Can this industry possibly withstand more zombie titles? Can the mobile platform possibly withstand any more restaurant-based games? When the zombies are sumo wrestlers cooking up Mac and Fleas for patrons who risk being eaten themselves by choosing to eat at your restaurant, the answer is yes, indeed. Capcom’s free-to-play Zombie Café belongs on your iPhone, regardless of the fact that it may convince the curmudgeonliest of freebie pluckers to fork over iTunes cash.
As an entrepreneurial human, your vision for a café empire involves zombifying unwitting patrons and forcing them to join your undead waitstaff. You must then build your business by raking in cash, invading neighboring restaurants, and pleasing living customers who seem perfectly content paying for and consuming Green Eggs and “Sam”.
Managing your waitstaff is an essential part of your strategy. Being zombies, they get weak without rest or succulent human flesh. You’ll need to balance their work time with plenty of time off, lest they lose it and turn a patron into a pile of licked-clean bones. Zombies can both serve and cook food, and you’ll always want to have at least one cooking up something foul to make sure you don’t run out of food. Slip up on this or any customer service front, and your café’s star rating will plummet and fewer customers will stop in.
Along with a hefty cookbook of unlockable, delightfully illustrated entrees (may we recommend the Entrail-ladas?), the zombies are the most visually appealing and diverse component of this game. As you gain more XP and level up, new and interesting patrons (read: potential zombie converts) will stroll into your café. Many of them have different strengths, which you’ll want to experiment with when building your zombie staff. Converting them will cost cash and/or toxin (we’ll discuss the latter later), so the incentive to keep cooking and continue serving is kept strong by what will undoubtedly be your desire to find out what a punk zombie looks like.
The game’s components are very well-balanced, creating a compelling experience that nabs you on many fronts. You will find yourself obsessively checking in on your café. It does slow down a bit, though. When we first built our zombie café, we checked in relentlessly. Now, we check in perhaps once a day, because that’s really all we can do. Many of the better dishes can take up to 24 (real-time) hours to cook, and will burn if left sitting for too long. Since the zombies serve automatically, there really isn’t anything you need to do once you hit a certain level. The only exception is attacking other cafes for cash and new recipes, but those too will close after being attacked, sometimes for longer than a day. We wish there were more to do with the game once cafes are established, at least in terms of direct involvement. Checking in once or twice a day, you can virtually play this game forever. Though if you aren’t willing to fork over real cash for the toxin substance, you might not want to play forever.
And that’s the catch, really. This being a free game, you are going to be presented with opportunities to fork over actual cash. In Zombie Café, this comes in the form of toxin, a multi-use green ooze that can revive your defeated and exhausted zombies, unlock better zombie employees, or get you fresh goods to decorate your restaurant. Though there are items you can buy with in-game cash, plenty can only be purchased with the green stuff—er, the neon green stuff. More than once you will feel compelled to buy toxin, especially when dudes that look all kinds of Apollo Creed cool stroll into your restaurant and you want to zombify them to get them on your staff.
Sure, you can get toxin without buying it, whether that means trying a promoted game or stealing toxin from a neighboring restaurant. Unfortunately, these opportunities come fewer and farther between as you put more time into the game. Then again, if that’s what it takes to get us to stop playing, maybe it’s better this way.
Mar 29, 2011