Zombie Attack! Second Wave—solid survival TD builds on the original

Posted: October 31, 2009 in Tower Defense

Tower defense games have been done over and over again so it takes some innovative gameplay to rise above in this crowded category. IUGO’s Zombie Attack! Second Wave does a fairly good job as a sequel. While the maps themselves could use more variety, the gameplay itself is as solid as it was with the original. With a variety of new maps, weapons, enemies and challenges, ZA2 is one of those rarities—a solid survival TD sequel that fans of the original and those new to the series should find intensely entertaining.

Unlike the typical TD game where you simply place defenses and tap to upgrade or sell, ZA requires more of a hand’s on approach. Playing the role of zombie survivor, your objective is to protect your shack at all costs against the attacks of the undead. As enemies are destroyed, money is earned that can be used to purchase and upgrade weapons.

As in the original, ZA2 has two special gameplay elements worth noting. First involves the placement and upgrading of defenses where you must guide the survivor to locations on the maps to place and upgrade defenses. You may not think much of this, but it’s a subtle yet important difference that forces you to strategize not only in placing defenses but in the movements of the survivor. Another core element is the ability to use the survivor to lure and manipulate enemies. Because the game is in a non-fixed tower defense format, this ability can often be used to strategically set up traps or in many cases buy time to build other defenses. Depending on the enemy, the survivor can be the outright target or just bait to be used, but he’s likely to be killed if not used wisely. These two elements alone make ZA2 a worthy TD game. Of course, there is much more to the game.

ZA2 offers a good dose of gore with dismemberments, blood, and screams. The animation is smooth, and the graphics while comparable to the original, have a higher resolution. The dismemberments are particularly fun to watch since heads and limbs tend to fly in multiple directions depending on the defensive weapon used. The look of the survivor can also be changed through several costumes which tends to be on the gimmicky side and doesn’t impact gameplay.

ZA2 offers two modes of play: Survival and Challenges. In Survival, 4 maps are included: Ruined Bridge, Graveyard, Trailer Park, and Backyard. The maps in general feel similar in a drabby kind of way and could use some design touches to differentiate them, most notably color. If IUGO’s past support for its games is any indication, additional maps are likely in future updates.

Ruined Bridge—no bridge with no way out
Graveyard—typical battlefield with muddy terrain
Trailer Park—defend outhouses
Backyard—prevent the gazebo from being destroyed

Challenges offers 20 situations—5 for each map—that provides scoring targets as well as specific limitations that ratchet up in difficulty. These challenges have names such as Bubonic Plague, Asylum Breakout, Napalm Warfare and Living Nightmare. These challenges usually limit the types of weapons that can be used, provide a target score, and a unique threat for enemies such as increased speed or strength.

Panning the maps can be done by tapping the pointing hands located at the bottom of the screen, but this is a clunky set up. The game really needs swipe functionality to pan the screen. In addition, the game offers online scoring, auto save and the ability to play your own music.

The controls in ZA2 are fairly simple. Instead of dragging to place defense units, you must move the survivor to the desired location. Using the touch setting, tapping on the location will move the survivor accordingly. The tilt option allows you to move the survivor using the device’s accelerometer. Both options work well, although the tilt option feels more natural. Once the survivor moves to the desired spot, tap to select the weapon of choice. To upgrade a weapon requires moving the survivor to the specific defensive unit.

Speaking of enemies, ZA2 doesn’t disappoint with 6 types of zombies—Brute, Skinny, Winged Horror, Cheerleader, Hound, Flesh Beast—each with different attributes when it comes to health, damage, and attack.

Brute—normal hulking zombie and the most common; prime candidate for dismemberment of head and limbs
Skinny—thin and less durable zombie but a quick mover; another candidate for dismemberment of head and limbs
Winged Horror—flying Skinny zombie and not impacted by ground terrain; dismemberment in head and wings
Cheerleader—decapitated zombie that uses her head as a projectile; dismemberment of limbs
Hound—zombie dogs that instinctually go after the survivor; dismemberment of head and back legs
Flesh Beast—fat powerful zombie who locks on to the survivor; cannot be dismembered

As mentioned earlier, different enemies have different preferences for who and what they attack. For example, Brutes will target the building but can be lured by the survivor. However, Hounds will target the survivor right away so an evasive strategy will be in your best interest. Enemies, survivors and the building have health bars to monitor their survivability. Keep in mind that survivors and buildings will slowly regenerate their health while attacks are held at bay.

To fight these enemies, ZA2 has 7 types of turrets—Quakemaker, Pulsewave, Decoy, Rifle, Cannon, Flamethrower, Choppa—that deal varying levels of damage and can be upgraded up to 6 levels (level 5 and 6 are highly expensive).

Quakemaker—piston turret that slows down enemies
Pulsewave—sonic turret that permanently slows down enemies
Decoy—scarecrow turret that attracts zombies, explodes, and then rebuilds itself
Rifle—mounted rifle ideal for headshots
Cannon—rocket launcher that blows zombies to pieces
Flamethrower—flamethrower that cooks zombies
Choppa—a giant swinging axe

ZA2 offers gameplay that be intense and frustrating at the same time. Running around both to place defensive units as well as serve as bait is as fun as it sounds. The zombie hordes feel constant with very little let up and often waves overlap each other depending on how quickly the previous wave is dispatched. Often, zombies will divert from a set path and sprint towards the building. The survivor is armed with a machete that can be used for self-defense and defending the building which comes in handy especially for those unwanted zombie guests. Because of the constant flow of zombies combined with the fact that the survivor must physically place and upgrade defensive units makes this game increasingly challenging.

Some may find the movement of the survivor somewhat slow, primarily to illustrate the difficult terrain in the surrounding environment. And the space for placing defenses can feel limited. While the maps are wide open, finding suitable space can be somewhat difficult and requires some experimentation. Unlike other TD games, ZA2 does not have a zoom function, which would be a good update in the future.

All in all, Zombie Attack! Second Wave is solid and gorily entertaining game that doesn’t play like your typical TD game. IUGO has managed to create a sequel that not only builds on the original, but delivers enough to make this a worthy addition to fans and newbies alike.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (solid sequel that delivers its own entertainment value; gory graphics and smooth animation; TD that requires a different type of strategy with the ability to use the survivor as bait; only 4 maps in Survivor mode but a significant number scenarios in Challenge mode)

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