such as the odd Stench of Death, which lets Nadia pass through zones without need for combat temporarily. Of vital importance are vaccines- sold at the city’s hospital- which cures Nadia of the plague in the event she gets hit by a zombie. Another ProTip: Unless you’re confident of never, EVER getting hit, ALWAYS have vaccines handly.

Food, weapons and items won’t always be found lying on the road. Dealing with shopkeepers is still part of Rotten City life.

One thing that may get players frustrated is the controls’ slight over-sensitivity, which may cause Nadia to turn in a direction you don’t intend- which may lead to wasted shots or misses that may give zombies an opening. The best way to avoid this is not to swipe but rather pull you finger across the screen, guiding Nadia along instead of just pushing her along one direction at a time. After a bit you’ll be circling around zombies and taking them down like a pro. Staying cool is key!

Another quirk in the game as well is the aforementioned fact that you can only save your game in a safe house (of which there are three, two of which must be unlocked), which may keep this game from being that much of a ‘play anytime in spurts’ type of title, like most iPhone games should be. In a way it adds a bit to the realism(!) of the game, but in this case we would have wanted to be a bit more free, at least to keep from wasting game time. Also unfortunate, stuff you stow away in one safe house’s storage trunk won’t carry over to the other safe houses (like in the RE games), so either you manually move them or just build ammo and item caches in every room.

The safe houses are oases of calm where Nadia can rest, recuperate, stock up on equipment and, in this case, watch a Blu-ray movie or two.

So far I’ve gotten Nadia a bit of a way through- earning enough to buy keys to the two later safe houses, the last one being an awesome and nicely-furnished game den complete with a big-screen TV (kinda like my room!), so now Nadia can relax in class. I’ve still got a long way to go to earning enough for the plane ticket to freedom, and so far a couple of tougher zombie types have appeared, showing that I’m making progress (Nadia levels up in skill as you use guns and stuff, though there is no stat screen to monitor). Gotta keep earning those blood gems, stocking up on ammo and food, and just hunkering down. But at least Nadia can play some Tekken 6 or Red Dead Redemption in between zombie attacks.

Rotten City’s grind type of gameplay will appeal to many RPG fans, but won’t be for everyone- action fans who like fast-paced action may find it slow and repetitive, but the game scales up as you progress, and having a compact but open world to explore and get used to with a clearly-defined goal straight off is quite engaging. Those liking a more deliberately-paced game to cozy up to and work at every so often will enjoy this cool, pretty-looking but quite bloody gem in the appstore. PLUS it’s only freakin’ 99 cents! Can’t argue with that!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta pry Nadia from the PS3 and tuck her into bed… zombie hunters need their beauty sleep, you know.


84 Responses to “iPhone Game Review: Rotten City”

  1. Hi my name is Sean,
    I’m the developer of RottenCity.
    I deeply appreciate for this great review.
    Actually I’ve been suffering from the fact that I made an odd control scheme.
    Meanwhile, I found your objective and warm-hearted review.
    Thank you for your understanding about my control scheme and It’s made as a slow-paced game intentionally.
    It’ll be my pleasure if you take an interest in my games continually.
    Can I keep in contact with your websit whenever my new games come out?

    Best Regard,

    Sean Kim

    • Yes, indeed, Sean! I truly am enjoying your game. Please don’t hesitate to drop me a line here or email me at gregor_thewolf@yahoo.com for any updates on your upcoming and future projects.

      • Now… I’ve got the plane ticket but I can’t find the exit πŸ˜€ any clues?

      • Sorry man, I haven’t reached that point yet. I really can’t play too long or I get stuck out with a dead phone… ^_^

      • You have to find the way to the airport.
        You can see the location in the city map.
        the way may not open simply.
        have fun~

      • Found the way to get out but there’s a million raging zombies that keep coming no matter what… I’ve killed probably 40 before getting killed. Do they eventually stop coming?

        if so I can go more prepared… in the meantime I’ll stay away from there :S

    • Sure, they will come out a little more.
      and you can get the airplane.
      Then you may be the first one reaching there that I’ve ever heard….

      • Sean, I bought the ticket, but now every time I head for the tunnel area where the airport should be, the game CRASHES. How do I get around this? Pretty bad bug.

      • Oh man that’s bad!

