Eastside Games’ Zombinis: a game with legs… and arms, eyes, and brains
Zombinis from Eastside Games recently launched on Google+ as a 30-day timed exclusive. The game tasks players with building up an army of zombified monsters and then using them to win battles, complete missions and expand their own arsenal of creatures. It combines elements of Pokémon and the board game Risk with the “collection” element common to many social games to create an altogether unusual and well thought-out experience.
Zombinis begins with players choosing one of the three available types of Zombini: Air, Land and Sea. Each is strong against one type and weak against another in a “rock, paper, scissors” kind of arrangement which the player is reminded of on every loading screen. Rather than beating their preferred type outright, however, being “strong” against another Zombini simply means they have an advantage in combat rather than a guaranteed victory.
The majority of the game is spent in combat. This takes place in a turn-based fashion, with players firstly choosing a Zombini from their squad to take on the enemy. Both the player and the enemy then roll virtual dice in order to determine the result of the combat, with Zombinis who are strong against their opponent getting more dice to roll. Similar to the board game Risk, whoever rolls the single highest number using all their dice wins that round of combat and inflicts a point of damage on the other. There’s a twist on the formula, however; doubles always beat a single die, even if the double is of a lower number. Likewise, triples beat doubles, quadruples beat triples and so on. Rolling more than one of the same number inflicts additional damage — for example, doubles inflict two points of damage while triples inflict three. If both sides roll more than one of the same number, the group which is made up of the higher number wins and inflicts the additional damage. Players may give themselves an advantage in combat by spending “brains” to add extra dice to their roll — these brains may be purchased using real money or found throughout the Zombinis’ adventures.
The twist on the standard hit point-based combat is that each hit point for a Zombini corresponds to a body part, which falls off when it is damaged. This means that healing a Zombini is not a simple matter of giving them a healing potion or first-aid kit — players must dig up replacement parts from a graveyard near their home base and collect sufficient pieces to repair the damage. Alternatively, players can spend hard currency to immediately restore a lost body part, or remove the Zombini from the active battle squad to automatically regenerate all their lost limbs after a period of real time. Alongside this, in order to create a new Zombini to add to their team, players must first defeat the Zombini in combat, acquire its body and then dig up the relevant parts to complete it.
Players are encouraged to play with friends, as visiting friends’ bases allows them to search additional graveyards for Zombini parts rather than having to wait the usual ten minutes between searching or spending hard currency to immediately search again. There does not appear to be an option for friends to pit each other’s Zombinis against one another at this time, however, and the selection of Zombinis available for players to collect is (so far) relatively limited, with the vast majority of promised possibilities listed as “Coming Soon” in the game’s “laboratory” menu.
Zombinis is a relatively simple game that is well-polished and has plenty of potential. It could do with some extra social features beyond simply visiting friends’ bases, but it’s still in its early days, as the game is officially still in beta. Eastside Games is keen to develop the game’s core features before expanding it too much. “We decided to… really work and improve the game, to focus more on community driven design,” Eastside cofounder Josh Nilson told Inside Social Games earlier this week when asked about the developer’s change from its original plans to launch Zombinis on Facebook and as a standalone title. “Rest assured a standalone [version] is still in the plan.”
You can play Zombinis right now on Google+.
A good start for an unusual new game, though its social features could do with some expansion.