Zombie video games have gotten to the “dime a dozen” state. I can’t count the number of zombie games on a particular console with my two hands. Zombies can be plugged in for just about any type of game; there are zombie FPSs, strategy games, RPGs, and even tower defense games.
TheSignCo Productions has taken a different spin on the tower defense genre with Zombie Crane Defense for Android. Players eliminate attacking zombie waves with a side-scrolling giant crane that can pick up enemies and drop them off into a grinder — where their blood and guts generate points that players can put toward other defenses. Zombie Crane Defense does not differentiate itself visually from other mobile zombie titles, and it offers little variety in its enemies and attacking waves. That said, it offers a unique gameplay mechanic and, when challenging, becomes an entertaining game.
Let the Crane Do the Work
Zombie Crane Defense’s primary tool has only a couple functions, but it’s managing the crane that creates the core challenge of the game. Every time a player presses the “pick up” or “smash” buttons, the crane consumes power, so there’s a time lapse between the crane’s functions.
The crane can only pick up one zombie at a time, but it can smash a few zombies depending on its attack radius (which players can upgrade). Zombie Crane Defense lets players advance through each level however they want; either defeat all the zombie waves in the level — encouraging the “smash” function — or use the “pick up” function wisely to grind up enough zombie blood and fill the meter. When first getting into the game, I found filling my meter with enough blood to be more challenging and more unpredictable; playing this way balances using the crane functions and encourages more strategic thought.
Defenses and Upgrades
Zombie Crane Defense equips players with a few weapons and defenses to hold up attacking waves. The primary weapon is explosive barrels that pass by on a line. Just pull a barrel down toward some enemies, and watch them collapse to the ground in a weakened state or go boom. Players can also allocate zombie blood from their meter to four other zombie defenses: landmines (instant kill), barricades (temporarily halts advancing enemies) oil barrels (slow down enemies), and emergency explosive barrels (when no other barrels are available). Each defense has a time lapse between use, forcing players to think quickly and implement alternative tactics. I would sometimes put up a barricade and squash the zombies trying to damage it, but I would also focus on filling up my blood meter while saving the landmine for the most desperate of situations.
Zombie Crane Defense has a point system that rewards players for squashing multiple zombies simultaneously among other things. The points engine is simplistic and may require players to repeat some of the levels to gain enough points for upgrades, but the upgrades are useful and fun to progress through. Some of the upgrades reduce the time lapse between item use and increase the range/radius of an item’s attack; perhaps most important is the recharge rate of the crane’s battery.
Rough Around the Edges, but Getting There
I enjoy the challenge Zombie Crane Defense presents and how I create micro strategies for each zombie wave. Focusing on filling up the blood meter, only to spend some of that on defenses, makes the gameplay dynamic and hectic. However, while Zombie Crane Defense is unpredictable, it offers little flair to support its function. There are only three enemy varieties and three environments (not to be confused with the 10 levels in each environments), and the audio is so limited it just seems tacked on at the end.
The biggest gameplay flaw in Zombie Crane Defense is the progression of the game’s difficulty. The first 10 levels, or first third of the game, on normal difficulty are mostly a cakewalk for the average gamer, and when the second 10 levels kick in, the difficulty spikes unfavorably. I can even recall level 11 being significantly more challenging than levels 12 and 13.
Zombie Crane Defense lacks some of the polish to make it stand apart from other zombie games and tower defense games out there, but it presents a different, well-executed gameplay to keep players engaged and experimenting with every attacking zombie wave. Players looking for a challenging game that doesn’t overwhelm with mechanics will find Zombie Crane Defense satisfying.Powered by Sidelines
Unique take on the tower defense genre
Balanced, dynamic gameplay
Easy controls and good button placement
Progression of difficulty is inconsistent
Only three enemy types and environments