Deadlings Preview – Zombies have a sense of humor, too

Promo art of Artifex Mundi's puzzle-platformer Deadlings that statest how "Death is a lonely person" and "it needs you to make some friends."Last week, I got some hands-on time with the Android build of Artifex Mundi’s Deadlings, a humorous puzzler that just launched on Google Play Store and iOS App Store, and was already available for purchase on Windows Phone Store since late February for $1.99.

Deadlings represents an entirely new direction for Artifex Mundi, a developer known for hidden object puzzle adventure titles. This game plays like a crossover between Lemmings and classic platformers, with some Plants vs. Zombies thrown into the mix, as well. After checking out the level layout, i.e. the locations of collectables, traps, and the finish line, you choose the type of zombie you’re going to use, its starting point, and the direction you want him to go. After the planning phase, Deadlings turns into an auto-running platformer where your goal is to make your undead hero jump over traps with timed taps on the screen, not unlike Super Meat Boy, but with more strategizing.

Failing to evade traps isn’t the end of the world, as you always have more than one zombie at your disposal and there are even ways to resurrect your mutilated, but charming abomination. Though based on a simple formula and easy to get into, Deadlings gets a lot more complicated later on, after the game introduces new zombie types (faster runners, better jumpers, wall stickers), environmental traps, and objects such as door switches and teleportation portals. Still, this is the type of title you get better at the more you fail, and given how another try is only a screen tap away and the game never feels unfair, getting hooked is not too hard.

Another reason why constantly replaying levels trying to obtain all collectables or just progress through the game are hilarious loading screens, humorous characters, and the overall quirky tone of Deadlings. This mobile title parodies some of the most popular zombie-themed movies, books, video games, and comics from the last two decades, and is rather good at doing so. Finding humorous references to the likes of World War Z, The Walking Dead, The Last of Us, and others never gets old, and reading random zombie facts made up by Artifex Mundi is entertaining and adds to the game’s laidback tone.

Besides an unexplained force close or two, the only other thing I wish to see improved in Deadlings is the level design. Specifically, some more variety couldn’t hurt. While its levels’ visuals change thematically, the placement of traps, collectables, and route types is pretty much the same through and through. If you’re only planning on playing this title in short bursts, you probably won’t mind that or even notice it, but it’s a flaw nonetheless.

Other than that, I really dig the idea of a Super Meat Boy with added strategy elements and zombie humor. The IAPs take the role of cheats and are completely optional, so $1.99 is everything you need to pay to get the full experience of Deadlings. I’m just hoping the developers will do something in regards to level variety and stability in one of the future updates. Other than that, Deadlings is an extremely enjoyable and humorous puzzle-platformer that I would recommend to all fans of the genre.