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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review: Tactical Soldier: Undead Rising (iPhone)

Zombies are pretty popular right now. I'm sure there's some kind of reason on a deep psychological level that zombies hit a primal soft spot, that as a twisted reflection of ourselves there's a more powerful horror than regular monsters could ever achieve. Or it could just be that zombie AI patterns are relatively easy to program and they're good for no-frills kills.

Which brings us to Tactical Soldier: Undead Rising - a fairly straightforward strategy RPG dealing with a zombie invasion in a way that only B-grade entertainment can deal with. It's no Disgaea, it's no Final Fantasy Tactics, but it's a rollicking good time nonetheless.

Exactly where you want to be headed during a zombie invasion


Befitting the B-grade theme, the story of Tactical Soldier: Undead Rising is told through comic book panels that like like something out of the 80s. It's kitsch, but it also works in the case - although the story of military-types fighting for survival through a zombie invasion is nothing new, when there's a self-referential sense of humour about it it's still good fun.

The gameplay itself plays as with most tactics RPGs, and anyone who has played the likes of Ogre Battle, Final Fantasy Tactics of Fire Emblem will be right at home. Each unit has a certain number of "action points" to use each turn - that can be for either movement, or firing weapons.

Killing zombies earns experience points. Earn enough of them and you'll go up a level, rewarding you with skill points to distribute across a number of statistics, including agility, accuracy and HP.

Comic fun


It's all balanced pretty well, although you'll feel a definite sense of progression, you'll also never get to the point where you feel too overpowered - important given the horror trappings. Weapons, too, are doled out conservatively, but you'll never quite run out of ammunition - this isn't a Resident Evil game.

What lets Undead Rising down somewhat is the glacial pace. It's not that the game itself moves too slowly, but rather some iPhone quirks that makes the game occasionally difficult to kick back and relax with. The camera, though it offers the full range of zoom, pan, and tilt options that means you will be able to see everything at all times, is also a touch too sensitive, and in the early stages of play you'll fight with the screen at times. It's not the most welcoming experience.

That's a lot of zombies


The second technical issue that slows things down is a subset of the camera - selecting specific "squares" on the play field can be difficult unless the screen is zoomed quite far in (which of course obscures your wider view). The game then becomes a dance of pinching, zooming, swiping and jabbing - compared to the single button press of a Tactics Ogre, this is the inferior way to play.

That said you do get a decent amount of content when you buy into this game, and there will be additional content released via DLC in the future. Issues with the camera controls aside, this is good, straightforward fun. Between this and Battle for Wesnoth, tactics RPG buffs have their bases covered.



Review: Tactical Soldier: Undead Rising (iPhone)
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