Available now on mobile (free, ad supported) and itch.io

Though they’re an omnipresent part of the 21st century pop culture landscape, I’m old enough to remember a time when zombie movies were considered way too extreme to be mainstream; few genres of horror were more looked down upon – though perhaps the spate of nasty cannibal movies seen in the late 70s and early 80s as home video first exploded in popularity certainly exceeded the reputation that the mostly cheap and gory Italian zombie movies had. The Grandfather of the modern zombie movie, however, George A. Romero, certainly escaped the same critical rejection as most other creators working in the genre – given that he often served his blood-soaked movies up with a side dish of social and political commentary. Perhaps even more horrific than the zombies were other people; right from the beginning, with 1968’s seminal Night of the Living Dead – the first of his original ‘Dead’ trilogy – the biggest threat to everyone’s survival are the selfish, stupid and dangerous people who’ll do anything to stay alive.

It’s a point that you feel keenly in the zombie movie inspired Deal of the Dead, the latest minigame from Kuneko. It’s a very straightforward card game, in which you start at a location with four cards face up in front of you – these can be zombies, survivors, weapons, first aid kits or even other locations.

Get rid of three of these cards and more are dealt; to use the cards, you can move them to either hand, keep one in your backpack, take one survivor or move to a new location. Zombies have a health value which can be depleted using weapons or sacrificing survivors (see, there’s that human element coming into play!) – or simply by having them attack you in order to reduce them to zero and have them removed from play. You only have 12 health points to play with, but dragging a first aid kit to your card will allow you to heal the number of points the kit is worth.

Find and use the helicopter card at a location and you escape; run out of health and you lose. It’s a simple, straightforward and addictive game that packs a good few difficult choices into its random setup each round. It’s not that easy to win – though you can sometimes get lucky due to the draw of the cards. Equally, there will be times when it feels like there’s no choice but to sacrifice yourself and be eaten by the zombie horde.

It has great atmosphere and the visuals are a nicely stark tribute to classic zombie movies, particularly evoking the aforementioned, black and white Night of the Living Dead. The one issue I had is that there’s no tutorial, so you’ll go through a brief period of trial and error before you work out what’s going on. It’s simple enough to pick up fairly quickly though, which helps.

As with other Kuneko games, it’s brief and the premise is thin – but it’s intended as a smaller experience and it’s one that is pretty replayable, not to mention the fact that rounds tend to take a few minutes at most. Also in common with other Kuneko games, the mobile version is ad-supported but the ads are thankfully not too frequent so as to ruin the enjoyment of the game. Bear in mind also that the game is available on itch.io for a $1 minimum cost with no ads.

Excellent stuff and – as always – I can’t wait to see what Kuneko release next.

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