        Hopefully there’s gonna be a fix for that, make sure you have allowed your iTunes to send crash reports to apple, so in that way Sean may be able to figure out what’s the issue.

        In the meantime you could try the following: go to other areas and play around, then go save to your safe house. that may trigger a different behavior the next time you go to that area.

      • Unfortunately, I tried doing stuff- going to other areas, saving at other safe houses and so on… still the same shit. Even worse, I tried reinstalling the game, and I lost my Save. Now I have to start all over again. DAMN.

        It’s a good thing I love this game enough to replay it, but if it screws me again… bah.

    • Dude, you need to fix the crashes. I’ve been playing this game for like 3 hours straight and made no progress due to crashes (iphone 3gs 4.0). You can’t let such a great game to to waste! I want to play it! Come on! πŸ˜‰

      • Sorry !
        We’ve uploaded the crash fix on 20th, but it’s still pending with Apple…

      • Hey Sean,
        Thanks a lot for demonstrating yet you really do care! So I downloaded the patch which was *just* released and played my first attempt on the new version. Sadly, it still crashes over and over, and sometimes crashes the phone so bad that it reboots. This is an iPhone 3GS (just in case other devices are not having these problems). Should I do anything in particular (like removing/reinstalling; I don’t want to lose my save!), or is this news to you..?

    • What the heck man!! What is up with this game???? The game is good but there is some serious flaws with the programming side of it. I got the latest version and the game must have crashed on at least 100 times now. and i lost all the game progress when i can’t save between savepoints. seriously, you need to fix this, man. It crashes or it stops loading between levels. or after I exit a zone or loading a new zone. You need to fix this, man. I never seen a game that crashes so often.

      I would rather you charge me more for the game but actually never crashes.

  2. Great game, I’m enjoying it big time.

    I must admit though that I’m a jailbreaker, but as with all titles I deem worthy I’ve now bought it.

    I would love to be able to sell stuff to gather gems quicker tho. It would also be great if the items didn’t dissapear from the floor because sometimes I can’t reach them in time because of the mass of zombies. Another thing it would make it better could be the ability to drop items in the floor rather than having to discard them.

    Sean, thanks for an awesome game. And thanks to the lone gamer for a great review.

  3. And the update of D-Pad scheme is almost done.
    I’m going to upload the file today.
    It’ll be easier to control than before.

  4. Finally made it through the endless mass of zombies πŸ˜€

    I can actually say that this is the game that I’ve enjoyed the most on the iPhone so far. And I’ve played really a lot of titles.

    I’ll leave u with a few screenshots πŸ™‚

    love the detail of the tan mark πŸ™‚

    She’s pretty hot. I wouldn’t mind to see her in another game with more close ups πŸ™‚

    thanks for a beautiful game. And please dont remove the original control scheme. Make it optional. Also screen rotation is needed if possible.

    I’ve also noticed several bugs. i.e invisible zombies. Items available in inventory with 0 charges left (food) (potions) that will still work. Issues when buying consumables as well and after u die items with countdown were still in use.

    Sean, feel free to contact me if u need more info.

  5. venarev103 Says:

    Just beat the game within some 7 hours. The game was no doubt fun. Controls of course are a little sketchy at times, but it did NOT ruin the gameplay. Overall, a really fun game. Though I do agree with Gonzalo with the glitches. The most annoying one was when I had “leftover” invisible zombies attacking me…. needless to say an update might entice players to want to play the game even more/buy it. Lots of fun; keep up the good work!

    • I’m so glad to hear that.
      I hated D-Pad because of its slippery surface and blocking screen, so i made this weird? one finger scheme. But some people thought it as a mistaken control. I saw the invisible zomebies long times ago, and I’ve been thinking about it corrected. I’m gonna check it out now. And new D-Pad is pretty good to play. I like D-Pad now. The update will be effective on Tuesday or Wednesday. Thank you everybody….

  6. Thanks for the update Sean! Love the d-pad and like your game a lot. Just downloaded the game, so still have some fun ahead of me. Keep the good work up! πŸ™‚

    • Thank you very much~

      • Okay, A BIG PROBLEM here, and Sean, you’re the one who can answer.

        I bought the air ticket.

        But now, every time I head for the tunnel to the area where the airport should be, the game CRASHES.

