As any good 30-year-old, I grew up on games like Contra. I’m also a huge fan of zombies. When I heard Wandake was releasing an iOS game that combined both of these, I was immediately sold. Sadly, it seems I dove off the diving board and into the shallow end of the pool.
Apocalypse Max is a beautiful looking universal iOS title. The graphics are hand drawn and wonderfully animated, especially the zombie kills. Not only are the graphics well polished, but the audio is outstanding as well.
You play as Max, a military man. The game has you running around on 2D platforming levels, trying to deal with zombies that are bursting out of the ground. The levels end when you make it to the defined end point.
To help make you way through the apocalypse, you’re quite well armed. You have a gun, grenades, a knife, and your wits. The gun’s ammo and your grenades are limited, so you need to be careful how you use them. As you kill zombies and open crates, you’ll collect money that can be used between levels to buy new weapons or upgrade the ones you already have. You can also upgrade your ammo carrying limits and health. For the players with short attention spans, you can make an in app purchase to get more in-game money to spend on guns.
Where the game falls flat on its face is the controls. You have a left and right button on the lower left of the screen to move, and a button on the upper left to toggle between your guns. On the lower right, you have a very large fire button for your gun, a tiny jump button above it, a tiny grenade button to the left, and another gun toggle button to the left of the grenade. To use your knife, you need to swipe the screen, but you also need to swipe in the direction you want to stab. Due to the anatomy of your thumb, when you’re holding the controls you can only easily swipe up or down. Many times while playing, I tried to swipe at a zombie, only to have Max turn around and attack thin air while I got munched.
Even harder, is the jumping knife attack where you have to double jump, then swipe in the direction you’d like to attack. Considering that the knife is your most important weapon, it really needs to be easier to use. Another big issue is that when you’re being swarmed by zombies, you can’t shoot them or stab them. The only good option is to jump away, but I found myself hitting the gunfire button most of the time due to its size and placement. Most of my time with Apocalypse Max, was spent on the iPad, the iPhone offered a slight improvement control-wise, but they still sucked.
While the controls are heavily flawed, they could be easily fixed. By taking away the directionality of the swipe and allowing the knife attack to just go in the direction Max is facing, that would make things much easier. The extra gun toggle could just be replaced with a knife button and a custom control setting would be nice, to move the jump button front-and-center, if preferred.
Apocalypse Max has a huge potential to be a terrific iOS game, but until the controls are fixed, I just can’t recommend it. That said, if they are fixed in the first update, this immediately becomes a must-own title for any zombie fan or shoot-em-up fan.