For a zombie game, Dungeons & Zombies is pretty adorable. It sees you playing as a big-eyed cartoon child trying to navigate a series of dungeons while avoiding gormless-looking zombies.
But the gameplay is anything but adorable. Depending on your level of puzzle-solving prowess, it may even feel more like a trick than a treat. Casual it is not.
Based loosely on sliding puzzle game Sokoban, Dungeons & Zombies simply involves reaching the exit of each stage – stone steps disappearing into darkness – without getting chomped by a zombie. Or, more accurately, without getting destroyed in a blue tornado by a zombie.
Each dungeon is a different shape, with different features such as pillars and pools of water, and each one is made up of grid squares. You move between these squares by sliding up, down, left, or right.
Each dungeon also has its own complement of zombies. As long as they remain undisturbed, these zombies just stand there staring into space, but if you get into their line of sight – i.e. the same row or column – they start squirming impatiently.
After your next move they dash in the direction of the square you were standing on when you roused them, meaning you need to use that move to get out of the way. If you succeed, your zombie pursuer carries on until he hits a wall or other obstacle.
You have two main obstacles to reaching the exit. The first is the possibility of being killed by a zombie. The second, trickier obstacle is the fact that you can’t leave if a zombie is watching you. Not only do you have to avoid zombies, but you have to lure them away from the exit.
The game soon adds a few more obstacles. Firstly, brains, which attract zombies when you rouse them. Given the choice between you and a brain, a zombie will choose the brain every time, scurrying away in the opposite direction for a single move.
Next up are the piles of bones. You can’t get past these, but zombies will helpfully eat them for you as long as you can send them running in the right direction. Then there are fires, which are like bone piles that can’t be removed. They serve as obstacles for you, but not for your undead adversaries.
There are 120 levels in total in Dungeons & Zombies, split evenly across four packs, two of which are available from the start. You need to pay 99p apiece to download the other two.
You don’t generally need to complete a stage in order to unlock the next. Most levels in each pack are unlocked from the start, which gives you a handy escape if you’re struggling with a stage – there are always plenty of alternatives to try.
And if that’s not enough, you can use solutions – step by step guides to completing stages. You only get five of these, though they regenerate over time. You can also buy packs of five for 99p, or earn a single solution by watching a video.
Of course, the goal is to be able to finish stages without using solutions. Good luck with that. Dungeons & Zombies is among the trickier puzzlers on mobile, though it all starts to make sense with practice (pro tip: the trick is to work out where the zombies need to be and work backwards from there).
If you’re looking for a new challenge in the mobile puzzle gaming sphere, Dungeons & Zombies will fit the bill. Just don’t expect to be finished with it by Halloween.