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Review: Z Buster – surprisingly fun and silly freemium title

New freemium zombie-blaster provides heaps of fun at no cost

Price: Free (IAPs)
Version: 1.1 
379 MB
Developer: isTom Games
Platform: iPhone / iPad


There’s something off-putting about this kind of cartoonish and garish graphical approach that features on a certain subset of freemium games. The 3D art-style, app store screenshots covered in text and sales pitches all add up to the same picture – this isn’t a game, it’s a gamified marketing ploy that uses an ‘in thing’ to extract bucks from players. In fact, Z Blaster, a free-to-play zombie game (there’s that ‘in thing’) doesn’t even attempt to hide this. It’s In-App Purchases are named simplistically as ‘FEW BUCKS,’ ‘SOME BUCKS,’ and ‘HUGE BUCKS,’ which range from $2 to $20 in cost. But we’ll let you into a secret… as with most freemium games, we’re hopelessly addicted to Z Blaster. But unlike most freemium games… we’ve not spent a single cent on these IAPs.

Each level gives you a task to complete

Each level gives you a task to complete

You see, Z Blaster doesn’t take itself seriously. You wouldn’t expect it to, of course, but its whole approach to making money is different. It’s fun first, financials second. The premise is simple – you’re in the zombie apocalypse, you play some kind of army/resistance guy, and you’ve got a boatload of guns at your disposal. The game cycles through ‘days,’ each providing its own challenge to complete. These can include shooting a certain number of zombies, achieving a specific number of headshots, or activating some power-ups. To make these shots, you use one thumb or finger to level your gun’s sight at a zombie, then hit the fire button to shoot.

Upgrade weapons and progress to the next scene

Upgrade weapons to help you complete the tasks and progress to the next scene

There are about eight different types of zombies – some are harder to kill, while others often find protective masks meaning even a headshot won’t penetrate straight away. On each level, or day, they stand around nonchalantly, doing little harm to you… until you start shooting. Then, more and more notice your presence and swarm towards your POV. Your task is to take them out with weapons. Just like traditional zombie lore, a headshot will give you the best route to a kill, while super-fun power-ups like fire, ice, bombs and more will inflict damage on multiple zombies. But the most ridiculous power-up is surely the disco ball. If one pops up on screen, shoot it, and it’ll force all zombies to assemble and dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller making it easy to pick them off. Although in a neat twist, sometimes they’ll dance to ‘Gangham Style.’ Very bizarre.

The game starts off fairly easy, but once you get to around day 30 and open up the second of three ‘levels’ (these are more like static scenes and don’t really differ) the swarms can get increasingly aggressive. The way around this is to upgrade your gun, or buy a new gun with bucks. Now, you’d think this would be the point where you need to spend real-life cash to progress, but that’s not the case. Though you can buy in-game Bucks currency using IAPs, you actually make a considerable amount with each play. Even when you lose the level and are overcome by the herd, you’ll still make bucks based on headshots, use of power-ups, the amount of time you spent alive, and other parameters. In reality, the more you play, the more you get paid, and the more you get paid, the more you can play – without paying… actual money. Because unlike many premium games of this kind, there’s no time-limits on the amount you can play. You don’t have to come back later (or pay to unlock levels or to progress.) Z Blaster, put simply, is a somewhat silly, but hugely addictive and fun-to-play title with no strings attached.

Headshots are the key to quick kills

Headshots are the key to quick kills

After awhile, the game can get a bit stale. The challenges recycle, simply adding more numbers – kill more zombies, get more headshots, get more power-ups etc. But there’s still hours or fun to be had. Z Buster will almost certainly find its audience. It’s about zombies, and easy, mindless destruction, so how could it not? But it would also be a shame if some serious iOS gamers decided to surpass it based on its freemium model. Z Buster is a lot of fun, and can absolutely be your guilty (or not so guilty) pleasure.