Game

The Grim Reaper wants to seem less grim, so now he’s training zombies…

Deadlings finds the Grim Reaper exploiting the undead in bizarre experiments, in order to find acceptance in the greater world. We’re not sure this is the most amazing plan we’ve ever heard of, but it at least provides a set-up for an action puzzler that’s equal parts Lemmings and endless runner.

Each of the 100 multi-screen stages has you figure out a course of action with the help of a blueprint-style ‘strategy’ overview. You then select a zombie, switch to ‘arcade’ mode and attempt to get them to the exit or another objective, such as a switch. Each zombie has its own special power, used for overcoming specific obstacles — one can run and jump; another sticks to surfaces, leaping between them like a squelchy Spider-Man; a third can fly using expelled noxious gases; and the last will move on command and fall asleep when left alone. The trick is in figuring out which zombie to use at any given moment, thereby avoiding deadly saw blades, accessing switches, and collecting tasty brains.

The level map provides an overview of your task and can be returned to at any time.

The level map provides an overview of your task and can be returned to at any time.

The premise works well, and a typical three-star system details how you fared. You get one star just for finishing a level; the other two are gained when you grab all the brains scattered about the place and do so within a tight pre-set time limit. Successful runs also reward you with skulls that can be used to skip levels or buy extra zombies if you mess up when a level’s almost completed. Inevitable IAP also lurks, giving off a zombie-like stench, but can mercifully be avoided entirely. What cannot be evaded so easily is the overly precise nature of some levels, which are almost pixel-perfect in their demands. Coming a cropper time and time again on one of the much longer later levels can be particularly irksome. Fortunately, you can at least switch between the ‘arcade’ and ‘strategy’ views at any point, which is very useful on the lengthy final levels for each of the game’s four stages, which are more akin to running the gauntlet than solving puzzles.

Blue zombies stick to walls and ceilings, but they’re not huge fans of being impaled.

Blue zombies stick to walls and ceilings, but they’re not huge fans of being impaled.

Regardless of its issues, a mix of charm, intuitive gameplay, and some smart innovative design later on (with some neat zombie co-op puzzles) is enough to ensure Deadlings will more likely give you a smile akin to Death’s toothy visage than the miserable gape of the undead. But for all its efforts, it’s still a fairly shallow experience – one we were happy to plow through once, but that we don’t feel compelled to return to.

Price: $1.99/£1.49

Size: 30.9 MB

Version: 1.3.0

Platform: iOS Universal

Developer: Artifex Mundi sp. z o.o.

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Deadlings Review: Strategy meets Endless Runner
“An amusing, entertaining action-puzzler with a well-considered blend of planning and action, but it lacks longevity”
For
  • Inventive premise
  • Original co-op puzzles
Against
  • Overly lengthly gameplay
  • Requires perseverance
3.7Overall Score