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Dead Block


Dawn of the Dull

Have we reached zombie burnout yet?  I really want to know, because how else does one explain “Dead Block.”  Trotting out the zombie genre yet again, Candygun Games’ attempt to add their own spin on the genre is a frustrating mixture of innovation hampered by poor production values and a distinct lack of depth.  Set in a world of 50s rock music, cartoonish character archetypes, and an overcooked b-movie presentation, “Dead Block” offers the guise of third-person zombie defense slapped over a basic, repetitive quest concept.

GAME PLAY

“Dead Block” truly redefines shallow game play; too make a long story short if you play one level of "Dead Block," you've played practically every level of "Dead Block" and only one or two additions await.  The basic premise persists throughout the game’s meager selection of levels with an increasingly grating attempt at b-movie humor.  You play as one of three characters: Jack Foster a construction worker who excels at destroying furniture for barricade parts, Mike Bacon a portly Boy Scout, whose skill lies in searching items for parts to devise various traps, and lastly Foxy Jones a traffic cop with a penchant for combat.  Each level is little more than a somewhat fresh coat of paint on a basic fetch quest: find your guitar, amp, and speaker, make it to the designated meeting area and harness the power of rock (through a mediocre button pressing, Guitar Hero minigame) and proceed to the next level.

dead block warding off zombies

The variety comes in how you choose to deal with zombies.  If barricades are your forte, you can block up doors and windows slowing the zombies down while you search for musical glory, or you can choose to employ traps that range from freezers letting your character shatter zombies in one hit or sprays of toxic goo that spreads like a virus as the zombies bump into each other.  If you’re truly a brave soul, you can meet the horde head on and duke it out in combat.  While the attempt at variety is welcome, “Dead Block” just falls short in depth.  Construction of traps and barricades are sped up through a “time your button press” minigame, and scavenging for spare parts goes as quick as you can mash “B” or rhythmically tap the “L” and “R” triggers.  Combat is the most laughable with one single attack and one single attack animation per characters with the only strategy coming from how you move back and forth or strafe incoming attacks. 

“Dead Block’s” idea of difficulty is throwing more waves of zombies and allowing them to do greater damage.  Some levels try to spice things up by letting you control multiple characters on the fly, picking the one that best suits your style of game play.  However, once the short single player campaign is finished, there’s nothing to do except wrap up the various achievements, should that strike your fancy or play the co-op multiplayer campaign.  The snag here, and it’s a big one, multiplayer is offline.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in 2011, a shallow zombie defense game asking you to plunk down $10 for sub par graphics and sound can’t even offer the saving grace of online multiplayer.

scottish zombie

GRAPHICS

  • The graphics are heavily cartoonish and stylized, sapping any sense of dread posed by the zombies and fitting with the goofy b-movie theme.
  • The graphics are sadly very dated.  Had this been an XBLA launch game, people would have scratched their heads, but in 2011, it just doesn’t fly.
  • Animations are stiff, uninspired, and like the rest of the game repetitively limited.

SOUND

  • The rock music is generic, repetitive (big shock), but still manages to convey the theme.
  • Sound effects are barely passable and instantly forgotten.
  • The narrator is initially a welcome source of smiles but quickly lays it on too thick, prompting players forcing themselves through the game to skip the brief into FMVs.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

At $10 “Dead Block” isn’t waste a moment of your time, especially in a world where adequate, full disc based games wait at a local gaming store for roughly the same price, offering more developed game play.  Even at $5, “Dead Block” is a questionable purchase as there’s just not enough fully fleshed out game design to raise the game above mediocrity at best.  Poor graphics, poor sound, and half-hearted game design makes this a tragic clunker.  Skip It.