Fangz, a Zombieville-2-like side-scroller from Game Whizzes, is now available from the app store. Swapping out zombies for vampires and adding some particularly impressive visuals to the mix, Fangz is an exciting release during a rather dull week.
- Impressive cartoon graphics and super-smooth animations
- Terrific soundtrack and sound effects that enhance the experience
- Responsive controls and lots of upgradeable weapons to use
- Survival mode and ultra-challenging campaign levels
- Committed to remaining IAP-free
- GameCenter integration for leaderboards and achievements
- Only one difficulty level; may not be suitable for all players
- Jumping mechanic uses health and requires very fast taps for double-jump
Fangz offers an especially difficult 10-level Campaign and an equally challenging Survival mode that utilizes the same 10 locales as seen in the Campaign. You control Frank in a bid to rid the world of a vampiric onslaught. Each of the 10 levels is broken into a handful of shorter segments during which Frank must reach the exit within a certain time limit. In addition, some sections are broken down further into areas that force him to kill all vampires before moving to the next. Some levels are races to the end line, whether you kill vampires or not. Still others feel survival-like, locking you into the same section until a lengthy timer expires and unlocks the exit. The vampires come in all shapes and sizes, requiring varying amounts of firepower or melee attack prowess to eliminate them. There are even a few bosses to take down. You can get swarmed pretty easily, and the lunging bite attacks and ranged poison-spewing can do significant damage to Frank.
There are two methods by which he can defend himself: jumping to avoid attacks and whipping out a weapon and blowing the bloodsuckers away. Jumping comes in single- and double-jump forms, neither of which put Frank very far out of harm’s way despite both using up a bit of his health. This was one of the more frustrating aspects of the game, as we often avoided use of the jump mechanic purely because we couldn’t afford the health hit. Your health does regenerate a bit while you are not expending energy, but it does so slowly and the avoidance of damage due to a jump is often very temporary, since you typically land pretty close to the vampires who are quite willing to lunge and bite. The double-jump also requires very quick successive taps that don’t always register, if when you attempt to double-jump in a more traditional, slower way. The weapons, on the other hand, come in more than a dozen forms and are pretty powerful once you can afford the top-tier firearms and some nice upgrades. You have up to 5 weapon slots, with 3 open from the start. The other 2 unlock when you upgrade some of your 4 abilities to specified levels. These abilities are Stamina, Speed, Strength, and Fire Power. Each is upgraded using brains, a pseudo-secondary form of currency that is earned by leveling up your character through the course of play. The main form of currency is coins that are obtained by snatching up valuable loot dropped by vanquished enemies. Coins are used to purchase and upgrade your weaponry. Dead foes will also drop food items that replenish your health bar, wristwatches that add seconds back to your timer, and ammo boxes that refill your supply. You can also destroy some environmental objects to obtain these items.
The graphics are a standout feature, offering sharp, colorful visuals and smooth animations to provide a ton of eye candy. Deaths are quite gory, spewing bloodied body bits all over the place. Swarming enemies, steam-spewing manholes, abandoned vehicles, and the like can obscure item drops a bit, so you may need to make an extra pass or two if time allows. The soundtrack is also great, providing a familiar audio experience that reminds us of other epic affairs. The vampire chomps, gunfire, and exploding bodies also sound terrific and really enhance the game’s atmosphere. To control Frank, there is a joypad in the lower left corner to move him back and forth, as well as close to and further from the screen since the game does not take place on a single plane. This often leads to difficult attacking angles that see you missing with a key gunshot or taking damage from vampires that come at you from two different vectors. In the lower right corner, you have your attack button and jump button in easily discernible red and blue colors. They are sized and spaced well, which is good because there is no option to reposition them. Above the jump button are icons that represent your weapons. You can slide upward to swap or simply tap on the desired weapon to select. They change quickly, but taking your eyes off of the action to find the desired weapon can lead to some bites. These icons are also very small and easy to miss in the heat of battle. This is one aspect of the game that felt stronger in Zombieville 2, as we loved the ability to use any weapon at any time by using the designated buttons for each weapon. With the 5 weapon slots available in Fangz, we can see why this wouldn’t work. Your level timer, point total, remaining ammo, health bar, and experience bar are all available at a glance at the screen top.
Replay value is terrific, with plenty of weapons to obtain, upgrades to purchase, and stats to improve, as well as survival levels for high-score chasing. The campaign alone can be brutally challenging and take some time and effort to complete. There seems to be a bit of a need to grind from time to time so that you can get a better weapon or improve character stats to squeak through before the extremely tight timers run out. Escaping by the skin of your teeth, however, is a ridiculously satisfying feeling, though differing difficulty levels would have been a welcome addition. GameCenter leaderboards are available for total vamps killed, campaign high score, and total points, as well as a leaderboard for each of the 10 survival scenarios, each of which is unlocked only once you’ve beaten the desired level in Campaign mode. There are also 18 achievements to earn. Fangz comes in two formats, a standard def version that provides retina assets for the iPhone/iPod and only takes up about 200 mb on your device. There is also an HD version that gives retina love to your iPads as well, though this version weighs in at about a gig. Each version is universal and will set you back $1.99, a small price to pay for a fantastic 4.5-Dimple game.