Zombie Jombie

Posted by davidludwig
Jun 11 2012

I was going to review this one a week ago, because I wasn’t sure it would still be on my phone by this week. Unfortunately for my review of it, I decided on a stay-of-execution not because my opinion of the application changed, but because I came up with a different idea on how I could deal with it. Amazingly, in the span of that single week my opinion of the app managed to drop! With any luck this will prove to be the worst application I ever have the misfortune of downloading.

Some apps I’ve tried have been so bad I deleted them immediately and they will not be reviewed here. This one is worse than them because of addictive qualities that have me hooked in spite of its abysmal quality. And so, without further ado I give you the piece of digital garbage that is Zombie Jombie.

I’d like to start by talking about the positives of Gree’s application, because there are some–it’s just the shorter list. There are two things that stand out almost immediately about Zombie Jombie, and are the reason I decided to give it a try in the first place.

First, the concept is really original. The Zombie are the good guys, and as a “Jombie”, a person who controls zombies in the world mythology if the application can be credited as having one, the player leads a growing force of them to save what feels like a post-apocalyptic United States. That’s just a cool concept. I would love to see a game, movie or any kind of story with that as the concept.

Second, the art is fun and distinctive. I really enjoy the art style, it would also be great for some sort of casual game–perhaps involving say zombie cards?

Even once you delve into the app there are still more good things to find. There is a tremendous, in fact ever growing, variety of zombie cards to collect which is always fun. This also adds an immensely addictive aspect to the game… Argh, called it a “game”. Been trying to avoid doing that. More on that later.
Anyway, the collectability adds a tremendously addictive quality to the application as you try to find every single zombie card to round out your Cards Collection–though you don’t need to keep the card to have it in your Collection archive.

Then when it comes to making your own personal decks, there’s yet another sweet feature in the option to Level Up your Zombie Cards through fusion–sacrifice some cards to make others stronger. Being able to improve your favorite cards is the perfect way to let each player play the deck they want without being disadvantaged for doing so–theoretically anyway.

And then we get into the big long list of problems with the game that make me hate it, very passionately. First among those is the fact that Zombie Jombie ISN’T a game! Gree didn’t see any need to incorporate any meaningful gameplay at all! Most of the time it doesn’t even try to look like a game. Collectable Card Games are awesome, I wouldn’t mind playing one on my iPhone. Zombie Jombie could have been a good Collectable Card Game… Only since they didn’t make a game it’s sort of just reduced to being Collectable Cards, which is still cool–but they need a different primary mechanic for acquiring them than “Stages”, “Missions”, and “Player-versus-Player” when in fact those “activities” involve nothing more than tapping the “Do It” button on the screen and waiting for a random number generator to enjoy whatever “It” is–leaving the supposed player unable to so much as watch what’s going on. The game just gets back to you with results, which are usually less than satisfactory.

Deck Construction (which has no bearing on Stages, Missions, or Boss fights) just amounts to trying to put together cards for the highest possible number as in Player versus Player the high number wins. That’s it. Even WAR at least involves drawing your cards and the sequence they come up in can be relevant. Zombie Jombie doesn’t even have that.

Another place I was hoping for something to satisfy my thoughtful creative side is the three classifications of zombies cards; Tombies, Mombies, and Bombies. Yes, rhyming everything with Zombie is dumb, but I’m ashamed to say I nonetheless hoped there’d be some sort of significance to the clasification. Based on your starting card–which determines your affiliation for the game, though you aren’t restricted to only using cards of the same affiliation–I was thinking maybe Tombies were male, Bombies were female and Mombies were animals. Or perhaps the classification was more play based (this is before I knew there was no play), Tombies might be offense oriented, Mombies defense oriented and Bombies more balanced. Or something.

But no. The only discernible difference seems to be that Tombies have a red background, Mombies a yellow one, and Bombies a green one.

My next issue is that the lack of any semblance of a game combined with the time investment it takes to “master” missions so you can move on to the next one is tedious and pointless in the extreme–very far from enjoyable. You choose a quest, the game runs through an online random number generator or something, and gives you the results with no interaction or even indication that anything about you or your deck was even remotely relevant to the outcome.

