Along the ‘eerie’ Exit 51, you find yourself in a spot of bother as you’ve somehow managed to crash your truck. It’s a sticky situation to get out of for anyone but here matters are worse as a horde of zombies are bearing down on you ready to go to town on your gooey innards. Lucky then you’re a burly tucker who’s good with a gun and armed to the teeth with enough firepower to level a small town. No zombies getting past your fence! From Australian indie developer Radiobush comes DeadRoad Assault, a tap to shoot upgrade game that’s not particularly unique but does have a certain charm about it.
The zombie scourge charges at you in waves from the top of your device, initially in groups of two or three but continually growing the further you progress. Your main objective then is to take them out before they completely destroy the feeble wooden fence you’ve taken cover behind. To shoot you have two choices, tap or drag. Tapping is of course much more precise and frees up the screen compared to dragging your finger across the screen, but eventually you’ll reach a point where the second method is far more optimal as enemies rush you endlessly in far greater numbers.
You’re default equipment will only get you so far so when you’ve farmed enough gold from your undead assailants you can make your way over to the shop to cash in for upgrades. Available are weapons with higher damage, larger projectiles and perks such as stun, defences that upgrade your fence wood to spiked concrete pillars and power-ups to give you an advantage when things get too hot. Power-ups can also be obtained as random enemy drops but having them at hand in the shop is handy as you can easily stock up before a boss without having to farm them at random.
Radiobush state that they make games that are easy to play but difficult to master and DeadRoad Assault certainly lives up to that. Early rounds lack a lot of difficulty, in fact I managed to get to level 10 without purchasing a single upgrade, but things quickly take a turn when the first major boss makes an appearance. Upgrading becomes far more necessary as enemies take more damage and the undead hordes population rises. By mid-game around 24 levels the difficulty really spikes and without maxing out your upgrades you stand no chance of progressing further no matter how good your tapping or swiping strategy.
The gameplay is easy to pick up and it’s enjoyable to play but be warned it is incredibly repetitive as besides increasing the number of foes, very little changes to switch up the gameplay. Disappointingly there was little variation to the enemies. There are larger foes that deal more damage and a quicker toxic zombie but neither poses a greater threat than the default type. Bosses were the only real challenge; they flash onscreen, spawn a handful of quick enemies and repeat the process two more times before an automatic defeat. The idea here is to hit him when he flashes but it took some time for that strategy to click as the boss spends very little time on-screen.
A nice touch from the developers is the inclusion of online features. A Leaderboard is available to see how well you’re faring with other players (I’m in thirty-eighth place as I write this) and a Share feature to invite your friends to play and compete for scores more socially. Not a particularly stand out feature but still nice that the developers have included it. Of course as this is a free to play game there are adverts but thankfully they make appearances between levels or before you head to the shop so they never actually interfere with the frantic gameplay.
In terms of appearance the game features a bright cartoony artstyle with almost chibi like enemy designs that stand out from the various dully lit environments as they hobble towards you. The sounds of exploding zombies and gunfire are accompanied by an upbeat guitar baseline that syncs up with the action perfectly. On occasion I even found myself bobbing my head along to the beat, and while it constantly loops it never really gets to the point where it frustrates.
If you’re on the go but can’t shake that itch for some zombie fuelled carnage then DeadRoad Assault might just be worth a look. Its challenging, simple fun and addictive when handled in short doses. It would have been nice to have seen some more variation to break up the repetitive gameplay but Radiobush have still delivered on their promise to make a game that is easy to play but difficult to master.