I have a very unhealthy obsession with the undead. Tell me a movie, game, book, or porno has a zombie in it, in literally any capacity, and I’m immediately excited for it. There are no exceptions to this rule. I’m also a fan of playing with friends so a game that lets me fight alongside my friends against waves of zombies as we build traps, fortify defenses and all to the backdrop of some cool rock and roll tunes had me pretty excited. Then I downloaded the game, launched it, listened to the Elvis-style tunes that immediately greeted me, and jumped right in.
About fifteen minutes later I sat there, bewildered. Did I like this game? I couldn’t decide, so I played for another hour. Still not sure. Maybe this is the type of game that’s best enjoyed with friends? Well, if that was the case they would’ve included online co-op, but sadly it’s limited to split-screen play. To test my theory I brought in some friends and we sat down for what I desperately hoped would be a fun, zombie-slaying experience. How’d it turn out? Let’s find out. The Baby Factor: If Black Ops’ Zombie mode got simplified, had a cartoony art style splashed on it, and was set in the 1950’s, Dead Block would be the result.
That might not be true, because I definitely, without a doubt, enjoy Black Ops’ Zombie mode. Sure, it’s not the experience to be had alone, but with a few friends it’s unforgettable fun. Dead Block however, is a totally different beast.
I was sure the reason I wasn’t enjoying it was because it’s not a game you should play alone. For the most part, I was right. When I was with some friends, defending barricades and slaying zombies while we all desperately hunted for new supplies and the key out, it was a far more enjoyable experience. But still, I wasn’t sure if I was having fun.
After giving it some thought I realized why I wasn’t reaching maximum pleasure from Dead Block: it’s just too simple. You have a few traps, you have a few attacks, you can revive fallen allies, and you can break up furniture and other objects for supplies. This all sounds great on paper, but when you have to do this in a game, and that’s the only thing you can do? It’s just not good entertainment, in fact, it’s painfully dull.
Dead Block feels like the type of game we would’ve seen five years ago, when arcade titles were pretty simple and things were a bit gimmicky. In fact, if I was reviewing this when the Xbox 360 first launched I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed it, but instead I’m playing it after seeing far superior titles on XBLA.
For the unfamiliar, Dead Block is a zombie defense game set in the 1950’s where three people are trying their best to survive against waves of the undead. You can choose from three interesting characters, like the obese boy scout, construction worker or a traffic warden. Each of these characters have unique traps, attacks, and abilities that make them useful for certain tasks but they all essentially play the same.
I suppose it would’ve been better if the environments were a little bigger, but most of them simply force you down a linear path, beating the shit out of zombies and an assortment of furniture along the way. Some of the traps you can deploy are pretty neat, like the boy scout’s latrine trap that showers a zombies with feces when they pass under it. Others, like the freezing trap, just aren’t as clever.
The look and feel of the game ends up being the best part, and even that has its flaws. For the most part I really enjoyed the game’s cartoony look. The zombies are undeniably cute, almost to the point where I feel bad for them when I cover them in shit and watch them die a slow and painful death. The fact that music makes them dance around is also pretty fantastic, though I would’ve enjoyed watching an army of zombies perform Thriller, despite the fact that the song takes place roughly three decades later.
The entire game has a very campy 50’s horror flick vibe, with grainy cinematic and a narrator that yells at you in what I can only assume was meant to be a humorous way. Really, it just comes across as a game that was made by some college students, a half-finished concept of a game that doesn’t have enough content to make it worth its $10 price tag. It’s so repetitive and unless you really want to beat your high score, there’s little to motivate you to return to an already completed level. As I said before, you also can’t play online, so unless you have a few friends who are willing to stick it with you for a few hours, this might not be worth your money.
The Final Word: In the end, this is more of an endurance test than a game. It had the potential to be a fun, quirky arcade game but it really falls flat in its execution.
This review is based on a digital copy of the Xbox 360 version of , which was provided by the publisher.
this week in horror
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