FGR – 13th April 2011 – Zombie Lane

Welcome to the Facebook Game Review! In this daily series (except perhaps on the weekends), I will be looking at, sharing my thoughts and giving verdicts on the hottest and coldest entrants to the Social Gaming ring. Each post will feature a new game, an update on existing ones, and a final score.

Introducing…. Zombie Lane

For anyone who has read the blog since the start will notice that I had a little bit of a social gaming crush on Digital Chocolate. NanoStar Siege was an innovative real gaming experience amongst the farms and simple town builders that plagued (and still plague) Facebook. Back then, DC were little fish in a large Zynga dominated pond. The pond is now an ocean, Zynga are still the Great Whites, but now DC are major players themselves. Millionaire City put them on the map and was arguably one of the major influences on Zynga’s CityVille.

It’s ironic that when I’m playing Zombie Lane I can’t help but think it’s ripping off the title that originally ripped DC off! But we’ll get to that later.

Zombie Lane is an interesting social game in that it seems to be 100% narrative led! This is definitely unique. In my first and second playthroughs, there hasn’t been a town to build or items to purchase… you start outside your busted up house and you have missions to fulfil in order to fix up your house before your spouse gets home! The main gameplay I have experienced so far is very similar to an introduction tutorial in many MMORPG games. You start in a pretty exciting but chaotic scenario, then you are led through as the game teaches you all the mechanics you need to learn. Zombie Lane definitely has an interesting start from a narrative point of view, which is bound to lure people back to play on a daily basis.

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Zombie Lane alludes to a typical town building later on, but for now it's all about rescuing your family!

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When I think about all the Facebook games I’ve played, Zombie Lane does have the coolest premise. From the loading screens, it does seem that the game will resort to town-building (although on a more personal, Sims-style scale), but so far it’s been very refreshing to have a story in a Facebook game. Of course, in a social game it’s difficult to see how much is under the bonnet when your bonnet is limited to 15 energy points and you have to wait God-knows-how-long for them to regenerate. Will the story eventually give way? Can a story work in a persistent but non-evolving game world? Or will Digital Chocolate surprise us further by adding some more unique features? I hope so, because Zombie Lane is rather derivative.

Zombie Lane’s gameplay is basically CityVille, on an extremely small scale, combined with Mighty Pirates. Like Mighty Pirates, you have to click various items around the game world to uncover resources. Instead of using those resources to improve your pirate ship, you use these resources to improve your home and advance in the story (mainly the latter so far). While you are clicking, there is a click combo meter and collectibles which are a part of various sets you can complete. The collections and combo meters are exactly the same as CityVille. It’s very disappointing to see such a shameless rip-off! There is barely any attempt to make it look different. Perhaps collections will offer different rewards upon completion, but so far it’s a clone. It’s the same with the XP and Coin drops… in Zombie Lane there are blue stars for XP and gold coins for coins. In CityVille the XP stars are blue and the cash is of the golden coin variety. At least change the icons, DC! What is even worse is that the art in CityVille is much better looking! The combo meter looks slightly different (also worse and without the humorous titles) but works in the same way. It even has the super-annoying “YOU ARE OUT OF ENERGY SO WE WILL POP UP FIVE WINDOWS ON THE SCREEN TO STOP YOU MAINTAINING YOUR COMBO” feature.

Perhaps this is revenge for CityVille stealing features from Millionaire City. Unfortunately the egg is all over DC’s face.

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Zombie Lane: CityVille with ugly inhabitants and an ugly UI

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All across the board Zombie Lane looks good and bad. Some of the fonts they’ve chosen are just so unstylish. You’d think this isn’t important, but social game consumers are very fickle and when the almighty CityVille is next-door you can’t get away with cheap decor. It’s strange because many other things are done quite well. The music and sound is great. The animations of menus popping up, especially the ones where your husband/wife is calling, look brilliant and really get you into the mood of an epic adventure. On the other hand, the character I chose has a terrible walking animation. It’s hilariously bad. DC appear to have skimped on some parts and excelled in others, overall giving me a horrible “unfinished” feeling.

I think that’s enough today for a first look. Tomorrow I’ll play some more and update you all on how it goes, plus I’ll introduce another game!

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Sam

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