Dead Block is a new action tower-defense zombie game set in the 1950s on XBLA and PSN. Sounds pretty amazing doesn’t it? Well, it may sound like a great idea, but unfortunately the game falls flat after the first twenty to thirty minutes. If you do for some reason decide to play through the entire game, when you reach the Hotel level be prepared to have the game freeze on you. This happened numerous times while playing for the review, and it almost renders the game unplayable.
The game uses constant recycling of the core mechanics throughout the entire two hour or so campaign. Of course, as with any zombie invasion, the entire point of the game is to locate a guitar, an amp, and a speaker so that you can rock the zombies to death. Oh yeah, that’s all there is. Every level consists of breaking objects for wood, searching for parts, setting up zombie traps, and the occasional mini game to break up the monotony. It’s not enough though, the game still becomes very boring and feels very “grindy” after the first two levels or so. It’s more of playing because you feel like you have to, than it is playing for fun.
It is immediately apparent that fighting the zombies is not the way you are supposed to play the game. The combat is very stiff and doesn’t work very well at all. The game is designed so that you keep the zombies out, giving you time to search EVERYTHING in the level for the three key components to rock some zombie faces. Every character has unique traps and weapons to use to hold the zombie horde back, and each one feels just as useless as the last. The best idea is just stocking up on wood and keeping the windows boarded up. Unless you want to put down a “Poo Trap”, which hurts zombies. We can even overlook the fact that you smash a ceramic sink for pieces of wood, and search ketchup bottles for a guitar. Sounds fun right?! It’s not as simple as it sounds, since once more than three or four zombies break through your defenses, you are almost more than done for, especially since your AI companion is almost completely incompetent.
There are three playable characters in Dead Block. The construction worker Jack Foster, the little chubby cub scout kid Mike Bacon, and a meter maid Foxy Brown. While they each have their own weapons and traps, they also have varying levels of searching skills. There is no character development, but it’s safe to assume that if there were…it wouldn’t really matter anyway. Once you progress far enough as Foxy, there’s little reason to use the other two characters. She is overpowered and the other two will break all of the furniture and search the items, so all you have to do is hold back the zombie onslaught while your team does most of the searching.
The sound effects in the game are generic and repetitive. The actual two songs that play in the menus and end of every level are from the band Vampyre State Building. Their music isn’t that bad, but a little variety would’ve been a welcome addition.
As previously stated, the goal on almost every one of the 10 single player levels is to find the guitar, amp, and speaker. After you’ve found all three parts you play a short button mashing “song” and the level is over. That is your only goal. There is the break where you have to kill one hundred and fifty zombies, then activate the almighty zombie killing machine, but that’s not enough to cover up the fact that you spend the whole game looking for the same three items. By the second level you know what can be broken, and what you need to search to find your guitar set up. Thus negating any particular reason to play past the third level or so, unless you just want to finish the game for the sake of finishing.
Perhaps some online multiplayer would have added to the experience. After all, co-op zombie killing is always more fun than going at it alone. Dead Block doesn’t agree with this philosophy, and only allows for local multiplayer. This split screen option has eight original levels to play through with your friends, but how many of us actually have people that we play split screen with? I’m guessing not that many. It’s sad that online multiplayer would have changed the way the game plays completely, and for the better.
All in all Dead Block is fun for a little while, but unfortunately not for long. The game is worth playing, it’s just not worth the 800 MSP or $10 price tag. If it goes on sale for half off, then think about picking it up if you like the trial.
*Digital Reality provided SlimGamer.com with a promo code for a review copy.