Running through the zombie horde is a theoretical recipe for disaster, one the developers at PikPok put on full display in their devilishly addictive iOS title, Into the Dead. The premise, as with most endless runners, is simple. With the camera fixed at a first-person perspective, you must steer a lone survivor across a wide-open space, a claustrophobic cornfield, and forest, doing your best to avoid zombies at all costs. If one grabs the poor virtual soul, it’s game over.
PikPok’s decision to go first-person easily sets the game apart from the competition by making the situation more intense. As the character sprints ahead, zombies and random objects appear from the fog, forcing you to make split-second decisions or risk becoming an undead monster’s snack. That said, Into the Dead comes with four control schemes, and it’s really a matter of taste which you prefer. Tilt adds a certain level of immersion that tapping the left/right sides of the screen does not provide, but the latter is equally effective.
Thankfully, you have a means to fight back (or at least clear a path). The longer you play, earn gold coins, and unlock missions, the more access you’ll have to the game’s arsenal. The list of weapons includes a lowly pistol, Magnum, assault rifle, shotgun, and chainsaw, among others, all of which do a great job killing zombies, but there’s a catch. You must find weapons in the field by running through crates and crosses (think graves). Either that, or you can equip the pre-game perk that lets you start with a weapon. Just don’t expect to find lots of ammo.
On top of that, we love the presentation. PikPok chose to display the graphics in black and white, aside from a sparse use of color, giving Into the Dead a Night of the Living Dead appearance. As for the audio, the character’s heavy breathing, zombie growls, and the vicious/borderline gross chewing noises that pour from the iPad’s speakers upon death help set the mood.
Being free, of course, usually comes with one or more annoyances. In this case, we have ads for other games that pop up after finishing a run. You can easily dispose of them, but the fact that you cannot pay to unlock an ad-free version is the slightest bit disappointing.
Just because Into the Dead has those ads, however, doesn’t mean you should avoid it. On the contrary, this is one of the coolest zombie games we’ve played in months, and with downloadable content on the way, there will be even more reasons to love this title well into 2013. For now, do as Forest Gump did, and just keep running.