Friday, March 8, 2013

Containment: The Zombie Puzzler

Please note that this is the rough draft for a review I wrote for Please check out the final draft of the review here.

I never know what to do with self-explanitory titles. I mean, how do I explain it any further? "Containment: The Zombie Puzzler (on iPad and PC) is a puzzle game with zombies that you must contain." It's great for the developer/publisher, because they don't have to spend any extra time explaining the concept of the game. But reviewers like me who have delusions of cleverness no longer have anything to work with. Won't anyone think of the poor reviewers?

So, yeah. Containment is a drop-down puzzler, a la Bejeweled, but with several significant twists. First off, this is not a match-three game. No, instead you must "contain" any zombies in the  field by surrounding them entirely (minus corners) with one of four different survivor types: Cop, Punk, Soldier, and Nurse. Once you do that all basic zombies disappear, along with the containers, and you get more survivors. There are special zombies, however that make things harder, such as the mutated zombies which have to be contained twice to be killed. Also, since these are zombies, you have to be careful of spreading. Every so often, a zombie will bite a nearby survivor, turning them into a zombie too. This turns each puzzle into a race against time instead of a race against the timer. The focus on containment is nice because it means that this game is more strategic than your usual Bejeweled clone. This is a mixed blessing, since while it's nice to have a game that tries to be different and succeeds, those same attributes can also be very frustrating.

For example, I quite enjoy the visuals. While they're probably not going to be winning any awards, they do a amazing job of conveying the mood the game is trying to set. The problem is that it directly interferes with the gameplay. You see, rather than a strict top-down view, containment uses an isometric view, which, while it allows you to appreciate the visuals better, makes it a little bit harder to grab the survivor you want. I found that I would often accidentally grab the survivor just below the one I was going for, because I thought I was grabbing its legs but was instead grabbing the other's head.  And since the game forces you to go as fast as you can to avoid getting bogged down by too many zombies, you're not often afforded the luxury of being able to take your time to make sure you're grabbing the right one. Another problem is that the game is very dark. Again, this is a part of setting the mood but it makes it more difficult than it should be to distinguish the various units from each other. It's surprisingly hard to tell where exactly the holes in your containment cell are and where the survivors that can fill those holes are. Again, I understand why they made such artistic decisions, I just wish they could have made those decisions interfere less with the gameplay.

Overall it's hard for me to want to be angry at the game because the people at Bootsnake are doing something different with drop-down puzzle games, and we should encourage innovation. However, I still found the gameplay to be rather frustrating. I often had to try puzzles out several times in order to beat them, which wouldn't be bad, if I felt that there were a legitimate reason for having failed. All too often, however, it just seemed that the game itself was screwing with me. Still, it wasn't so frustrating that I stopped playing altogether.

Bottom Line: If you're really into drop-down puzzle games or are looking for a challenge, then Containment is probably for you and you should consider checking it out, it's not expensive. If, however, you get frustrated easily, you should definitely avoid this game, lest you end up smashing your mouse and keyboard against the nearest cinder block.

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