Dead Island: Survivors

App review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
Dead Island: Survivors App Poster Image
Tropical zombie survival game plods at an undead pace.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Ease of Play

Although controls are simple, they don't feel responsive. It can be frustrating trying to direct a basic attack in one direction, but accidentally activate a special attack in another. Also, maneuvering through each map can be a chore, since you're unable to see what's going on anywhere other than your immediate vicinity.

Violence

You're killing zombies, and violence isn't shied away from. The undead will grab your character and try to tear it limb from limb, zombies explode into chunky bits, and occasionally you can even hear them growl "Help me" as they shamble to their doom at the end of your hammer, blade, or any one of the numerous traps you bait them into.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

If you plan on playing more than a couple of short bursts each day, expect to spend a fair bit of real-world money in this free-to-play game. Players are forced to either wait to unlock much-needed upgrades or spend money to speed things along.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dead Island: Survivors is a free-to-play tower defense/action game available for download on iOS and Android devices. Players defend themselves and others from waves of zombies using a variety of traps and weapons, rescuing survivors and collecting new materials along the way. The game is violent by nature, with zombies trying to devour humans and the player using brutal attacks to kill the zombies. There's a fair amount of gore, including zombies exploding into chunky bits, but a surprisingly small amount of blood. Parents should also be aware that the game's take on the free-to-play formula puts a lot of pressure on players to spend money in order to speed up the otherwise glacially slow progress.

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What's it about?

DEAD ISLAND: SURVIVORS continues the Dead Island story, with the survivors of the initial outbreak making their escape by ship to the open sea. In need of supplies, the characters scout out a nearby island chain, where they discover more people coping with the spread of the zombie infection. Using their expertise and ingenuity, players must lay traps for the shambling hordes of oncoming zombies, establishing safe zones where the uninfected can escape to and where their ship can be repaired and resupplied.  Along the way, the players will jump into the fray, fending off attacks and sneaking through the undead to collect the resources they'll need to survive.

Is it any good?

The survivors of the Dead Island games may have escaped the zombie outbreak on consoles, but now they've stumbled into a new set of undead threats on mobile devices. Dead Island: Survivors has dramatically changed the gameplay of the franchise in its move to mobile. It drops the familiar first-person shooter gameplay in favor of a tower defense style of play, with some hack-and-slash elements tossed in for good measure. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though, because you're still fighting off the zombie hordes, and it's still a battle for survival ... something the Dead Island series is known for.

But while the controls are effective, they manage to feel unresponsive. For starters, your view is sorely limited. This makes it a pain to see how well your defenses are holding up. Plus, since some traps and objects require direct interaction from the player, you're frequently forced to run back and forth from one side of the map to the other to trigger them. The biggest issue, though, comes from the suitcases you earn during play, which contain items, characters, and materials you need to progress. These require anywhere from five seconds to eight hours (or more) to unlock. What's worse is the fact that you can only store four suitcases at a time, and only one of those can be in the process of being unlocked, unless you spend more real money to hire "workers" to unlock them for you. This means you can only play a couple of rounds before being forced to wait (or pay) to move on. While this feature stops just short of being a "pay-to-win" formula, it makes Dead Island: Survivors shamble along at its own undead-like pace.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in games. Does the style of game (horror vs. war vs. fantasy) make a difference in the impact of the violence shown in the game? What about the level of blood and gore?

  • What are some ways that games, particularly free-to-play games, try to encourage players to spend actual money? What's the trade-off if you don't spend money?

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