When the Nintendo DS released a few years back, the flagship launch game was a remake of the Super Mario 64. Originally a home console game for the Nintendo 64, Super Mario 64 had reached legendary status, becoming a template for all 3D platform games to come. When it was released as a launch game for the DS, however, it just didn’t feel “right”. Sure, it was impressive that such a monstrous game was now playable on a handheld system, but the game just didn’t seem to be a match with Nintendo’s quirky new handheld.
I find myself experiencing this phenomenon over and over again with games released on the iPhone; the most recent example being Dead Rising Mobile from Capcom. Dead Rising is an amazing series when played on the Xbox 360, and it’s no less amazing that Capcom has been able to shrink down that experience for the iPhone. Nevertheless, like many titles that are shoehorned into the App Store, the game just doesn’t feel right.
Dead Rising Mobile is essentially a retelling of the original Dead Rising game for Xbox 360. The protagonist is Frank West, a photojournalist who hears about something strange happening in the small town of Willamette, Colorado. He hires a helicopter to fly him into the town, and is quickly confronted by military choppers, forcing him to bail out at the local mall. And if you’ve seen Dawn of the Dead, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect from there.
Dead Rising on Xbox 360 was a huge game, allowing the player to explore the vast Willamette Mall, uncovering secret hallways, exploring countless shops, and using nearly every item you could find as a weapon. Dead Rising Mobile compartmentalizes the experience significantly. While you’re still able to explore the mall, the areas are broken up into much smaller chunks. When you receive a mission, you can set a navigational arrow to lead the way to a highlighted area. Perform the required task within that highlighted area and you receive experience points, which then prompt Frank West to level up. As you complete missions, more of the mall will open up, giving you more room to explore.
The main focus of the game is, of course, zombie bashing. Frank can pound through hordes slowly with his fists, but it’s far more fun to pick up dropped items like baseball bats, guns, and chainsaws. Frank will also need to nourish himself before his hunger meter runs out.
The problem with Dead Rising Mobile is that while it delivers a game of impressive scope on a mobile phone, the game simply requires too much from the iPhone. The lack of proper buttons plague many games on the iPhone, and Dead Rising is a perfect example of why these games simply don’t work with this particular platform. The on-screen buttons lack the tactile sensation needed for a game like this. When an item is available for Frank to pick up, a contextual button pops up on the screen, causing the gamer to take his eye off the action. Furthermore, the directional pad feels like the “on/off” sensation of a four-way digital pad, rather than the finesse of an analog stick. This is especially frustrating when you’re trying to navigate Frank through a horde of zombies.
Graphically, the game is certainly impressive. However, there are definite problems involving pop-up. Dead Rising is known for having dozens of zombies on screen at once, something that’s not technically possible with the iPhone. The highlighted mission areas are relatively small, and at times it can appear that there are no zombies around. But take a few steps and – BAM! – you’ll walk straight into a half dozen undead brain-munchers.
Bottom Line: The fact that Dead Rising Mobile can exist on the iPhone is impressive. However, just because it can exist, doesn’t mean it should.
Dead Rising Mobile is compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), and iPad. Requires iOS 4.1 or later.