Grandpa and the Zombies is a mobile puzzle game released in 2014 that was recently ported to Nintendo Switch. You play as Grandpa Willy and you have to escape a variety of locations full of zombies, collecting candies on the way. Many publishers and developers have been porting older titles to the Switch in order to improve sales, but some games are of such low quality that any attempt made to sell them seems like a merciless cash-grab. All games are not created equal, but even titles that received middling reviews, like Lost Sea, usually have a sense of individuality that distinguishes them from others. That lack of individuality and character is, counter-intuitively, what makes Grandpa and the Zombies stand out. The only other extraordinary aspect is its price; £7 for a mobile game port?!
Dead game walking
Let’s start with the story. You are Grandpa Willy and there are zombies and you have to run away from them. And that’s it, we have a basic premise, nothing to see here, go solve some puzzles. Digging a little deeper, according to the Nintendo website, one of the taglines for Grandpa and the Zombies is “The zombie apocalypse has never been this funny”. This was a surprising revelation, as there was no possible way I could have figured this out, despite having already played through 70 levels. There is no narration or dialogue in the game, excluding the opening comic strip, so I’m struggling to find where potential comedy could be hidden. Some of the zombies have individual names, like Lifting Leah, Roaming Ray or Braindead Bernard, but this is not going to make you laugh. Especially when I made the last one up.
The game consists of rolling Grandpa Willy around a room until he gets to the exit, avoiding unfriendly zombies on the way and collecting candies. The mechanics are very simple, you can move in 4 directions and zombies go in the same direction as your character. Some zombies are harmless and others will kill you with their bad breath. There are different types of zombies to work around; some can only move horizontally, others can explode obstacles or other units and there are hazards like sticky puddles and electrical traps. As well as escaping the room, you can collect 3 candies in every level, and it is recommended that you do this or the game becomes incredibly easy.
The “good”, the bad and the zombie
The puzzles themselves were almost engaging. Sometimes you would have to take a step back and analyse the level before being able to complete it. The levels were never too difficult and at worst, you can solve them through trial and error. The difficulty curve was generally acceptable and I did not encounter any bugs while playing the game.
Now, while basic functionality is a requirement of the game, Grandpa does not receive any bonus points for satisfying it. The game has no story. Now, many games have no story, but usually they will make up for this by other means. Take Cut the Rope for example. The original Cut the Rope has no real story, but the novel concept of cutting ropes to solve puzzles as well as the sound and graphic design of the game made it engaging and satisfying to play. Grandpa uses a tried-and-tested puzzle format with familiar tropes and every part of it feels generic and unpolished. The soundtrack is forgettable and the sound effects are repetitive and irritating. The character designs are generic, the animations are poor quality and the level settings are nearly identical to one another.
While some of the puzzles can make you think, the majority of them are very similar. The 120 levels the game boasts feels like 12 levels repeated 10 times each. The rules of the puzzles are also inconsistent. When the first dangerous zombie appears, the game warns you that you cannot stand next to it because it will attack you. However, you are actually able to stand next to enemies as long as you don’t bump into them. Sometimes. Also this game costs £7. £7!!! ($9 for Americans)
An Immersive Experience – it makes you feel like your mind is decaying
Grandpa and the Zombies is a functional but terribly boring game. Every level feels the same and the game gives you no motivation to see the next one. The worst part of this game is its price; at £7, you should expect a game of much higher quality and there is no justification for charging so much for a game that is free on mobile. Instead of this mediocre cashgrab, you could pick up a quality indie game you may have missed, like Mini Metro or Minit. Maybe (if you missed the original hype) you could try out LIMBO, an atmospheric indie game and mainstay of the “small child, scary world” genre. If you are deadset on a puzzle game, The Bridge or any one of the Picross titles are available as well. Grandpa‘s bland design and featureless gameplay is an insult to indie games on the platform.
In short, Grandpa and the Zombies on the Switch is not worth your time and its price of £7 is unbelievable and exploitative. If you are desperate to try it, mobile is the only option and even then, you have an infinite number of better alternatives to choose from.