Return of the Zombie King at first glance seems like another endless runner, but he has a few unique tricks up his sleeve. You play as an unnamed king who built a giant castle, but his royal council has been wary of his seemingly reckless spending. Almost driving the kingdom into financial disaster, he was kicked out and left to die in a dreadful swamp. A mysterious stranger offers to bring him back from the dead, and now the king seeks revenge!
Zombie King starts off really interesting. The first swamp level is shaded without buying anything, so at first I thought the game was trying to emulate the retro look. It works pretty well, actually! The king’s pixie is sharp enough to describe his zombie look, but he’s charming at the same time.
Either way, zombies aren’t exactly known for their powerful jumping abilities, so the King can barely lift himself off the ground. After your first race is over, the mysterious stranger tells you that you need to collect parts of your body before you can go anywhere. At the third level, you get your legs back – yes, your legs! These allow you to jump to a respectable height.
From that moment on, I knew Zombie King wasn’t your typical endless runner. A few more levels, I got the eyes of the king back and the game got colorful! It was a funny surprise and it’s a good example of the meta-humor of this game. I forgot to mention, but in the first few levels there is really no sound or music. There are a few sound effects, but they’re really muffled and can barely pass for sound. You can probably guess where this is going, but after the eyes you will find the king’s ears, and the game suddenly gets background music and the sound effects become clearer. This body part unlocking mechanism is creative enough for an endless runner and it keeps the excitement there because you will never know which body part you will unlock next.
There is one issue I have with the game, however. The king has an energy meter, and as he crosses the level, it drains at a constant rate. Jumping causes you to lose energy faster, so you will need to be a little conservative in your jumps. The problem with this is that almost all of the coins placed in the levels are in the air, so you will have to jump to catch them. At the start of the game your max health isn’t that high so if you jump to grab coins it’s basically a self-inflicted death sentence as you won’t have enough energy to get to the end. Having to choose between getting more coins or beating the level feels like a way to end the game, as you’ll go through the same levels multiple times just to collect enough coins for the next energy upgrade. That’s not too much of a problem, but it makes the early parts of the game drag on longer than necessary.
Overall, Return of the Zombie King is a fun and creative twist on the kind of endless runner we all know and love. You’ll feel truly accomplished once you realize you’ve gone from a limping zombie who could barely jump to a master of wall kicking!
If you want to try out being a king of the living dead, you can download it here for iOS.
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