A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
This is a story about survival, with hard decisions about how to help fellow survivors along with when and whether to ration food. Players are encouraged and rewarded for being helpful.
Positive Role Models
Players can choose from four playable characters ranging in gender and ethnicity. All of them have traditional heroic qualities. They can defend themselves against monsters, help others in need, and come up with and enact strategies for survival -- many of which require violence. Note, too, that players have control over responses in dialogue, providing some control over whether a character behaves kindly or rudely.
Ease of Play
Several difficulty levels allow players to choose how challenging combat can be. Intuitive touch controls are easy to learn and master.
Violence & Scariness
Cartoonish humans fight zombies from a raised third-person perspective using melee and ranged weapons including pipes, broken bottles, crowbars, crossbows, slingshots, throwing knives, and other found weapons. Successful strikes are accompanied by flashes of light and groans, and defeated enemies disappear. Blood's mentioned in dialogue.
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Mild profanity appears infrequently in text and spoken dialogue, including words such as "hell" and "damn."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Liquor bottles and glasses are seen in some of the ship's rooms. The characters don't drink.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Dread Nautical is a turn-based action game available for download on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Apple Arcade that pits humans against zombies on a strange cruise ship. Players choose a hero from a small but diverse cast of characters ranging in gender and ethnicity, then head out to explore the boat room by room, helping and potentially recruiting other survivors when they can. When zombies appear, players move their character to a position from which he or she can effectively attack, using melee weapons such as pipes and crowbars, as well as ranged weapons such as slingshots and throwing knives. There's no blood or gore, only flashes of light, and enemies simply disappear once defeated. Some hard decisions need to be made along the way, including which of your survivors gets fed. Players have some agency over how their character acts around others, meaning they can be rude and less helpful in certain situations, though this sort of behavior typically has a detrimental effect on the relationship and whether the non-player character can be recruited. Alcohol can be seen -- but not consumed -- in certain areas of the boat. Some characters occasionally use mild profanity, such as "hell" and "damn."
Is It Any Good?
This is either an action game dressed up in turn-based strategy clothes, or vice versa. Not that it really matters, since Dread Nautical is pretty fun either way. Gradually working your way through the ship room by room and deck by deck is tense and rewarding. When the turn-based combat kicks in, players are given opportunity to exercise some basic but important strategy as they plan out ranged attacks to remain safe at a distance and charge in with powerful melee weapons to finish off wounded foes. The strategy isn't as deep or nuanced as in similar games, such as Fire Emblem: Three Houses or XCOM 2, but it allows players to dispatch enemies and work through levels fairly quickly.
There's some room for improvement, though. The hero's artificially limited inventory -- as little as just three items at the start -- is both nonsensical and frustrating, at times forcing players to leave behind desirable gear and items. While the writing and voice acting are surprisingly entertaining, the visual presentation could use some work. Character models, for example, are too cartoonish for the spooky setting, with goofy faces and garishly large hands. Just a tad more realism would have been a better match for their surroundings and the game's overall tone. But without being too harsh, though, Dread Nautical is one of the better turn-based strategy games released on both mobile devices and consoles, and it's an easy recommendation for strategy fans looking for a new title to play.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.