Emily the Strange can sit down and read the proverbial phone book for your iOS device, and she'd still pass off as a pretty decent gaming experience. With Zonster Heights, our raven haired youth must clean out her closet filled with her macabre plush toys. Is Emily growing up before our very eyes, or is she opening her doors to new creepers?
As the zonsters seemingly fall out of the sky, your job is to tilt your smart phone or tablet and catch them with a skateboard. A certain number of zonsters must be grabbed at a fixed time period, and the stage is completed once your mountain of stuffed animals reach a certain height. Emily's mischievous cats are not your biggest fans, as they hurl skulls in your path to destroy your progress. The level is over if a certain number of zonsters fall by the wayside or get brained by the trouble making felines. For a brief second, Emily will also appear on your device for a cameo, but she's just there for window dressing.
To delay the cats' skull onslaught, sweet treats can be thrown in their direction. Simply swipe your finger towards their area and they immediately devour the goodie. Treats are earned with every completed level, and the more achievements you reach with each stage, the higher your reserve of cat food. During the earlier sections of Zonster Heights, stocking up on treats is a good idea since each section progressively gets more difficult.
Mystery boxes will also drop down, and they will either carry an extra treat or an eight-ball which will wipe several zonsters off your skateboard. The game's highlight originates from an entirely visual place. When spiders are dropping down to ruin your day and cats are getting their skulls ready, your device will resemble a screen shot from a Tim Burton movie or Dark Horse comic. With the addition of Emily skating about and a couple of mystery boxes to boot, it's great to see darkness and goth shine on the iOS. We're confident that Emily is rocking out to Metallica, and not The Smiths, in the following photo.
Zonster Heights' only drawback is the absolutely simplicity of the gameplay. Plain and simple, it lacks depth. Catching toys on a skateboard and flinging stuff at cats gets monotonous pretty fast, and all that you're left with is a pretty shell to look at. With generic action its Achilles heel, will gamers hang out with Emily for 15 minutes, only to drop her and download another app out of boredom?
Since part of my iOS gaming joy rests on the visceral joy of observation, I'm completely fine with enjoying Zonster Heights' visual beauty. Everything on screen is definitely easy on the eyes, and since Emily will probably grow up to be a Rose Byrne lookalike (she of Damages and X-Men: First Class fame), I'll definitely give her the benefit of the doubt. Plus, she needs a pack rat intervention.
If Zonster Heights doesn't mesmerize you with the complexity of its gameplay, you may be won over by Emily's innate charm. Hopefully our heroine will be sent on more daring adventures. She's cleaned out her closet, now it's time to get out of the house.