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As an avid reader and imperfect gamer, for us, gamebooks is a great mobile way of incorporating gaming and book-style storytelling together in a fun and interactive way. Developer Delight Games has released a large catalog of these gamebooks and one we’re playing now is Zombie High, which taps into the ever popular trend. Currently, the full series is available on mobile devices.
Zombie High takes place after a zombie apocalypse, which has wiped out a good part of the world. There is only a small proportion of the world that is still alive and they live in protected underground zones that have formed communities built over the years. The are divided into sections: labs dedicated to finding the cure, zonage for where people live, and schools for the younger generation. There is also public transportation system to people about and a military-style police to protect everyone.
We play as Jane Valentine (Wait a minute! That’s a nod to Resident Evil!) a first year going into high school. Her parents are important people working in the lab and military respectively, but this is her journey now (and by definition, ours). Our main task is to survive high school while weaving through the cliques: Royalty, Baggers, Ehrlichs and more. It wouldn’t be a high school without some romance and Jane wants to capture the heart of Tommy, who is just perfect. Adding to that, we also need a little action and that is when there are containment issue with a lot more infected running rogue than usual. It’s all very peculiar and a plot is discovered simmering under the radar so it’s time to get to the bottom of it all. Valentine and her friends go to work. Here’s a brief summary of the “Volumes” and what to expect.
This is mostly set up for the story. We meet Jane and get acquainted with the people in her life from her parents to her childhood friend Chase and his no-status group of friends, to the dynamic of school and the situation everyone is stuck in. Jane next meets Tommy and we get introduced to the Principal and the biology teacher. It’s a stepping stone tutorial to help learn the role-playing system. There are four indicators to keep our eyes on:
Jane is now the Kid A of the group and she gets the privilege of setting up the school dance. Except things go wrong when their biology teacher Mr. Franklin seems to be acting weird and the band that he recommends turns out to be a different breed of zombies. When Jane and her friends impersonate them and go out into the other sectors, they start learning more that other sectors are secretly aware of these new breeds and some of them may have a sinister plan brewing. In volume 2, the “Popularity” meter is now “Cool” factor. It’s a step up from Volume 1 in challenge and making choices.
Right off the bat, there’s a noticeable change in pace. First off, we no longer have Ammo to worry about. This is about the investigation and centers on the story back at the high school. We look deeper at these “HFVM” (High Functioning Vicutus Mortus). These are zombies who aren’t typical human zombies but are in control of much more of their nature for the most part. It is a lot more about the action and choices that make a difference. The pace switches up in this volume and ends in a pretty intense situation. It was much harder than the previous even without the Ammo factor. Actually without the Ammo, it tempts us to use the gun option (which is almost always available) more frequently but may not always be the best choice. It does give the story in a good pace though. This volume involves a lot more deaths, meaning lots of of going back to checkpoints and even restarting the entire volume just to get it right.
This one takes us straight into the evil plan of the HFVM, eventually breaking into all out war. As hard as they try, the underground community is not immune to the dangers of the outside world and the plague has come home. Now Jane and her friends need to head above ground to track down the people responsible.
It’s all action all the time in this chapter. Well, mostly. It’s actually quite like a zombie apocalypse movie. Time for a showdown to uncover the devious plot above ground and protect the potential cure they may have found.
Zombie High is a great concept. It’s a Choose Your Own Adventure story wrapped up in a role-playing game. For many, it might even be the best of both worlds to not only be invested in the story but also control the outcome to a certain extent. Your choices will only affect the personal stats whereas the story is guided in a certain direction in the background and will always follow that line, which works rather well. Its role-playing factors to manage are simple and enough to make it challenging. The choices inspire making smart choices and many paths do lead to death if prior choices have caused enough danger on the Infect and Life Meters.
The Death Screen
However, the mechanism that makes this experience much harder to appreciate is that even if you have the full series, it requires a certain amount of coins, which are found by unlocking achievements with certain choices, to unlock the next Volume. This results in most definitely a second run (or more) and is particularly annoying after having to return to checkpoints frequently or restarting a Volume previous in order to better manage our decisions and infection level to complete the Volume itself. Completing the Volume once should be reward enough, it is unnecessary to add in this feature except for being an obvious cash grab for more coins, especially when ads are plentiful in this game. However, you could just buy it for $19.99 and not have to worry about any of that, although when a free game option is available (with ads), it feels a little meaningless.
Publisher: Delight Games LLC
Price: Free (ad-supported), $19.99 (ad-free)
Category: Role playing, Book
Operating systems: Android, Windows 10 Mobile, 8.1, 8.0