Like many of you out there, I'm a sucker for anything with zombies in it. I've read The Zombie Survival Guide and I've have mapped out my own plans to deal with a zombie invasion countless times over. I've read a ton of Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comic – yes, I'm that guy.
Where Telltale's The Walking Dead is about player choice and guarding a young innocent against the evils of a post-apocalyptic world, The Walking Dead: Assault throws players into a different, albeit just-as-important scenario of a zombie world: how to take out the undead.
Walking Dead: Assault is presented in a top-down style, with simple black-and-white, quasi-3D environments and character models. You can pinch and twist to move the camera around, a necessity given some of the large, intricate environments Rick and the gang find themselves in. The levels are pulled from the comics, so expect to see some familiar locales if you've read Robert Kirkman's opus.
At its heart, The Walking Dead: Assault is about disposing of zombies as quickly and efficiently as possible. You're dropped into a level and must strategically re-murder each walking corpse to clear it – not an entirely complex prospect, right? Just shoot 'em in the brain and move on.
But see, after the first few levels, this becomes tough. Layers of complexity are found in Assault once you start to unlock team members and have to manage a squad of four with multiple weapons, all in real time. Then it's a matter of how to engage zombies rather than blindly running in and going to work. Clubs and other blunt instruments are often necessary as ammo begins to dwindle in some of the larger levels – using melee weapons is quiet and won't draw herds, but you'll take damage getting so close to the undead.
And as the party grows in size and you're tasked with managing them all at once, there's no shortage of panic moments. Not only should you be concerned with where your party moves to next, but also their formation – pistols and rifles have great range, so I keep them in the back and put the shotgun up front. When everyone's stocked on ammo, you feel powerful, but that ammo goes faster than you'd think.
The interface itself is rather simple. When you have a character selected, you double tap an area you want them to go and that's it. The characters will fire and fight on their own – a radius beneath them shows what their combat range is for whichever weapon they have equipped – and if a zombie gets into that zone, then they'll engage. Pushing your finger and holding it down will move the entire group to the selected area, usually in formation.
Each character has a special skill and passive skill that usually translate to better use of resources, like Rick's passive buff that makes everyone a better marksman and his activated ability that tells everyone to aim for the head for instant kills. Glenn can become a distraction and makes your whole party run faster. Andrea can activate a shroud that lets you move around unnoticed.
The Walking Dead: Assault's first episode is a surprisingly deep, tactical experience with an intuitive and simple interface. Early on the game seems quaint enough, as Rick and Shane seem to be on zombie-killing holiday, not a care in the world with more than enough supplies to best the trials ahead. But once you get that four-person squad and get into the middle of the episode, you really start to get a feel for how dangerous Kirkman's world really is.
This Portabliss is based on an iTunes Store download of the first episode of The Walking Dead: Assault for iPad, available now for $1.99. The Walking Dead: Assault requires iOS 4.3 or higher, and this episode is comprised of 11 chapters.