Thursday, 28 February 2013

Dead Block: Horror! Doom! Unspeakable Evil!

Over the week I've been spending my spare time playing through Dead Block, a strategic defense game where you take control of a mixture of the three end-of-world survivors. They are Jack Foster, a construction worker, Mike Bacon, chubby boy scout, and Foxy Jones, a traffic warden armed with a deadly taser.  The core thing about Dead Block is that it doesn't ever take itself seriously, and within minutes of playing that's very clear. Overall the whimsical presentation and easy-to-pickup gameplay makes it really fun.
It plays out similarly to a tower defense game, except instead of defending a fixed point you need to not get eaten, which mostly means not getting cornered. There's the option to use your melee weapons and special move, but there's only so much power that offers. Before long it's clear just how powerful the defensive barricades and other constructions can be. Each character has a handful of different defenses they can place, which all affect zombies in different ways. Because each level gives you a different combination of the survivors you'll be forced to change up what barricades you'll put down.

To win the majority of levels you'll need to constantly be searching through all the items in the building you're defending for an amp, a half stack and an electric guitar. This is where Mike and Foxy come in handy as they search boxes very quickly, and if you aren't directly controlling them they will automatically search everything in the room they're in until it's completely bare.  Similarly with Jack, he will automatically destroy all the furniture if you're not using him.
When you've collected the guitar, amp and halfstack you'll be prompted to play out a few riffs to destroy the undead (they'll dance themselves to death when they hear that evil rock'n'roll). At that point the game turns into a miniature game of Guitar Hero, for about 30 seconds. Then congrats! You cleared the level!
I'd only played it through on Normal difficulty, but quickly learned that the best way for me to handle almost any situation was to use plain barricades to hold them off, one of Mike's that makes zombies "friendly" (other zombies think they're human), one of Foxy's that basically straps a bomb to a regular barricade, and an impenetrable barricade that Mike can create later in the game. With a combination of those it made it a generally smooth playthrough, with a minimal number of deaths. There might be a few "Oh hell..." moments when you've completely sealed off one area and you know the guitar is sat there, just before you pull down the barricades and try to replace it with something a bit more offensive, but these just add to the urgency as the defense behind you starts to crumble.

It's a title that's well worth trying out, with the only real flaw being the lack of online multiplayer, a note pointed out by user soad667 in his review on the Dead Block page. Check out the trailer if you're interested:



-James
Survived!