Dead Block Review Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Dead Block is a zombie tower defense game with the twist that the game is played from a third person perspective and not a overhead one like most others in the genre. Dead Block has a wonderful art style and is fairly addictive, but isn't too much fun.
There isn't too much story in Dead Block, really the only story you get is from the announcer during the introduction of the levels. The game appears to be set in the late 1950's although there are some inconsistencies. Rock and Roll music becomes popular with young people and a zombie outbreak occurs. So the player is left to assume that Rock and Roll turns people into zombies, yet to beat most levels you must jam out on a guitar which for some reason kills all the zombies and clears the level. So no explain is ever really given as to why zombies have descended upon the town. Regardless of why this is happening you play as one of three characters, a construction worker, a boy scot and a meter maid and must use traps, combat and cunning to survive the levels.
Dead Block is a tower defense game played from a third person perspective. Your goal in each level is to survive the zombie onslaught, by making barricades, and building traps to slow down the advancement of the horde. There are two ways to complete levels. Some levels require you to kill 200 zombies and then turn on the zomimatic 500 to beat them. Most levels however require you to collect three pieces of guitar equipment by searching rooms and then play a guitar solo in a mini game to beat the level. There are ten levels in the base game of Dead Block, with another four added through download content. The game is pretty short and if you don't get horribly stuck on a level you could probably beat it in four to six hours. Regardless of what level your playing on, an endless horde of zombie will attack the building you're in and climb through windows and doorways in order to get to you. You can set up temporary barricades or traps in doors and windows, but they require wood and screws. Wood is acquired by breaking furniture in the building. I find it odd that even braking metal things, like Lockers, refrigerators, or trash cans still produces wood. Braking furniture will also revel objects that can be searched for items. Most of the time searching objects will give you screws to build traps, but you might also acquire weapon upgrades, meat, coins or keys. When placed on a heater meat will lure zombies to it, but only kill one of them. Coins can be used to buy health refills from vending machines or play music on jukeboxes, which will make zombies dance and then, oddly explode. Searching objects triggers mini
There are three playable characters in the game, Jack Foster a construction worker, Mike Bacon a Boy Scout, and Foxy a well armed meter maid. Each character has a unique regular and special attack, as well as three unique door/windows traps. This of course makes certain characters better than others.
Jack Foster is the best character because his hammer does decent melee damage, his nail gun freezes enemies in place for easy kills or escaping and he has two useful traps. One trap freezes zombies as they enter a room, where they can then be shattered and the other trap puts up a permanent unbreakable barricade on any door or window. He also has a trap that make zombies destroy furniture for you but it is almost useless, since Jack is already by far the fastest character at braking furniture. His only downside is that he searches objects for items the slowest.
Foxy is the second best character because she does massive damage with a nightstick/baseball bat and her taser/gun which kills five to twelve enemies when used depending on your upgrades. The problem is that Foxy doesn't have very good traps. The rolling pin trap knocks a zombie's health down to half, but doesn't kill them out right, and the microwave laser trap kills enemies instantly but only lasts for about ten zombies, which isn't that useful. Her bomb trap is pretty useful if you're trapped in a room and zombies are swarming the door so you can't escape. Eventually the bomb trap will go off and take out ten to fortify zombies, and that's your chance to make a brake for it and escape. She also searches objects fairly fast, and is decent at braking furniture.
Mike Bacon is the worst character in the game, because of his sucky melee and special attack damage. Both of his weapons are really only useful with the level three upgrades, even then, more so the special attack where he throws a exploding hamburger which will take out a group of zombies. His traps are decent and sometimes useful, but none kill a zombie outright which is annoying. His most useful trap is the solar ray that makes all zombies, even behemoth ones into short slow old man zombies, exploiting this trap is the only way to beat his DLC level the Turkish Bath. The gunk bucket falls on zombies and infects them with a virus that slowly kills them and can also infect nearby zombies as well. This sounds useful but unless you have a serious zombie overcrowding problem, but are for some reason totally safe for three minutes it's not really that effective. He also has a trap that puts boxes on zombies heads which makes them fight other zombies, which can sometimes be a effective diversion, but still doesn't thin the horde's numbers enough. Mike does search objects super fast but he takes a super long time to brake furniture so the advantage is lost. The problem is that Mike is a support character and is fine when on a team with one of or both of the other characters but terrible by himself which happens twice during the single player, counting the DLC.
