Zombies, can’t live with them (literally), can’t live without them. The subject matter is still incredibly popular to this day, even if The Walking Dead and other pop culture center point’s aren’t as big as they were when they peaked several years back. Several years back is ironically when I played a little title on my Android phone known as Into the Dead. This endless runner saw players fight to outrun the dead as long as they could, swaying from side to side to dodge the ruthless undead that stumble ahead of you. Weapons and limited ammo were also an option if you found a zombie ahead with no way around. That game was plenty of fun, and one of the few mobile titles I had fond, specific callbacks to. Now, years later, I evidently missed the sequel hit cell phones, and instead found myself utterly surprised to see it launch on Switch.
This sequel is packed to the brim with content, which makes it $30 price tag a bit more understandable for fans of the original who may be scratching their head at that price. Again, the original was just a simple endless runner with a cool concept, one that could grow tiring when played in long sessions. This time around, Into the Dead 2 has a full length story mode, an arcade mode more similar to the original, and side stories that dive into new characters and narratives. The story mode consists of 60 levels as you take control of James as he desperately tries to get back to his sister and daughter in the midst of the zombie outbreak. His journey becomes an increasingly difficult one, as his sister Helen and daughter Maggie are constantly forced to keep moving because of the growing threat of the undead. They stay in touch via walkie-talkies (it’s the mid 80’s if I am not mistaken) so that James can stay informed of their conditions. And that is about as invested you really need to get in that narrative. In the story, you do not really see any other characters, and only hear them over the walkie-talkie, which makes getting invested in the characters a bit of struggle, one that is only made worse by some less than stellar voice acting. It is not really a problem though, because the gameplay is solid, and will keep you interested via its simple but effective integration, as well as the replayability focused mobile structure.
The gameplay is simple. Once again, do your best to avoid the dead, and be mindful of your ammo. You are going to need it when you get blocked off in tight spaces with no way to avoid that touchy, feely zombie 15 feet ahead of you. In the story mode, there is a set distance you have to survive that level. Each level has 5 goals for players to earn stars with upon completion. Beating this option goals helps you earn new guns as well as gold, which can be used to purchase upgrades, weapons, and companions. Some goals will challenge you to not touch a zombie while racking up a set amount of kills, while others are weapon or boost specific. Temporary boosts are earned upon finishing a level, as James raids a supplies bag which will grant you buffs like increased ammo pick up, incendiary shells, grenades, or additional gold. Most of these boosts are weapon specific, which can help you double dip on challenges for certain levels. If you have explosive shells for your bow and arrow, you can knock out two challenges with one buff, like conquering getting 30 bow and arrow kills while also getting 15 explosive round kills. This evident mobile structure really works well for a game like this on the Switch, as it is easy to pick up, play a level a few times, and feel like you accomplished something without the need to pour hours into the game.
In ITD2, you can have 2 guns, up to 3 grenades per run, and a companion. Weapons range from the traditional pistols, smgs, shotguns and more to oddities like Ghostbuster themed weapons (included in the Ghostbusters DLC), a weapon that shoots buzzsaws, and dual dragon skinned machine pistols. There is a wide range of weapons, all of which can be leveled up and improved with experience and gold. The same can be said of the companions, which have just as much variety and return on investment. Again, some standard options like various breeds of dogs are present, but you can eventually get a pack of wolves, a bear, hell, even a tiger if you keep progressing. If you have the Ghostbusters DLC, you can also bring Slimer and Demon Dogs along for your trip. Different companions have different attack rates, as well as active or passive abilities. I often used the Border Collie that could find hidden ammo along your path. Want something a bit more under your control? Animals like the bear have an ability you have to activate, like the ability to distract packs of zombies (which I did not find all that useful!) On certain levels, you can mount machine guns and tear through dozens of zombies with little fear of death, or find chainsaws and weedwackers as temporary melee weapons. There is a lot of variety here to dissect, and it really adds to the overall package.
I mean you get a lot to do here. After completing the base 60 levels, if you chose to do so, you can unlock elite versions of the levels by beating all challenges on a set of levels. These elite levels give you a new set of harder challenges, which brings the total amount of challenges in the story mode to 600. That is no small number. In arcade mode, you are treated to the endless runner, albiet with some limited conditions. You are limited to certain weapons, and each weapon has a requirement of so many kills earned before you can use the next one and continue mastering each one as you go. These kill challenges also earn you currency and boosts to use in story mode! The base game includes three side stories, and there are two movie themed ones that can be purchased as DLC, featuring Night of the Living Dead, and the previously mentioned Ghostbusters. All of these feature unique protagonists and a lot more NPC interaction, with stronger but shorter narratives on display. There are several unlockables to acquire in each, as well as elite modes within these as well that can only be beaten with no-death runs. Again, quite the package you get in this sequel considering the original subject matter.
While it is not graphically the strongest title, it gets the job done. Some visuals are muddy and bland, but the game runs pretty smoothly which is more important. I found some instances where getting stuck caused a death, and other times I felt as if the movement was much too slow, but otherwise I do not have much complaints about the performance. The game could have used more in the way of a dynamic soundtrack to keep you interested during the runs themselves, but instead opted for a very repetitive and simplistic “spooky” track. The gunshots sound good, but once more, the voice acting is generally pretty underwhelming.
Into the Dead 2 is the surprise sequel I never knew I wanted. Is it perfect? No. Can it get a bit repetitive? Yes. Most importantly, is it fun? Absolutely. And honestly, there is a lot of bang for your buck if you find yourself enjoying it. I recommend trying out a free version on your phone if you want to dabble before ponying up on the console version, but at the end of the day, this is a solid title that has more depth and content then you would expect at first glance. Like the fad revolved around them, zombies still live on. And if you run fast enough, you might just live on too.
*Note: Both DLC packs are included in the Physical Edition as well as a bundled Digital Edition
*Note: A copy of the title and it’s DLC were provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 7.5/10
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