By Lester | January 2, 2010
Zombie in My Pocket, often affectionately referred to as ZiMP, is a free, tile-based board game of solitaire survival against—you guessed it—zombies. It’s advertised as a “print-and-play” product, meaning that you download the components from the Web and print them out before playing. The game has spawned several variants with other themes. It has also been converted to Flash format for play on computers and portable phones. In each section of this review, I’ll discuss the print-and-play version of ZiMP first, followed by comments regarding the Flash version.
(Note that a multiplayer retail version of the game is also advertised in a few places, but this is invariably listed as “out of print.” I have my doubts whether it has actually yet been produced but would love to get my hands on a copy to give it a try.)
The original game has an entertaining concept delivered in rules (by Jeremiah Lee) and graphic design (by Kwanchai Moriya) that are models of both clarity and innovation. This is evident from the very first glance at the download—a single, four-page PDF file containing the following:
- A cover sheet with concept and credits, along with folding instructions for the elegant rulebook
- A sheet to be folded into a pocket-sized rule book
- A sheet of nine event cards
- A sheet of eight room tiles and eight yard tiles
The graphic design of all these components is thoroughly professional, conveying a class act from the start. A quick read of the rules reveals an equally classy game design communicated in text that is just as professional.
(By the way, I recommend printing the event cards and tiles on glossy photo paper, both for aesthetics and durability. It is, for example, much easier to shuffle event cards printed on photo stock than on regular paper.)
One of the most amazing things about the game is how much the nine event cards accomplish. Each actually contains three separate events, keyed to three different times—the game starts at nine o’clock, and each time the deck is exhausted an hour passes. In addition, each card depicts one item (chainsaw, machete, candle, can of soda, etc.) a search might turn up—if you dare spend the time looking. In other words, nine cards actually do the work of thirty-six.
The game’s premise is that someone has conducted a ritual in the house, creating a totem that resurrects the dead. Your job is to find the room where the totem lies, then escape the house into the yard, and bury the totem in the cemetery, all before midnight. (Mechanically speaking, find the temple room tile, spend a turn there acquiring the totem, find the dining room tile that opens onto the patio tile, find the cemetery tile, and spend a turn there burying the totem.) The problem is that the place is crawling with zombies, and their numbers increase as time passes.
It’s worth mentioning that despite the random nature of the game, player strategy does help. Or perhaps more accurately, lack of strategy definitely hurts a player.
Flash version: The beauty of the electronic version is that it handles all the bookwork for you, from random tile and card generation, to keeping track of your health points and equipment, to tracking the hour, and then some.
There’s not much to criticize about ZiMP. If anything, I might wish that the flavor text on a few cards were better considered. For example, after several plays, “A bat poops in your mouth; lose 1 health” grows stale, but I’ll concede that this might be a matter of taste (so to speak).
Flash version: The one weakness of the electronic version is that no more than two tiles show onscreen at a time. Whereas in the print version, a player can view the entire layout at once, in the Flash version the player must remember which direction and how many tiles away the dining room is, for instance, if it shows up before the temple. Still, with a maximum of eight rooms in play, and then a maximum of eight yard tiles, this is a trifling concern.
As a professional writer and game designer, the sincerest praise I can give is to say, “Damn, I wish I had thought of that myself.” The ZiMP event card deck, in particular, draws that sentiment from me. It’s simply a brilliant concept. But even more, the product as a whole is one of the best horror-themed board games I’ve ever played. I thoroughly love Zombie in My Pocket, and I’m very happy to be able to play it on my PDA whenever a few minutes present themselves.
Well done, Jeremiah Lee and Kwanchai Moriya! And thank you to My Wife Rocks Productions for creating the Flash version.