Dead Block Review

By Colin Tan on July 26, 2011

Oh no, not another zombie apocalypse game. Don't we already have enough of those? Thankfully, Dead Block brings something new to the table. It's a fun co-op experience developed by Candygun Games where the focus doesn't lie in mowing down the walking dead with a variety of firearms, but stockpiling on wood and bolts to build deathly traps.

The premise of Dead Block has been used before, probably overused at this point. It's the zombie apocalypse and the dead have been resurrected thanks to the evil powers of rock and roll. Ironically enough, rock and roll will also kill or, at least, distract the rotting corpses for a bit for you to make a quick getaway. In any case, there are three survivors and they move from shelter to shelter, boarding up windows and building traps by destroying every piece of furniture they can find to stockpile on wood as well as discover new items and traps that they can use.

The single player mode is a bit of a bore, but it can also get frustrating seeing as the difficulty doesn't really scale relative to the number of players. You can expect hordes of zombies breaking in through every gaping hole while you panic and freak out about not having enough wood to board up a single window. The AI for the other survivors is pretty decent, usually breaking down furniture and looking for items, but they're absolutely useless when it comes to fending off the zombies. On the other hand, you can look at it as a challenge, a pretty big one, but it's quite satisfying to outsmart hordes of zombies and exploding their heads by rocking it out.

The basic objective of each level is to either find pieces of a guitar set throughout the level or defeat a certain number of enemies and use the Zomb-o-matic to wipe them all out in one swift blow. Throughout each level, you'll have to break furniture to gather wood, use that to block out the invading zombies, or build traps to kill them. Each character has a weapon upgrade as well, although it's more efficient to ensnare zombies with traps, then beat them back to death with the dreaded skillet "“ that is, if you're playing as chubby Mike Bacon.

Each stage has a jukebox which you can use to distract the zombies if things get a bit too hairy. On top of that, using the vending machine will restore your health. However, it's not all freebies as you have to use coins to use them. These coins are found in household objects. There's a little music mini-game at the end of the stages where you have to find pieces of a guitar set. It's not difficult at all, only a bit annoying thanks to lag. Simply hit the corresponding face buttons at the right time.

The real fun is in the game's multiplayer mode where up to four players can work together to defeat the undead. Each character has their own unique characteristics. Jack Foster is a construction worker and he's good at breaking things down with a swing of his trusty sledgehammer. Foxy Jones is a feisty traffic warden, quick on her feet and heavy with her nightstick. Mike Bacon is chubby little scout and super fast when it comes to searching through household objects for items that the group can use.

There's some form of strategy involved in Dead Block. Windows can't be boarded up without wood. Wood can only be obtained by breaking furniture. Traps can't be built and repaired without bolts. Household items like the jukebox and televisions can act as decoys. Not to mention placing raw meat on a furnace will electrocute any hungry zombie like a fly in a bug zapper.

Each character have their roles to play and special weapons that can be used for crowd control. An efficient strategy is to break every piece of furniture in the room, board up every single opening save for one, where you lay one of the many traps available "“ like a Toilet Trap that poisons the zombies, sucking away their HP gradually, or a Freezing Trap that turns them into icicles that shatter easily "“ and funnel the zombies through that. It's almost like a tower defence game.

There isn't a whole lot of variety when it comes to zombie types. There's the regular zombie that can't really do that much alone, but can be tough in a crowd, and civil defence zombies that are immune to the powers of rock and roll. Then there's the huge, massive ones that can absorb a ton of damage and block out your escape route. That's about it, maybe a couple of skin variations here and there, but nothing else.

Unfortunately, the multiplayer is local split-screen only. There is no online multiplayer, which is a big disappointment, although there are leaderboards where you can compare yourself to friends that have the game as well. Still, it would be rather fun to play with friends online. The single player mode features about ten stages and the co-op adds another eight. It's definitely a fun experience when friends are over, or your irritating little cousins. Alone, however, and it's an absolute bore-fest and one that becomes frustratingly repetitive.

Dead Block bears a pretty fun, cartoony style, with zombies having a more comical, stereotypical look rather than a horrifying gory one. It's not the most amazing or inspiring, but it gets the job done. The character animations are also quite comical. The camera poses some problems, especially in tight corridors. It's even worse in split-screen if there are only three players, as Player 1 gets a super wide-angle view of things, meaning vision of anything above or below eye level is hampered severely.

Final Thoughts

Dead Block is a fun game with some cool ideas, but it just falls flat due to lack of content. The single player mode is challenging, but mostly frustrating. Regardless, the game puts a new twist on zombie survival, incorporating strategic elements from genres like Tower Defence. It's certainly a game worth recommending, but only if you have friends and family over to play with. Otherwise, lone gamers are likely to stick with other zombie staples like Left 4 Dead or Dead Nation. Split-screen is awfully fun, which shows that the game really missed the mark by skipping out on online multiplayer.

Strategy is essential to survival.
Refreshing twist on the zombie apocalypse genre.
Multiplayer co-op is very fun, despite repetitiveness.
Very few stages.
Single player is absolutely boring.
Lack of online multiplayer is a major disappointment.
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