Dead End: iPhone App Review

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Dead End is a strange mix of racing, horror, and high-score challenge. It’s also proof that the right kind of iTunes blurb does encourage people to download apps, because it’s certainly what attracted me to the game. It describes Dead End as coming “directly from the 70s,” and as a racing game and grindhouse horror movie mash up. Thanks, you’ve said enough, I’m sold.

How accurate is that description? Had I been duped, or was I about to play my dream iPhone game? Well, it’s not iPhone app nirvana, but it’s not being misrepresented either. The game puts you behind the wheel of a cool hot rod, ready to drive as fast as possible down a twisting highway. Watch out though, because there is a catch. The road down which you drive is littered with pot holes, rocks and zombies.

Yes, Dead End is another entry into the hugely overcrowded zombie genre. It’s your job to mow down the living dead, avoid the obstacles, and get as far as possible before smashing up your car. If that doesn’t sound too difficult, the game makes it much harder by spraying zombie goo all over the windscreen of your car, making it virtually impossible to see where you’re going. This means you inevitably miss the zombies, and crash into rocks and other hazards. Do so three times, and it’s game over.

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Luckily, you get paid for your zombie disposal services, and the money you make can be used to upgrade your car. Most importantly, you can add windscreen wipers to the vehicle, which cleans off all the muck so you can see where you’re going. Other upgrades include sharper steering, more power, a shield and better tyres. None of the options are cheap, and you have limited uses during each game, but at least they stay with you and there’s no need to keep buying them for each try. Play the game a few times, and you’ll gradually build up enough cash to buy whatever you want anyway.

So, that’s the horror and racing bit, what about the 70s? This comes from the game’s graphics, which are very unusual, and rather cool. Dead End’s pixelated world is burned red, like it’s set just after the apocalypse, and has real atmosphere. The funky guitar-driven soundtrack sounds good too, and does remind me of grindhouse movies, even if it is Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror. The zombies aren’t very inspiring though, and the road is a bit dull. Take away the zombies, and the game is a bit like the old classic Buggy Boy, but without all the colour.

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There’s a choice of two control methods, the dreaded tilt, and the far more preferable touch system. There’s only left and right to worry about, as the car sits at its own speed throughout the game. It doesn’t have the most accurate controls out there, but it’s not really supposed to be. Sliding and screeching across the road is part of its charm. It’s not a simulation, it’s an unashamed arcade game, and all the better for it.

The idea of Dead End is to simply keep going, and to use the vehicle upgrades to get that little further each time. It’s fun too, although there’s not much to keep you coming back. There are a selection of missions to complete, which are something like those found in Tiny Wings, and Game Center integration, but these take a back seat to just running down zombies until you get bored.

Dead End is free to download and play, but the more you upgrade your car, the closer you get to having to pay for the full version. It’s £0.69, which is just right, but it’s hard to see exactly why you’d want to pay to play for more.

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