        I’ve tried doing this multiple times, and it’s the same every time. The game tries to load, then crashes.

        I’m stumped. This is a game-breaking bug. If there’s a solution to this, please share it.

  7. Here’s more info. I’m on iPhone 3GS.

    I have the updated game, with the new controls (however, I am using the old controls).

    I bought the ticket. Then I loaded up and headed for the tunnel.

    Every time I enter the area to the tunnel, the game tries to load, then CRASHES.

    This has happened every time. I can’t progress any further. Please fix this… it’s a game breaking bug.

    • Oh, my god! I’m sorry for that trouble….
      We are looking for the reason.
      But we can’t see the happening yet….
      We will fix it as soon as possible.

      • Please update it with a patch to solve the crashing. This is probably the worst problem in it, the stability of the game. AND that endgame bug… man, that really needs a fix.

  8. Love the game! I can’t belive it was only a buck! The controls take a little getting used to, even the d-pad, but I don’t think it takes away from the fun. My only problem with the game is that it keeps crashing 😦 In fact, the only reason I put the game down is that it crashes every time I play it after 10 to 15 minutes [double 😦 ]. Help!!

  9. Sorry, Guys.
    I got the problem solved.
    I’ll upload the patch for the crach in a couple of days….

  10. Hey sean, is there any chance to add a survival mode upon completion of the game? Also what’s the point of leveling weapon if they kill zombies mostly in 1~2 hits besides the boss?

    • Yes, We were going to make PVP mode by online. In the mode players can fight each other, at that time the skill level is needed. And player can take resources form a victory…
      I hope to see the PVP Arena Mode soon…

  11. Audishin Says:

    The game was very enjoyable Sean. The slow paced gameplay really made the game feel like a portable top-down Resident Evil shooter while you have to manage equipment with limited spaces for ammunition, food, grenades, money and whatnot. I honestly had no problem aiming with the D-Pad control scheme and the game is pretty awesome. Only problem is I’m stuck with the crashing glitch when you enter the airport area but I have no doubt I’ll make it with my 300+ bullets of the Chaingun, Machinegun, M-16, Benneli and Chainsaw.

    It really felt like Resident Evil, how you have to always stand still and aim and run away from slow moving zombies to not get horded on. The only problems I had with the game are these two following:

    The game felt extremely easy. Bullets are very easy to come by such as the Benneli pickups giving you 50 shotgun bullets. Early game, you just stock up on pistols as they are the most cost effective in the beginning and during the rest of the game, I ended up having 50+ grenades in my warehouses and ended up with more than enough bullets to kill a wave of Hunter Zombies. Maybe it was just me because I’m a seasoned gamer but you should consider adding difficulty options, more waves and trying not to base enemy levels on the money, because the game does not get hard enough to keep up with your progress.

    The game has plenty more potential. Probably one of the best zombie survival games on the platform, but really lacks many things to really be recognized. The usual complaints are like quick/auto-saving options, glitches, variety. If you make a sequel, you can add larger maps, more weapons, items, and grenades, secrets and larger variety of zombies (instead of fighting 6 zombie types in a rough estimate of 10 different types of waves the entire game)

    If you want my opinion, you should hold the PvP patch until you give the game more quality. Then maybe the game might even compete against Call of Duty with it’s unique Resident Evil themed setup. A cute heroine never hurts, and maybe even brush it up with extreme co-op.

    Thanks for the game though, one of the best I’ve played yet on the iPod Touch.

    • I’m really glad to see another person who understand my intention… I have exactly same concern of Rottencity. I feel much relieved that someone wants same thing from the Rottencity with me. Please wait while we improve the Rottencity.
      It will be an evolving game constantly…

  12. Hi, i LOVE this game! ❀

    But how do i sell stuff? D:

  13. cool game.. but i got the same problem.. after hours of playing then suddenly the game crashes when i was about to enter the airport… where can i get the patch???

    • The patch that was supposed to fix the endgame crash was already posted some time ago, though some comments on Touch Arcade have said that their games still crashed. I don’t know if the patch can fix ongoing games (already at the endgame point prior to installing the patch) or if it fixes the issue if you do a new game AFTER installing the patch. I started a new game THEN installed the patch, which makes me want to do a new game altogether now…

  14. The latest update was for the airport crash fix.
    But we still have a crash problem.
    Rottencity is made for OS3.0
    New OS must accept applications of old version.
    Nevertheless, 3.2 and after OS are causing crash of unknown cause.
    Now we are talking about it with apple technical team.
    We are very sorry caused inconvenience to you.
    We promise to fix the crash as soon as possible.

