By Jesus Rivera
Dead Block hit the Xbox Live Arcade Store a few weeks ago, and while it’s a fun game, it does have its drawbacks. The biggest one would be the fact that a game so clearly begging to be played by multiple people doesn’t have any online mode. There is an offline split-screen mode, which is fun when you have buddies around to game with . For many people, however, no online is a big drawback. That said, the single-player is solid, but gets repetitive after playing for a while. The game is set in the 1950’s, where the zombie outbreak happens with the emergence of Rock n’ Roll. A narrator details the dire position that the characters find themselves in at the game’s outset.
Once the narrator says what he has to say about the level, you’re off playing one of three characters. There is Jack Foster, a construction worker, Mike Bacon, a fat boy scout, and Foxy Jones, a police/traffic officer. Each of the three have their own certain abilities. Jack can destroy things faster than the other three, Mike can search through junk faster, and Foxy does more damage to the zombies with melee. Each comes with their own little traps; Foxy Jones having the most useful one, a bomb that kills all nearby zombies.
Aside from individual traps, each character has a melee and special ‘range’ weapon. Jack gets a hachet while his range weapon is a nail gun that can freeze zombies once fully upgraded. Mike has a pan with a hamburger he throws to lure the zombies away. Foxy gets a baton and, obviously a gun as the range weapon (which starts out as a taser).
Now, onto the gameplay. Sometimes you have one character, other times you take control of all the characters. In the levels you build traps ranging from simple boards hammered into the wall to ice machines that freeze zombies as they walk by them. The catch with the traps is that they can only be placed in doorways and windows, which isn’t that bad, you just have to make sure you cover every entrance to the room or the zombies can surround you. To get the material for the traps, you destroy furniture and search through various things like cereal boxes (why there are gears in a cereal box I have no idea). Rinse and repeat for each level, with the levels varying in size.
The game isn’t too challenging, even on hard. Once you figure out the best way to go, where to place traps, and how to use the characters to the best of their abilities, you’ll probably fly right through the levels (10 in all), with the split-screen offering 8 levels. There are some stages where you have to find guitar parts (because zombies are weak against a guitar!) and once all the pieces are together, you enter into a sort of Guitar Hero type mini game where you have to press the buttons in a certain order. This little mini game would be fun if the songs played were different in some way, but they aren’t. Instead, the harder the difficulty, the more buttons you have to press. However, on other levels there is simply a set amount of zombies to kill.
The zombie wave pacing seems to be right on the mark. You’re never so completely surrounded that you get stuck (unless you foolishly back up into a corner); there’s always just enough zombies to make you sweat without making you rage quit. Even in the most hectic situations, a clear head and some strategy will get you to the end.
The graphics in this game are pretty decent. The game looks a lot like Team Fortress 2, with the animations for the characters only have slight differences (most notable with Mike, who starts eating in his idle animation). Nothing about the graphics stands out, and if your looking for a zombie game that looks realistic, this is not the one. It’s cartoony with so-so animations.
Overall, the game has a lot of promise, it just doesn’t reach it’s full potential. The game mechanics are fun; searching for various resources and building traps to survive. There could have been more with what was offered, and it will be great see if other survival zombie games utilize some of the mechanics found in Dead Block.
If you are looking for a few hours of fun, and don’t mind some repetitive gameplay, Dead Block is worth a look. It’s 800 Microsoft Points ($10), which I expect to go down to 400 points soon enough. It’s a fun little party game in split-screen.