There are a lot of mini games or perhaps I should call them quick time events in the game. Every time you build or demolish a trap you must hold the A or X button. When building a barricade you must press A or X only when the marker is in the green section of the white bar in order to make the barricade stronger. There seems to be some input lag on the 360 version so this is a lot easier on the PlayStation 3. Every time you find a screw you must alternate pressing L and R triggers to speed up the process of recovering it. When you find a coin, meat or a key you must move the pointer with the triggers until it stops on the right object and then press A or X. When you find a weapon upgrade or a new trap you must use the triggers to rotate up to four circles so that the hole in each one is facing down and you can reach the item. This is the most annoying mini game since it leaves you wide open for attacks from zombies. When you find a piece of the guitar set you must stop a spinning wheel with the A or X button when it lands on the guitar piece. In order to beat most levels you must play the guitar, then there's a mini game similar to guitar hero or a dancing game, where you must press the corresponding face button when it is inside the highlighted area. Some of these mini games can a little tricky at first, but eventually they should become pretty easy though tedious. I realize that the game would be pathetically easy if you didn't have to do these mini games to pick up objects or press B or circle 3 to ten times to break furniture, but it seems like a forced way to add gameplay and comes off as padding.
There are different types of zombies in the game. They don't have names so I'm just going to describe them myself. There are slow moving short old men zombies that do little damage and are easily killed. There are trucker hat zombies that are a little taller, faster and stronger than the old men zombies. Tall men zombies move pretty fast and do decent damage, but can still be killed easily. Behemoth zombies are big fat men who move and attack slowly, but have a ton of health and do a lot of damage. Gas mask zombies move a little faster than tall man zombies and do almost as much damage as behemoth zombies. Gas mask zombies also have quite a bit of health, second only to the behemoth and are immune to the jukebox and Mike's infection trap, which makes them the most feared zombie type in the game.
Frequently in the game you'll travel room to room in order to collect wood and screws to make traps and barricades, but you'll be stopped in your path if you run into a zombie. Most annoying is when a zombie is blocking a door way so you can't leave the room. If it's just a single zombie blocking your way, you might want to risk killing it with a melee attack, but if there are two or three more zombies behind it, then attacking them head on is suicide. So the only way around this is to either trap the door to the room you want to enter and hope the numbers thin out or play zombie keep-a-way and stand still in the corner until the zombies are lured to you and then at the last second side step the mob and hope that the door way is finally clear. What's really frustrating is when you're one minute away from beating a level, and a zombie clips you while you enter the final room or when making a trap to protect the final room and you die and lose 20 minutes of work.
Also frustrating is the moronic AI of your partners throughout the single player campaign. They seem to have no sense of self-preservation, if one zombie enters the room they will attack it relentlessly, yet somehow also ineffectively and be killed almost instantly. Oddly only Jack Foster when controlled by the AI will break furniture, both other characters will not. The AI can also not set traps or build barricades by itself, but it can waste wood by constantly repairing your barricades or traps. The AI will not go exploring different rooms by itself it will instead stay in the room that it's in currently unless called over by the player or if you switch to that character and move it yourself. Really the only thing the AI does effectively is search objects, and even then the human player would do it quicker and not get distracted by zombies or barricades damage from across the room. Having to babysit the AI isn't fun but what's worse is that in order to get a gold medal you have to have no deaths of any characters which is extremely difficult with the AI as dumb as it currently is.
There is also a offline multiplayer mode in the game for up to four players, which is odd since the game only has three playable characters. To get around this problem a team can be made up of any combination of the three including a team of four of the same character. Regardless of where you are in the single player, multiplayer progress is separate, so you must beat each level in multiplayer to unlocked the next one. Levels are in a different order in multiplayer and oddly lack the voice over intros found in the single player. Multiplayer runs fairly well but the game's framerate takes a hit when there are too many zombies in the level. Sometimes this even leads to the game freezing, which I've experienced in both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version.
Probably the game's best feature is its graphics, which are quite stunning . The character designs and graphical style is pretty great, and is reminiscent of a Pixar movie or Team Fortress 2. Although there is usually quite a bit of decoration on the walls, levels are a little sparse and trend to look similar to each other.
Sound effects in the game are pretty good, but repeated a lot. There is a little voice acting from the main characters and from the announcer, and the performances are pretty good, and fit the mood of the game. One odd thing is that there is only two songs in the entire game. There's the song the plays during the levels, and the main theme that plays at the title screen, during the ending, and at the end of almost every level. It gets really monotonous with the same songs looping constantly. What I don't get is why can't you play a different song at the end of every level? Were they just too cheap to pay for more songs? Regardless it just seems lazy.
Dead Block is a enjoyable game and a somewhat unique experience Although Dead Block looks great with charming character designs and a nice presentation, ultimately tedious unnecessary mini games, bad partner AI, and some design problems make playing the game often more frustrating than fun. I give Dead Block a 6/10.