Pirates vs. Ninjas vs. Zombies vs. Pandas, a fun physics-based puzzler in the spirit of Angry Birds, has been released by PAN Vision AB and is now available from the app store. While several clones have popped up since Angry Birds dropped, this is the first that has really addressed our gripes with the game and included some fun additions that make it stand out from the crowd.
Pirates vs. Ninjas vs. Zombies vs. Pandas Pros:
- Easy cannon controls
- Same addictive gameplay as Angry Birds
- Adds some great features not present in similar physics puzzlers
- GameCenter integration for global leaderboards and achievements
Pirates vs. Ninjas vs. Zombies vs. Pandas Cons:
- Graphics a bit cluttered; some framerate stuttering
- Camera zooms at inconvenient times
- Freezing of cannon during multi-touch
- No clear indication of star ratings thresholds
Pirates vs. Ninjas vs. Zombies vs. Pandas contains 4 play styles, with each pitting one faction against the rest of the group. There are 45 levels in all, with more on the way. Each level contains one faction spread out among rudimentary structures that can and will come down with the application of a little force. Whereas that force came from birds out of a slingshot in the top-selling app store game, the force in this game comes in the form of the heads of other factions fired from a cannon. You still receive a limited number of heads to fire, but you are now able to select the order in which you fire them. Each faction has a couple of different head types. For example, the Pirates have a regular head and one that bursts into flames and burns wood, leaves, and enemies that it contacts. The Ninjas will stop their mid-air flight when you tap on the screen, then dive straight down with extra force to destroy objects below. Rotting zombies drop rotting bombs, and so on and so forth. Additionally, the heads are aimed by dragging forward from the cannon, which creates a dotted aiming line with a reticule symbol that indicates the strength of the shot. Releasing your finger fires the object into the fray. The aiming line and target from the last shot remain for the next, giving you terrific feedback when adjusting your next shot.
Pirates vs. Ninjas vs. Zombies vs. Pandas adds some other cool features, too. Some levels place heads of your friends among the enemy heads. If you accidentally destroy a friendly head, you fail the board. There is more of a puzzle feel to this game, as some levels require that you burn away or destroy certain pieces of the environment in order to allow you to access hiding areas that protect the enemy. Another cool feature allows you to fire another head before the previous one is done wreaking havoc. It’s a lot of fun and you have to think a bit more strategically about your choices than in similar games. You still earn points for destroying objects and for unused heads. These points correlate to the 3-star rating system that we are quite familiar with by now.
Of course, the game is not without its faults. The camera zooms in and out at will, which causes some issues with seeing where exactly you are aiming. You can pinch-to-zoom in and out to adjust for this, but it just feels like it shouldn’t be doing this so much. There are also some problems associated with the cannons. If you accidentally brush the screen with a second finger while aiming, the aiming line freezes and the cannon doesn’t fire. You have to tap a few more times to get it to disappear and use the cannon normally again, but it is an annoyance because there are times where the screen zooms while aiming and there is no way to zoom back out except to invoke the frozen aiming line issue, clearing the line, zooming out, and retrying. We were disappointed to see the continuation of the lack of information about what it takes to achieve each star level.
Graphically, the game doesn’t feel quite as polished as Angry Birds. It almost feels like the devs tried to add too much detail, which gets lost and muddied when zoomed out. Each faction’s environment is tailored to its own style, offering a great infusion of character. There were a few framerate stutters from time to time when firing a head out of the cannon, but nothing that really detracted from the gameplay. The soundtrack gets the job done, but doesn’t really stand out in any way. Sound effects enhance the experience also. Controls use taps and drags for aiming and initiating special moves. It was a bit of an adjustment from the slingshot mechanics that we were used to, but we actually like this system a bit more.
Replay value is terrific, as the game is a lot of fun and the desire to earn 3 stars on all levels really drives you to keep playing. GameCenter integration brings global leaderboards and an achievement system into play, as well. If you enjoy physics flingers with character and charm, this one certainly fits the bill. For $0.99, it is priced right to compete against the other physics juggernauts. Pirates vs. Ninjas vs. Zombies vs. Pandas is a 4-Dimple stud with outstanding potential.
Pirates vs. Ninjas vs. Zombies vs. Pandas Review,