Boxhead The Zombie Wars – Review

A review of Boxhead The Zombie Wars I wrote for the website

The landscape for independent game developers has really been levelled thanks to the internet. Take Boxhead: The Zombie Wars. Here was a game that was made by one person as a browser based flash game and now it is available in the iOS App Store alongside games from EA and Ubisoft and the other big names; equal shelf space for all and all that.

Boxhead has zombies which everyone loves, don’t we? Well, mostly. Yeah, yeah we do still love zombies. We love playing games were the only goal is to survive and the only way to survive is to wipe out wave after wave of zombies. Which is lucky, because that is what Boxhead: The Zombie Wars is all about.

Quite what a box headed man is doing defending himself from zombie hordes doesn’t matter because he has a gun. The game starts with a few zombies wandering around trying to get you, with each level the number increases, not to mention different zombie types that are faster, take more shots to kill and are just generally mean. But that’s okay because the more you kill, the more your weapons automatically upgrade. A pistol becomes a shotgun becomes an Uzi becomes a rocket launcher.

So far, this sounds like most zombie games but what helps Boxhead stand out from the crowd is a decent amount of strategy. As your weapons upgrade you don’t just get guns, you get barricades and explodable drums and gun turrets. Boxhead then almost turns into a tower defence game; you can lay traps at the side of each level where the zombies enter from, use the barricades to force them into channels so you don’t get surrounded. It’s not a deep system but it’s enough to keep the game interesting.

The box-based art style looks good and gets the job done and the music isn’t annoying which is all you can ask for really. There are several different levels to play through, all essentially down to killing zombies but coupled with the ability to lay your defences the different stage layouts stop the game from becoming too repetitive.

This is where we face the main issue that the game hinges on: the controls. Boxhead is viewed from a bird’s eye perspective, the default controls are a touch screen joystick on one side and a button to shoot on the other. The game demands accuracy and the touch screen controls just do not deliver. What makes it worse is that your character doesn’t move in a full 360 degree motion, he moves between the eight compass points. This feels disconnected with the controls you’re using to move him around making it feel more frustrating than it should. You can switch from touch controls to tilt which is a bit better but is still not as accurate as you need.

Which, really is a shame as there is a really good game in here but it is fighting against the device it is on. It really needs to be played with a control pad, something that an iPhone is sorely lacking. It’s a case of right game, wrong format.

Three stars out of five

Originally published August 11th 2011

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