Dead on Sight
The format of undead shooter Dead on Sight will be familiar to fans of mobile hunting games, with the player character rooted to the spot using their rifle scope to hunt for targets. Far from being a simple deer-zombie substitution, it also ups the pace, layering on top of the perspective an equally-familiar wave format, with trickles of the undead in the first level giving way to armies of them by the final level. There are five stages in all, strung together by the simple tale of a man trying to defend the town of Resurrection (in a nice touch, this story is told via comic book panels). The overarching goal is the protection of the townspeople, whose panic levels and survival rates will determine your success and the degree thereof.
Although sniping games seem like a natural fit for touch controls, there are problems in this particular case. Primary amongst these is the overlap between the various inputs, meaning that you can, for example, find yourself outright exiting scope view (double tap on the screen) when you only wanted to zoom out (pinch on the screen). A more blatant issue is with the trigger button, situated to the bottom right. Its input area is too wide, and tapping around it can still cause the gun to fire – not necessarily a problem on a quick play-through, but potentially ruinous (not to mention frustrating) when going for one of several achievements that relies on accuracy. The lack of any control customisation beyond the standard left/right-handed and inversion options only exacerbates all of this.
These problems can make for a somewhat rough experience, yet the game maintains a playability in spite of them. This playability comes from the developer’s skilled grasp on the principle of reward, which initially manifests itself in minor ways – pulling off a headshot at 400 yards, say, an accomplishment marked by as squishy a squelch as you’re ever going to hear. These small-scale satisfactions then feed into larger rewards, such as making 1000 such headshots or killing a certain number of moving targets to unlock achievements and, subsequently, mini-games. These mini-games (extrapolations of elements found in the story mode, for the most part) do, in turn, constitute their own reward loops, which can lead to joyous and, given the shortness of the story, surprisingly extensive play sessions. Throw in Game Center integration on top of it all, and you have a fair amount of content to chew on.
Make no mistake, though – Dead on Sight is an arcade game, and not just in the loose adjectival sense. You really can imagine it installed in a cabinet, perhaps complete with some Silent Scope-style peripheral. Like all good arcade games, it never reaches for anything deeper than ‘compulsive time-killer’, and this could lead to voices, both internal and external, saying that it’s an empty, flawed experience not worth spending your time or money on. These voices might have a point – the problem is that they’re being drowned out by the squelch of zombie heads exploding.