If nothing else, it would be perfectly reasonable to assume from the title alone that Alien Zombie Death is an action title. Were you to make that assumption, you'd not be surprised - in fact you may yet have underestimated just how much action (and Alien Zombie Death) was actually packed into this little thing.
The premise is relatively simple and, while it may be described using familiar-sounding terms, it's actually an experience quite unlike any game before it.
The action all takes place on a floating metal frame - probably somewhere in space (the levels you select are planets). Basically this means that you have a bunch of parallel horizontal beams of a fixed length (initially about 1.5 times the width of the screen) between which your little dude can move about at will. Pressing up or down on the directional pad (or triangle / X) moves him up or down, while left and right on the d-pad moves him in those directions. Pressing square shoots left, while circle shoots right.
What you need to do is move around on the platforms and obliterate the increasingly-rapidly-spawning badguys without letting them touch you. Sounds easy enough, right? It's really not - right about the time you get to grips with it, a new twist comes along that forces you to rethink your strategy yet again. About the only thing that remains constant is that you need to remain, well, constant - constantly on the move, that is.
There are loads of planets (each of which is essentially a different, increasingly difficult pattern of badguys and traps to avoid) and loads of challenges to chase on each level. Completing the main planet as you advance up the ladder gives you access to a mini neighboring planet, where the challenge is even more intense and the intensity is instantaneous.
The controls are initially a bit, well... weird but once you settle in and find the mix of buttons that works for you, the interface fades into the background and you start to concentrate on the hordes of enemies that are bearing down on you from every direction. It feels a little bit like a twin-stick shooter, but it's still different enough to be its own thing.
Visually AZD betrays its low budget and small download size. The visuals definitely have their own charm but there's no doubt that the artists were constrained by more than just the download footprint. Aliens are distinct, well animated and the environments certainly fit well into a "sci-fi space shooter" landscape. They just lack detail.
Audio is similarly perfunctory, with very little worth saying about it other than "it's there".
When it comes to gameplay, however, AZD is a seriously fun game and embodies everything the minis concept is all about: it's immediate, thrilling and a blast to play - even in small chunks. There's no mucking around trying to get back to the bit you were up to and you can get into the thick of it just moments after boot.
It would probably be even cooler if you were more in charge of your own destiny - some ability to control powerups or detonate bombs when you needed to would add the extra twist that it feels like is missing. That's not to say what's here isn't very cool - it is, especially given the tiny price and ease of access. It just doesn't quite have enough to tip it over into "classic" status.
If you're at all into shooters and like the idea of something bitesize you can consume whenever you feel the need, there's just no reason to leave this on the shelf.