My oldest son (age 9) and I were chatting about games and we remembered this very entertaining little title from last year. So I decided to dig it up from my regular column at Examiner.com and bring it here.]
Candygun Games’ Dead Block puts an entertaining, campy spin on B-horror movies, the 1950’s, and the Zombie Apocalypse. What causes zombies? Rock and Roll causes zombies—and it kills them, too.
Dead Block puts you in the shoes of one of three characters (Police woman Foxy Jones, Boy Scout Mike Bacon, and construction worker Jack Foster) in their chaotic bid to stay alive in the aftermath of a Rock and Roll induced Zombie Apocalypse.
What it is
Dead Block is a third-person ‘Action Defense’ game built with the Unreal Engine 3. Playing as one or more of the game’s protagonists, your job is to defend yourself against the encroaching, endless Zombie hordes while they come a knock-knock-knocking on your doors—and windows—and any other entrance they can find.
Ultimately, your goal isprotect yourself at all times,smash up furniture, collect resources, build blockades and traps, and survive long enough to meet the level’s objective. You can also smash zombies to death with melee weapons. To end a level, you must (generally) frantically keep smashing and searching until you locate three pieces of an electric guitar so you can rock and roll the zombies to death (which ends the level).
How it plays
Although you start the game as one character, once you “free” one of the other characters they will help you. In addition, you can take control of the character, which puts your currently controlled character on AI (artificial intelligence).
Each character has unique characteristics, which includes a melee weapon, a “smart bomb” special ability, and an arsenal of traps. These can all be upgraded as you progress through the game as well.
For example, Jack Foster builds the strongest blockades when he boards up a window or doorway (he’s a construction worker, after all). Foxy searches things the fastest. Mike Bacon is—despite his considerable girth—the quickest.
Various traps include Jack’s “Freeze Trap”, which freezes zombies, and Foxy’s “Bomb Trap” which blows the crap out of them. Each character can board up windows and doorways, and has 3 traps at their disposal.
It’s largely inevitable that zombies will break through and begin invading the house, so every character also has a “smart bomb” style attack. For example, Jack pulls out a nail gun (later a Freeze Gun when it’s been upgraded), and can nail a roomful of zombies to the floor. Foxy can pull out a Taser (later a revolver) and electrocute them. Mike Bacon can toss a moldy cheeseburger (later a dynamite-loaded one) that sends the hungry undead running for a tasty snack (with a kick).
Dead Block’s gameplay largely consists of rapidly building barricades and traps to protect yourself from the encroaching zombie hordes. In between constructing defensive measures, you must smash and/or search everything in sight for resources.
Smashing stuff yields wood, the primary resource for your barricades. Smashing things can also reveal items that you can search for additional resources, such as trap parts (represented as hex nuts), dollars, meat, weapon upgrades, keys, and other items to aid you in your survival.
Your primary goal in each mission is to find three specific items (the Guitar, Amp, and Equalizer) and then take them to a specific place in the level to activate them. Once activated, you get a little Guitar Hero style mini game, which culminates some rock music and dancing zombies (followed by exploding zombies). Some levels require you to kill a certain number of zombies before you can activate a Zombie Killing Machine of Doom.
Warm up those clicking muscles
Dead Block is a ‘click-intensive’ game. Virtually every task requires either a lot of repetitive mouse clicking or the completion of one of several, simple mini games. For example, smashing furniture to collect wood will flex those Diablo II left-click muscles. Searching items typically involves some form of simple mini game. Building barricades involves a simple, timing and mouse-based mini game. Success creates your barricade more quickly; failure simply takes a little longer.
Succeeding at the mini games typically makes the task at hand take less time, but you don’t need to worry about ‘solving’ puzzles. All the mini games are based on simple clicks and a little hand-eye coordination; they require just enough skill to be interesting but not enough to cause frustration. However, speed and accuracy can still be important when you’re in a room full of zombies.
In addition to your characters’ arsenals of traps, certain rooms have built-in weapons. Find a room with a juke box and drop a $1 in (assuming you’ve found one), and every zombie in the room will dance themselves to their demise. Did you find a steak? Slap it onto an electric heater and a zombie will take the bait and electrocute itself.
Keep it Simple, Zombie (KISZ)
What makes Dead Block successful is that it’s easy to learn, easy to play, and provides enough variety, humor, and action to keep it fun and interesting, a bit unlike just about any other game. Wrap it all up in some campy 1950’s style zombie and rock and roll inspired humor, and you’ve got a recipe for a damn fine game.
The only real downside to Dead Block is that the single player experience is pretty short at 10 levels. Although the game supports split screen multiplayer for up to 4 players, the PC is not good platform for it. It’s probably a better experience for Xbox/PS3 gamers. Dead Block on the PC sorely needs Internet-powered online multiplayer. In addition, it would have been nice to see the menu system and interface outside of the game support the mouse instead of being a poorly ported gamepad-to-keyboard driven experience.
Dead Block is fast, furious rock and roll zombie-murdering fun. It may be short, but at ten bucks I’d wager it’s still a solid buy. You can pick it up from Gamersgate.
Dead Block System requirements
- Processor: AMD/Intel single-core processor running at 1.7GHz
- Memory: 512MB for MS Windows XP and 1024MB for MS Windows Vista/Win7
- Graphics: ATI/nVidia graphic card with at least 128MB of dedicated VRAM and with at least DirectX 9.0c and Shader Model 3.0 support. ATI Radeon series 2xxx and NVIDIA Geforce series 7xxx are the minimum supported graphic cards. The game also works on Intel integrated graphics chipsets, the minimum chipset is Intel GMA x4500.
- Sound: Integrated or dedicated DirectX 9 compatible soundcard
- Operating System: x86 or x64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/Win7
- Other: keyboard, mouse