Zombie Match Defense Review: Use Your Braaaaaaaiiiinnn

By Rob Rich |
The Good

A surprisingly strategic twist on the match-3 formula

Clever and extremely useful power-ups

A fair bit to unlock and keep you playing

The Bad

Tends to cascade matches at the worst times

Difficulty spikes more than it curves

Okay, so, Zombie Match Defense is a match-3 game from — wait, where are you going? Come back! It’ll be worth it, I promise!

As I was saying, it’s a match-3 puzzle game that has you fending off hordes of brain-hungry zombies, lane defense style. Various types of zeds will make their way from the right side of the screen to the left, where a team of scientists are guarding the exits. In order to get rid of the little nasties, you (of course) have to match up like-colored brains – but things start to get tricky once they begin to appear in greater numbers, and there are also a few special zombies that will get thrown into the mix. These even-more-annoying-than-usual zombies can do things like jump into different lanes, take two hits to remove, or are so heavy that you can’t move the brains they’re currently munching on.


The core puzzle-y stuff is probably something you’re quite familiar with. You swipe (or tap what you want to move, then tap the destination) to switch places between two adjacent brains and try to match three or more at a time. However, as you start to complete more and more stages you’ll earn coins that can be used to purchase power-ups that can be earned in-game by matching specific combinations (four across, three and three in a “T” shape, etc).

I feel like I don’t say this often about puzzle games, but the power-ups in Zombie Match Defense are actually pretty clever and each can be extremely useful in certain situations. My personal favorites are the crane, which lets you move a brain from anywhere on the screen to the beginning of its lane (even if it has an immovable sumo zombie on it), and the shotgun. Because it’s a freaking shotgun.


It’s also rather surprising just how much strategy you need to employ in order to make it through later levels, or get anywhere decent in Survival Mode. Every time you move a brain, every single zombie on the screen will move up one. It gets to the point where you’ll get overrun quickly if you aren’t careful. And yet it’s possible to set up some pretty impressive combos that can take out several of the rotting jerks in a single swipe. And my goodness, is it satisfying to watch line after line get cleared out as the horde goes from overwhelming to manageable – and you probably get a couple of power-ups in the process.

There’s even a fair bit aside from the leaderboards to keep you playing for a while. In addition to accessing all the power-ups through regular play you can also unlock Hard Mode for some extra challenge. Although my favorite distraction is easily Infinite Mode, where you play against an endless supply or standard zombies (with no power-ups) or and endless supply of all four zombie types (with power-ups), earning special medals that can be used to hire a number of different scientists to protect your doors. They don’t seem to serve much of a function other than looking cool, but it’s nice to have more of a reason to play Infinite Mode besides a score.

I did run into a couple of minor issues with Zombie Match Defense, though. The first thing I’ve noticed is that the difficulty tends to ramp up pretty sharply after each new type of zombie is introduced. I’m totally in favor of keeping their introductory levels a little easier so that players can figure out their unique rules, but there’s always this large difficulty spike afterwards. By the time you’re seeing your second or third new zed it’s not all that jarring, but it could be a little off-putting to some.


A more consistent problem, which I’d chalk up to an issue with the genre more than the game itself, really, is that matched combinations tend to “cascade” at the least convenient times. What I mean is if I’ve set up a specific series of brains in order to clear out a couple zombies on my next move, then clear a few brains in a row that’s well removed from where I’ve set everything up, the game tends to randomly generate rows of brains that match like crazy and ultimately wreck my setup. Conversely, when I match a few brains as a sort of Hail Mary play in the hopes that I can gain a little space and not get wiped out, I almost never get any combos going. It’s nothing game breaking but it can be exasperating when it happens. And it does happen. Often.

Even if you’re getting kind of sick of match-3 stuff, I’d recommend giving Zombie Match Defense a look. Underneath the basic matching formula is an unexpectedly solid (and difficult) strategy game.

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