That’s starting to bring us to some of the application’s worse features. For example, “Player-versus-Player” is defined by Gree in no uncertain terms as “bully lower level players to steal their hard earned gems.” This is obnoxious and mean spirited.

This isn’t any sort of a game, so obviously the more experienced players will have the higher numbers in the straight and unambiguous comparison of “whose numbers are higher?” that Gree somehow thinks makes a game. You lose out when you lose a match (gems and tokens) so you never want a fair fight, you always want to abuse someone who can’t defend themselves.

I find that sickening.

Next is an element which as I understand it Zombie Jombie has in common with the variety of Facebook games that never sounded even remotely appealing to me. Everything you do in the game is based on “Energy” or “Force”, which replenish at the pitiful rate of 1 per 3 minutes–though you can buy “Brains” for real money to replenish both. The rate of expenditure contrasted to the rate of recovery leaves you unable to do anything too often and for too long. Yet it recovers quickly enough that the game isn’t exactly telling you “only play for an hour then go outside and be active” like certain Wii games do.

The game effectively tells you to pay up (real money) for Brains, or f-off for an hour before repeating the whole abusive cycle. If you’re dumb enough to log back in.

Then there’s the money issue. Zombie Jombie is technically a free game, but “Bucks” are an important in-game currency that after your initial allotment are only obtained by paying real money–at a rate of approximately 10 Bucks to one real Dollar. What does that Dollar get you? 100 Energy if you use your 10 Bucks to buy a Brain, a single use item that will net you somewhere under 5 minutes of immediate play-time. 30 Bucks (3 Dollars) will net you a whole Zombie Card, which has the possibility of being of higher quality than the ones you get for free from missions and quests.

Arel Wars charged too much real money for not enough in-game return, but Zombie Jombie’s heartless greed puts even Arel Wars to shame. Arel Wars could have cut prices in half and come out about right. Zombie Jombie overcharges by so much it’s not even worth working out what fraction you receive versus what you pay for if you’re unfortunate enough to have given them real money. My rough estimate is Arel Wars charged twice as much as what they were offering was worth, Zombie Jombie charges possibly ten times what their product is worth.

That at last brings us to the problem I ran into over this last week that actually managed to drop my opinion of Zombie Jombie. It requires constant Internet Connection to function at all, which defeats a lot of the advantage of having it on a portable device. I’ve been very disappointed in the number of places it didn’t connect, or the times it decided to just glitch out and be unusable all day.

The concept, collectability and art go a long way in my book–but not quite far enough to compensate for the myriad problems with the app. There is, however, a nice fan presence for Zombie Jombie, particularly in the form of a very handy Zombie Jombie Wiki. This suggests to me that perhaps it is a game for someone, and I’m just not that person.

I am giving Zombie Jombie 1 out of 5 Stars, for having a nice Wiki. My advice is just go to the Wiki and find all the Zombie Cards there, you can even save the pictures to a folder on your computer to “collect” them for an experience every bit as rewarding as playing Zombie Jombie, but without all the annoyance. If the pros and pictures still have your interest, in spite of the many and severe cons, then feel free to download Zombie Jombie for free and form your own opinion. Just don’t give them any money and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Though a lot would need to change, I don’t actually think it would be too difficult to get Zombie Jombie up to a 3 or even possibly 4 star game–and since it is technically free (and just laden with too many in-app purchases) that could be very worthwhile. Continue reading if you’re interested in how I would fix Zombie Jombie.

