Date: January 22, 2011
App type: Games
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release date: December 21, 2010
Price: $4.99
Phone features used: Data connection, media library, Xbox LIVE, phone identity

Babaroga's Windows Phone 7 launch title, ZOMBIES!!!, is a mobile version of the popular turn-based board game, and an unusual and fun take on the Zombie apocalypse so many (myself included) can't get enough of. It's also an Xbox LIVE title, which means, you guessed it, Achievements! So let's see: It's got zombies and Achievements. It's even got some multiplayer action. What else could you want out of a Windows Phone game?

Without getting into a history of role playing games, let's just say that the original ZOMBIES!!! came of age in the wake of the strategy board games of the 70's and 80's and the Magic: The Gathering trends from a decade later. And as such, it blends elements from both with a fun and immediately familiar story line, creating a unique experience that's been translated nicely to the mobile world.

In the Windows Phone game, you're presented with a dynamically created 3D level that will appear over time, tile-by-tile, starting with your single tile starting point. These tiles can be roads, stores and other locations, and can contain aids (like health or ammo) as well as the requisite dangers, including a zombie horde that, like you, takes movements in turns.

As with the Xbox 360 zombie action shooter Left 4 Dead, you're part of a team of four people trying to make your way across a city during the zombie apocalypse. And as with L4D, the goal is to escape at the end, in this case via a helicopter, which can only land at a helipad you must locate. (Given the heritage of ZOMBIES!!!, which arrived 10 years ago in board game form, it's pretty apparent this game was in fact an inspiration for L4D's designers, and not the other way around, however.)

ZOMBIES!!! is unique in a number of ways. First, unlike most mobile games, it's not something you can easily jump in and out of in short bursts. Instead, you're going to want to devote some time to it, especially in the beginning when you learn how navigation and game play works. Second, ZOMBIES!!! actually supports local (i.e. Wi-Fi based) multiplayer, where up to three other human players can take the place of your AI-based onscreen partners. While I haven't had an opportunity to actually test that feature, it's a nice addition, and points to the future of Xbox LIVE-based games on Windows Phone.

ZOMBIES!!! is a surprising rich game, with decent (purposefully "film-grained") graphics, terrific atmosphere, and rewarding game play. It will require a bit of time to become proficient, but if you're into zombies (who isn't?) and turn-based gaming, this is the current Windows Phone champ. Highly recommended.