I was not expecting a game like this to help start off my 2013. Despite not really being relevant anymore, we get a game with Shaquille O’Neal as our hero, because he’s Shaq and he can do whatever he wants. On a very general, conceptual level, he was even involved in the creation of this game. ShaqDown is an auto-runner with some brawler elements from One Spear Entertainment and Hiptic Games, developers of Go Ninja!. ‘ve got a special place in my heart for any game that turns Shaquille O’Neal into a destiny fortified savior of men, known in this instance as the Justice Bringer.
Basically, the world has been completely enslaved by sentient mutant zombies, and it’s up to Shaq to save everyone. Levels are split into three lanes. As Shaq, you can run through weaker zombies, but not the big hulking ones, even though he clearly has more muscle than them. If a zombie is in the process of turning into a hulking giant, Shaq will have to use his infinite energy blast free throw attacks to settle them down before charging through. I don’t know what’s more strange. The bizarre mutant zombie hoard, or the fact that Shaq’s free throws actually hit in this universe.
You can also uppercut and slam zombies into other lanes as you lay the ShaqDown on their candy rears, and as you chain zombies, you’ll charge up two power attacks, being a “Jump Shot” super laser, and a hyper sprint that makes you invincible. Each of the three stages ends with a boss fight, that you can thankfully restart at if you die, without having to replay the entire levels. Also, there is an endless Survival mode.
Any points that you earn in-game are translated into ShaqRa, the game’s currency. You can use this currency to purchase outfits for Shaq that increase the game’s difficulty while also augmenting his abilities slightly. There is a special power-up assist attack from Lee Kemp, but it’s in-app purchase only. Also, while this game obviously isn’t taking itself seriously on any level, something has to be said about the voice acting. Not even just from Shaq, but from everyone. It’s not very good, and Shaq’s own voice bits are oddly quiet. I don’t know if that’s just because of bad audio leveling or what. I mean, I wasn’t expecting Oscar material from the rapping genie known as Kazaam, but I digress.
Many of you, especially the hardcore gamers, know that this isn’t Shaq’s first outing in gaming. He was also the star of the wonderfully bad and off the wall brawler known as ShaqFu. A clunky game with cult appeal due to its bizarre nature. Unfortunately, Shaq just can’t seem to catch a break. Honestly, this game is just weak. The repetitive randomly generated levels, once you learn the basic mechanics, range from boring to needlessly frustrating. The tutorial doesn’t make everything as clear as it should, and while gameplay is serviceable, it’s also rather tiresome. All the genuine amusement this game has to offer can be found in the comic book cutscenes, but they don’t seem worth the slog. Unless you just really want to be a part of this whole phenomenon, you can safely avoid this average runner and watch the trailers instead, I’m sad to say. ShaqDown is iOS Universal and available for one dollar at the time of this review.