  15. Hey Sean, I have the newest iPod update (version 4) and I bought you’re game super excited to play and after starting it crashes while trying to leave the safe house. Every time I touch on the door to leave the game crashes to the iPod screen.

    I’ve tried:
    -rebooting iPod after install
    -changing control scheme
    -starting a new game
    -starting from a save
    -tried leaving after getting Nadia to sleep
    -re-installing the game
    -sacrificing small children and animals to the gods

    All attempts have not been successful. I really look forward to eventually playing your game,

    Thanks for listening.

  16. Supposedly Call of Duty World at War: Zombies is continuously crashing with the new iOS4 update. I know you’re working hard Sean, look forward to playing the game.

  17. Hey Sean (*or everyone),
    I absolutely loved this game. One of the best zombie games on itouch (*if not the best). Some people say that the game is too easy while I find it at a moderate level. I believe an extra function that alters difficulty would be helpful. The puzzles such as figuring out how to reach the airport are very pleasant. Its not too difficult to figure it out, but still makes you think. I also believed that the crashes resulting on some devices originates from their own device (*such as their jailbroken devices). If you consider that everyone’s device is operating at a factory product level, then you can try to check the game compatibility with different OS versions or device generations. I truly trust that you will make this game one of the best in time. Just don’t over work yourself!!

    • Hi Terrence.

      Thank you for your interest.
      I’d like to make choices for difficulty.
      For example, The Famine… When I had tested the Rottencity, I set the rate of item drop to very low, I loved this destitute situation. But people said “Too Hard, Nobody can do it!”,then I changed the rate… At that time I couldn’t think about the choice of difficulties…

  18. Hi, everyone…
    I finally found the reason of crash…
    The crash is occuring on the ipod 2G, 1G with ios 4.0.
    One of the ios4.0’s new funtion for the multitasking kills Rottencity.
    When the image loading speed of a device is slow, ‘Watch dog Time out’ funtion (New on ios4.0) kills the Rottencity. It was not a crah at all…
    Anyway… Now we are fixing. It will be fixed soon.
    Sorry to be so late…

    • Hey Sean,
      It’s nice to hear from you again. I’m glad you’ve found the reason of the crash. Before you release the next version of this great game, I would kindly advise that you allow the game to be set into a continuum so that game play can be prolonged [*For example, difficulty(which you are already working on), different game modes(such as survival, etc.), and the nice little continue after you completed the game(*which you already have.] To make all this possible would require a bit more work and different save files, but I’m sure all this would come in time. Hope I have been of some help.

  19. Awesome, glad to soon be able play your game! Exciting! Thanks for working on it for us.

  20. Finally, Uploaded new update today!
    Crash fixed and added the ‘Hungry mode’…

  21. @thelonegamer how many other entries with this many comments have you got? πŸ˜€

  22. Solved one problem and another pops up. Anyone have an issue where only one zombie shows up per section? I been watching the YouTube videos of the gameplay and… Yeah, there’s supposed more than one zombie per map.

  23. So sorry!
    It’s my mistake… It’s just for the last test. (one zombie)
    Uploaded again Yesterday!
    Made mistakes too often!!! Sorry.

  24. Lol dam I thought the 1 zombie was because it’s just first few round for particing till after almost 1 hour of playing I started getting bored and searched for it and find this thread xD
    Looking forward to the fix (^O^)/

  25. Got the update and even restarted the iPod. Still have the ‘one zombie’ syndrome. Still gotta try re-installing though.

  26. Nop! Re-installing doesn’t work. Poop.

  27. Yep, I concur. The update did nothing. Still just one zombie. Sigh…

  28. Lol I passed lvl one before the update came out
    Dunno if the update worked or not since I’m passed it already
    But I installed it anyways

    Just keep killing the one Zombies from different map and eventually you will get to lvl 2 and the bug will be gone

    Took me like 1hour and 30min of one Zombie lol

    Btw Sean can u change the second house Bgm it loops so fast and gets annoying

  29. I got through the one zombie stage. However, one majorly bad thing that comes about around level 9 is the screaming flight stewardesses. The zombies and other monsters stop dropping items at this point. As soon as that zombie sprinting stewardess shows up, there goes the loot. All dried up. Drier than a camels’ ass.

