Being the self-acknowledged connoisseur of zombie games that I am, newcomer Earn to Die had me intrigued from the get-go. It was sitting comfortably in the top 100 games in the App Store, and (even more importantly) no “In-App Purchases Available” disclaimer littered the description. Downloading it was a no-brainer (pun), and after some time spent careening through zombie-infested stages, I can offer this summary: Earn to Die didn’t manage to run off with my heart, but it did snag a few appendages.
When you first boot up Earn to Die, you are greeted with a catchy rock soundtrack and one option: Story mode (two other modes are unlocked upon completion). Diving (or should I say “driving”) into the first will reveal the game to be a side-scrolling racer, aesthetically in the vein of Stick Stunt Biker or Snuggle Truck.
You play as a minimally seen survivor, who must speed his way through several cities (stages) in order to reach a plane flying away from the undead-ruled land he currently is trapped on. You’ll proceed across each level by driving through any obstacles in your way, with a car that you get to outfit. Each run nets you some cash, which can be spent on enhancements like grille attachments which basically juice incoming shamblers, more gasoline so you can proceed further without stalling, and other peripherals like better engines and gun attachments for your up-and-coming vehicular war machine.
Each stage is not simply “won”. Instead, you’ll have to continually race through the same stage until you reach the end. You’ll generally run out of gas, not know the terrain, or otherwise stop short of the end during the first several attempts, so each upgrade will normally bring you closer to the end of the level, which, when reached, allows you to progress to a new level. It sounds seriously repetitive, right? And in its dull moments, it can be. But the upgrade system and new vehicles that require “just a bit more” cash to snag, keep the game moving along.
However, once you complete the few-hours-long story mode, the game runs out of steam, and starts grasping at straws trying to come up with a reason for you to return. Hence, Championship Mode and Halloween Mode.
Championship Mode will be the main reason to come back, if at all. In it, you choose a stage from Story mode to drive through, only instead of having to repeatedly try to get to the end with better upgrades each time, you receive a fixed amount of cash to spend on your set vehicle. You use that cash to select certain upgrades to compliment your now unlimited tank of gas. Then, you start the selected stage and try to simply race against a timer to the finish. Championship mode doesn’t really do anything very distinct, and thus, fails to keep the game moving after Story Mode wraps up.
Halloween Mode doesn’t pick up the slack, either. It’s a slightly odd addition, not in the content, but in the gameplay sense. You can replay any mission from Story mode with any vehicle and all its upgrades; no cash required. But all you have to do with your tricked out vehicle is…smash pumpkins strewn throughout each track. There’s really no point to this mode, since, once smashed, the pumpkins never respawn, so you can replay the levels as much as you want, snagging pumpkins here or there until you crush them all.
While it does offer solid bite-sized punches of fun, if you want a game that will hook you for hours, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Looking for a micro-sized zombie-themed racer? Then buying Earn to Die should be a no-brainer. Otherwise, you might want to pass on this one or try the lite version first.