Who hasn’t played Temple Run and thought: “You know what this game needs? Zombies.” Well, with developer PikPok’s Into the Dead, that dream (or nightmare) comes true. Sporting endless runner game play from a first person perspective, a spooky environment, and hordes of shambling corpses, does the game deliver, or does it take a bad step?
Although it takes its basic cues from endless runners, ItD manages to feel unique, mostly because of the atmosphere. Runs begin with your character opening his eyes to see a wrecked helicopter in the middle of a field, surrounded by zombies. Without much hesitation, you turn and take off in the opposite direction. As you run, zombies appear in increasing numbers out of the looming fog ahead. As the environment changes through cornfields, forests, and dark meadows, it becomes more and more difficult to avoid running into one of the brain-eaters.
A weapon system is introduced early on, in an attempt to complement the basic gameplay. Although some may worry the survival aspect of the game will devolve into “shoot everything” because of the addition of firearms, this doesn’t prove to be the case. You don’t carry unlocked weapons or have infinite ammo for the whole run. Instead, ordinance is scattered throughout the landscape in flare-marked crates that you have to run past to collect. Even when you collect the weapon, you only get a handful of bullets, so each round in the chamber becomes a luxury as the zombies increase.
A “mission” system gives you in-game tasks to complete in order to unlock the aforementioned weapons (like running a certain distance or killing a certain amount of zombies). This does add a touch of motivation to the game, making you want to complete “just one more run”. The basic gameplay is already really enjoyable, so this touch of addictive replayability makes it even more so.
The two game modes, Classic and Massacre, differ little from each other. Classic is all of the above with the basic “run as far as you can” objective. Massacre simply removes the running distance and instead challenges you to kill as many walkers as possible. The core gameplay remains the same throughout both modes, so there’s little variation. However, the gameplay that permeates both is so fun that I’m inclined to ignore this slight problem.
The presentation, while not a technological marvel, is still beautifully terrifying. The dark environments are perfect for the game, the zombie models are very nicely designed, and the sound effects make your skin crawl. Although the zombie growls and player grunts do become too generic, they still manage to work in the end. The controls are tight, and the available four options insure you’ll have at least one that suits your fingers.
In short, the solid core gameplay, with its mixture of endless runner and survival horror, is addicting fun.
The gold you earn through runs can be used to buy perks (like more ammo for weapons or a head start), unlock weapons early, or skip mission objectives. Of course, PikPok throws out several in-app purchases for the gold coins. The perks alone are detrimental to the challenge of the game, so the fact that you can buy them with real money doesn’t help matters. Ads also make an appearance, occasionally popping up throughout the various menus. These moves on players’ wallets and annoying pop-ups really get bothersome, since you’d think the devs would be satisfied with just one lame money grab. Luckily, these irritants don’t take away from the fact that the game is still really fun.
Offering an atmospheric zombie game with all the addiction of an endless runner, Into the Dead is definitely worth a try. Greedy money grabs are really out of place in this otherwise stellar game. If you can get past that nuisance, though, you’ll have an addictive (and scary) time.