Standing on the edge of a bridge, bathed in the cool glow of the moonlight, you patiently wait for the onslaught of bobble-headed Japanazombies. “Times sure have changed,” you mutter in the brief calm before battle. “Back in the old days, my sword was actually small enough to carry in one hand… Who makes these damned things so friggin’ huge? And, what’s up with my huge cranium… must be some modern-age birth defect as a result of PCB water contamination. The zombies look normal enough, but…” Just as your gargantuan samurai brain begins to contemplate the devastating effects of industrialization upon your genetic code, the bridge begins to tremble. You hear the gritty, grunting sounds of a zombie horde approaching and lift the hilt of your ridiculous sword to waist-level in preparation for the fight. “I sure hope I can swing this thing…”
Hands-Off My Defense!
Samurai vs Zombie Defense 2 is a game about big heads, pretty graphics, and lackluster titles. Yes there are samurais and yes there are zombies, and you do indeed “defend”… albeit in a quirky, “tower-defense meets action game” sorta way. At first, I was a bit underwhelmed. Launching my first storyline mission, I was presented with a slow-moving samurai, a couple special abilities, and the knack for summoning farmers who run straight into battle without any sense of self-preservation. The only instructions presented to me were, a) tap the sides of the screen to move back and forth, and b) do nothing to attack. I was immediately turned-off, beat a couple missions, and put the tablet aside. How could any action game be worth its salt when you don’t need to “act” at all? Well, it turns out that things get complex pretty fast…
Side Tower Action Defense
SvZD2 – despite its weird and uninformative title – is actually an interesting combination of tower defense and side-scrolling action. While the maps may only take you a few seconds to traverse, what you do in that limited space makes a world of difference. You begin the game with one hero – a well-balanced, big-headed samurai – as well as the “farmer” ally. Also at your disposal are two special abilities – slice and lightning strike. The goal in each mission is simply to fend-off the zombie army that spawns on the other side of the map; a goal that becomes pretty damned hard as you progress. If the horde gets past you and destroys your “gate”, it’s all over. Fortunately for you, those little farmer allies are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of troops you can summon into battle; this is where the tower-defense style of gameplay comes in.
A Leader Among Men
As you’re busily hacking-away at zombies, you’ll slowly gain “leadership” points. Once you accumulate enough of these points, you can recruit allies. While not terribly intelligent (they simply run to your aid and start hacking until they die), they do make the battle a bit easier to manage. Every couple of missions you’ll unlock new allies, and of course the more powerful ones cost more leadership points (ie. you have to wait longer to recruit). The farmer is quite the rookie in combat, but you’ll quickly gain access to bowmen, rocket-slinging geishas, and ironclad samurai warriors. You also have the option of “upgrading” instead of recruiting new allies, which makes them a bit stronger every time. In addition to new allies, you’ll be unlocking new heroes to play during the missions and upgrading both ally and hero abilities with acquired coin. More missions, more allies, more heroes, more abilities, more coin.
Aside from the single-player missions, you can attempt the “challenge of the day” – damned near impossible – or try to steal other players’ “collectibles”. The challenge, as far as I can tell, is an absurdly difficult stand-off between yourself and some of the most foul zombies in the game. I haven’t won yet. The collectibles, however, are sets of items that give you permanent bonuses once obtained. Over time, you’ll accumulate souls that you’ll spend on these collectible matches (entry fee). The game pits you against an AI version of a selected opponent (real-world player), and winning will net you a collectible.
That’s really all there is to this game – missions, upgrading, and collectibles – but it’s a lot more engaging than it sounds. The only controls you’ll deal with are moving left and right, triggering abilities, and summoning allies. The background graphics are gorgeous, and the game suffered no apparent issues in terms of sound or performance. And, being a Glu game you can always rest assured that you can spend real-world money for in-game upgrades. The strange combination of side-scrolling action and tower defense mechanics makes SvZD2 a fun and challenging game but the repetition of each stage can get a bit… well, repetitious.