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.