    • Hey Evan,

      You know that the loot disappearance is intentional, right? The stewardess cries so that more and more zombies come. The loot eventually disappears because it prevents you from just plain grinding on that same screen.

    • Evan, Terrence is right. I can’t be bothered with the stewardesses so I always carry death scent potions and use them when she shows up.

  30. Ah, makes sense. Kill her first. Neat game mechanic.

  31. One zombie bug patch came out today.
    It was a really stupid mistake.
    Fixed the bug and uploaded old file.
    And waited long long time for review from apple.
    After all one zombie bug file uploaded twice and reviewed twice.
    Sorry everybody~

    • Cool! Downloading now. Feedback from Toucharcade forums seem good, so this may be it. Awesome, Sean!

    • The Update WORKS! I just tried it both on my iPhone and iPad. iPhone game was already working prior to update, no problem- LOTS of zombies. Started a new game on iPad, and right out the door- tons of zombies. Great stuff, Sean!

      Now, back to earning that ticket…

  32. Now, how about working on an improved, HD version eh, Sean? πŸ™‚

    • Hello thelonegamer,

      A HD version would be a good idea BUT it is not a necessary update at this point. Think about it… the graphics aren’t half bad and is somewhat enjoyable. It would be better if Sean worked on creating other aspects of the game (*the aspects that I’ve mentioned above in my previous posts). When everything is done, graphics can be edited to make the experience a tiny bit better πŸ™‚

  33. Hey anyone got the bug that ur saved file gets erased?
    First time I didn’t really notice I thought it was the update that killed it
    But now my files gone for second time and I did not do anything…
    I spent over 7 hour playing this and they just simply go missing whenever the game feel like…
    Pls check the game Sean

  34. Love the game but it crashes every time I enter the hardware store and sometimes the invisible zombie bug happens. There is a great game somewhere past the bugs so I hope you fix it, I’d live to play it.

  35. Hey Lonegamer, thank you for you review.

    This game is really a jewel, and I believe everything has been said before me already.
    But some bad things prevent me from having a full joy out of this game 😦
    I have got version 1.3.2, and so far:
    1) The game CRASHES all the way through. It is impossible to progress. As soon as I clear 5-6 screens and want to visit the shelter, the game just crashes. The crash can happen during location change, or manipulation with inventory. It is really frustrating to spend an hour on grinding and then just lose everything.
    2) The game has a bad response on the fire button. Often I must just silently watch as zombies surround me, as I desperately struggle to shoot but have no response from the button.
    3) I use the D-pad, and often I just end up shooting in the ridiculous direction, unable to aim. For example zombie is straight in the North, and I keep shooting North-West and cannot change my aim for several seconds because of D-pad sensitivity.

    Well, anyway, clauses 2 and 3 are just minor things, but clause 1 obviously ruins all the game experience and makes me unable to play this fabulous game.

    I have an iPhone 2G and OS 3.0

    Thank you for the attention

    • Hello, lnle!

      Yeah, Rotten City was one of the first true gems on the appstore for me in particular, even if the experience hasn’t always been smooth- but a lot of people agree despite its flaws, it’s quite a game. You need only look at the length and breadth of the comments in this review to see that! The dev himself has been pretty cool, communicating with gamers almost on a real-time basis. It’s sad that there are still bugs to this day. Perhaps more patches are forthcoming.

  36. Yes, I loved this game so much that I’ve read all this thread in a hope to find something about my bugs.
    I also saw Sean Kim communicating freely here, that’s why I wrote to search for possible answers..
    But the fact is that still I can not play the game, because sudden exits to desktop are starting to irritate me so much that I don’t want to launch again. And the sad thing is that I have the OS 3.0, which was reported as the most suitable one for this game…
    I hope that the new patches will come soon so we all can enjoy the game even more.

    Before, I would pay such attention to solve the problems only with the projects of the level of Fallout New Vegas, but as for any minor game I’d just delete it and forget it. So there is something in Rottencity that just doesn’t allow to simply let it go…

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