The main thing is that as interesting as the cards are, Gree should have come up with some sort of game involving them that players could play–against the computer for the stages/missions/quests and against each other for the PvP. Here are my thoughts on what they could have done just based on what is there;

  1. Make it turn based–most card games are, it’d be great for the casual nature of cell-phone gaming, low stress but still engaging.
  2. Have Force regenerate per turn instead of per 3 minutes (and as a fraction, like 1-2% of max instead of a flat 1 per).
    1. Get rid of Energy entirely and just let players play quests or each other when they have the time and inclination.
    2. Spend the single all encompassing Force during matches/quests/games to play Zombie Cards according to their Force costs.
  3. Actually use the Zombie Cards as part of a card game where deck composition, luck of the draw, and some strategy can actually come in useful.
    1. The Zombie selected as Leader can begin in play each time at no initial Force cost, but cost Force to deploy again–thus preserving the importance of selecting a good Leader.
    2. One card is drawn per turn into the player’s hand (or perhaps begin face down and are flipped over).
      1. Zombie Cards could battle similar to the way they currently do in Boss and Epic Boss fights.
      2. If defeated, Zombie Cards could be returned to the bottom of the deck to possibly be played again later in the match.
      3. Brains could be another type of card as opposed to their own separate thing, used to heal your Zombie as they currently do in Boss fights.
      4. Instead of costing Force to play, Brains Cards would be free to play but permanently removed from your deck after use.
      5. Traps could be used as direct damage cards, that like Brains were free to play but permanently removed from your deck after use.
    3. Victory would be achieved when the opponent had no Zombie (or Human/Boss in the case of the computer) cards left in play. Loss if the player ever had none.
    4. The translation from the current “system” to this one should be obvious and easy to implement for Boss fights, Epic Boss fights, and Player versus Player matches and lead to a much more interesting and robust experience.
  4. Involve the player in the success of quests–preferably with the result that proper involvement increases the probability of achieving quest rewards like cards and gems. At the most basic, at least show the player’s Zombies appear and go into the quest so it looks like they’ve done something.
    1. Preferably actually incorporate the above game into quests in an abridged fashion, say ‘x’ damage needs to be done in order to “Make a Grand Entrance”, an actual (easy) game needs to be won to “Escape a Musical Ambush”, ‘x’ amount of damage has to be survived to “Learn to Play Guitar” and so on.
    2. Degree of success, composition of forces, and quest mastery could all influence the chances of getting a card or gem from the quest.
      1. Exceeding the target damage could increase the chances of getting some sort of special prize, winning games in a minimal number of turns, or surviving damage with greater total levels of Health still in play.
      2. Increased chance of getting a Zombie Card that matches the type of your Leader (Tombie, Mombie, or Bombie)
      3. Increased chance of getting a Zombie Card that matches over half your deck (Tombie, Mombie or Bombie)
      4. Increased chance of special prize (especially gems) when repeating Mastered Quests–preferably approaching a guarantee of getting something.
  5. Allow Gems to be sold for Tokens and/or used in Fusion so there’s still a use for them after the initial collection satisfies the mission for the Rare Card.
  6. Alter Player-versus-Player so that the attacking Player issues a challenge that the defending Player may Accept or Pass, that way players who don’t want to fight other players won’t constantly be getting trampled.
    1. Require Gem stakes on both sides so that the attacker puts one of their own gems on the line as part of the pot for the winner.
    2. Challenges can stand like Trades currently do until both Players are in the game.
    3. Ease up on the Level restrictions for PvP. Instead of forbidding matches between Players 10 or more levels apart, just issue a warning about the level gap and leave the decision whether to fight or not in the Players’ hands–if Zombie Jombie were made into an actual game it would be more possible for lower level players to beat higher level ones, though still unlikely and thus deserving of a warning.
    4. Eliminate the current function of Traps (instead using them for direct damage as suggested above). If Zombie Jombie were made into an actual game and players were given the option of not accepting challenges the auto-defender-win of Traps would no longer be necessary or even desirable.


One of my biggest problems with Zombie Jombie is the culture of abuse it seems to cultivate. The app abuses its players by forcing them to wait extended periods for their Energy to recover in order to play, and/or pay exorbitant fees for more immediate game time and/or a shot at better cards–but like a good abuser keeps pulling its victims back in with gifts of new cards and promises to be better, that never come true. Then the abused are actively encouraged to become abusers themselves, beating up those weaker than themselves in order to steal the gems they need to complete collections and unlock rare cards. The developers are basically jerks who want their players to be jerks, all while remaining the top jerks.

This did not, and does not, have to be the case.

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