You could compare Zombiebucket to a tile matching game like Bejeweled or Candy Crush Saga. But it is so different to these colorful, twee titles, that it breathes new life in to one of the most tired genres in mobile gaming.
Kicking the bucket
Your goal in Zombiebucket is simple; match two or more zombies of the same color together by tracing your finger over them. As long as the conveniently cubed undead are touching, removing your finger from the screen will see them pop. The hole they leave is then refilled as more cadavers fall from above to fill the gap.
Why am I explaining all this? Surely, it is just the same as every other match-three game out there. Well, yes and no. You see zombies do not fall into the bucket in the same orderly fashion as Bejeweled, instead they tumble in. This means that the way they bounce and rest on each other is determined by physics. This makes everything far less predictable as you try to plan your moves.
The other big change to Zombiebucket is that zombies are constantly being shoveled into the bucket. It is relentless and, if you are not clearing the screen at a good rate, you will soon find undead flowing over the lid of the pale and ending your current run.
This means that you have to make effective use of the various special undead that drop into the bucket. Matching these you can activate a laser beam that slices through whole lines of zombies, TNT that blasts all around it, or a zapper that shoots electricity in random directions. All of these provide a necessary breather when the bucket is nearly full, and can buy you precious seconds.
You need brains (both literally and figuratively)
Other unique undead include the dual colored and albino zombies, which allow you to chain different colors together to rapidly increase your score. There are also rock zombies, can only be cleared using explosions or other special abilities.
Like many free-to-play games, each round you earn a small amount of in-game currency, in this case blood and brains (which can also be bought with real world cash). These can be used to purchase and upgrade the game's various buckets, allowing you to more rapidly increase your score in subsequent games. It is a tried and tested mechanic, but in Zombiebucket I really don't mind the grind. The only problem is, all too often I exhaust my five points of "stamina", meaning I either have to pay to recharge or wait for my energy to refill.
I do wonder about the developer's choice of a dirty pixelated style for Zombiebucket. It brings a number of interesting changes to a popular genre, and its style is likely to put off people who would usually gravitate to its puzzle elements – but then maybe that is the point, with this designed for those of us who are sick of candy and gems.
Puzzle games, match-three puzzle games especially, are all too common. But Zombiebucket adds more than enough to bring the genre back to life. And, more than that, it does so with a style and look of its own. Hopefully this will invite a new audience to give the genre a try.