Damn you, media folk. Game makers, film directors and authors alike; you’ve taken one of cult’s scariest monsters and turned them into another factory line, churned out cash cow. On entering any number of game or video stores you won’t be hard pushed to find a title that somehow incorporates the living dead. So are good zombie titles a thing of the past? Well no, there have been some exceptions to the rule. Sadly though, Dead Block isn’t one of these.
So where to begin with Dead Block? Well, imagine the zombie mode from the Call of Duty series in a fight with Plants Vs Zombies and your somewhere along the right lines. Oh, and you can throw Guitar Hero in there for good measure too. In Dead Block you play as one of a handful of characters as they attempt to defend a building from the undead, using a selection of weapons to hold them back until you locate the items you need to complete the level. Each character comes with their own main weapon and also a special weapon that reloads over time that either harms or deters the enemy from attacking. To complete a level you need to locate three items that when combined, kill all the zombies in the area.
You can defend windows and doors with traps such as pieces of wood, but you need to gather resources to be able to afford the defences. Resource management in Dead Block is one of the most tedious things I’ve ever encountered. You travel whatever building you’re defending, breaking cupboards and tables, searching plant pots and washing machines and pretty much anything you can see to find hidden stuff. These are normally either wood for building standard window blocks, nuts and bolts for other traps or money which can be used in vending machines (which heals you) or jukeboxes (which distract and seemingly injure the undead). It wouldn’t be that bad, but going through each item is completed through a little mini-game, such as moving the joysticks to rummage through stuff or repeatedly hammering a button to smash something up. Now, this might not sound that bad, but most buildings contain a hefty amount of rooms, each with windows and doors that need blocking up. You soon realise you need to work through a ridiculous amount of items to get the resources you need, and it’s about here (probably 10 minutes into playing) that Dead Block really starts to get on your nerves.
To complete one of the ten campaign levels you must find three entirely irrelevant items to destroy all the zombies in and around the house. Each level contains a guitar, an amp head and stack that, when combined, force you to play a Guitar Hero style end of level mini-game that is sadly as linear as the rest of the stuff you’re forced to complete as you play. You simply press a few buttons as they slide across the top bar at the right time to finish, apparently forcing the zombies to commit self-combustion suicide, most likely so they don’t have to be in Dead Block any longer. The worst part is, these items are hidden in the same places the rest of the resources are gathered, meaning you have to search every plant pot and picture frame in the hopes that one might contain the part you’re currently after.
When you’re not smacking freezers up with a shovel, you’re forced to fight zombies with them. While most zombies can be handled pretty easy with a few smacks, it’s almost entirely impossible to hurt the latter enemies with your relatively weak weapons. This is where other traps come in really useful, such as shoving chunks of meat on radiators that distract the zombies long enough for you to run around them. For the most part, the array of traps are the most entertaining part of Dead Block and a few of them are fun to mess around with. They’re all entirely useful as Dead Block can be stupendously hard as some of the buildings are pretty big and keeping an eye on incoming zombies is hard when you have that all important guitar stack to find.
Luckily Dead Block doesn’t take itself too seriously; its silly nature is cutesy and mostly enjoyable to look at, and the characters are pretty entertaining and all have different attributes that make them different to play with. Some levels let you take control of more than one character at a time (you can swap between them at any point). When you aren’t using them they keep themselves busy, usually by collecting resources or strengthening defences, which at least saves you doing it yourself, which is always a plus. You can also bring in up to three friend to endure (or enjoy, depending on your patience and the amount of alcohol you have to consume) the adventure with, which is helpful when the zombie horde are too much to handle solo.
Dead Block is basically, very dull. It’s by no means a terrible game, and for a while you can find yourself actually rather entertained, but there isn’t enough in terms of content to keep you playing for longer than a couple of hours at best. I hate to be almost entirely negative about a game, and Dead Block tries to be different, but in doing so it’s become another repetitive and brain-dead zombie defence killer.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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