Published on July 11th, 2011 | by Derek Strickland, Contributor
Dead Block Xbox LIVE Arcade Review
Developer: Candygun Games
Platform: Xbox 360 (Xbox Live Arcade)
Price: 800 MSP ($9.99)
Be well prepared when they come, step by step! They bring terror, they bring doom, they bring total devastation! Join Jack Foster, Mike Bacon and Foxy Jones in this episode of Dead Block!
The world has been overrun by brain-eating undead ghouls and life has turned into a never ending game of survival in Dead Block, a new enjoyable Xbox Live Arcade title from CandyGun Games and Digital Reality. This game offers unique mechanics of survival strategy mixed with the zombie apocalypse motif as well as awesome visuals and cartoonish graphics, and local co-op gameplay with up to four players. Survive the hordes of undead with cleverly placed traps and strategically use barriers and obstacles to turn the tide of invading zombies.
This title offers a unique interface which contains a few mini-game displays, each with their own rules and rewards. Also combined with the zombie theme, the whole game plays as if it were a black and white classic style television show, complete with an introduction from an announcer. This element is humorous and brings more enjoyability to the game and can remind gamers of George Romero’s black and white cult horror classic that spawned the zombie genre, Night of the Living Dead.
Can our three heroes–the gruff construction worker Jack Foster, the tubby yet useful boy scout Mike Bacon, and the lethal police woman Foxy Jones–withstand the onslaught of the undead, or will they be overwhelmed and perish like all the others?
Find out in this exciting episode of Dead Block!
Dead Block’s game mechanics are pretty expansive as the game has many different objectives that all vary depending on what happens during gameplay. Players must fortify their barricades by boarding up windows and other access points–doorways, halls, etc–and cutting off the zombie’s flow. The undead move slow but they quickly group and can easily overrun even the most prepared of gamers.
To build even the most basic wooden barricades players must have the adequate resources: wood for normal obstructions, and special barricades require a metal nut as well as wood. Be prepared to button-mash a whole bunch to harvest resources, as players will have to rapidly press the B-button to break down objects like furniture and desks for wood, as well as searching for precious resources in multiple mini-game interfaces.
By paying close attention to the helpful in-game mini-map on the HUD players have an advantage. The key is to slowly explore each part of the level and break each part into sections, finding items and precious resources as well as upgrades and bonuses along the way.
There will be moments where players must fight through way through hordes of zombies in melee combat. The hulking ghouls are slow but deadly in overwhelming groups, so it’s best to avoid getting cornered. Each of our three heroes has their own combat effectiveness, and can attack zombies with the RB button. There are also upgrades to melee weapons that can be found throughout the game which are useful when fending off multiple zombies at once.
To move on to the next level in this game players must search the entire map for three pieces so they can “Rock n’ Roll” onwards to the next location. Searching through every object–whether it be a box of corn flakes or a can–may net resources, upgrades and one of the three pieces needed to move on. Once players have collected the Amp, Guitar and Speakers, they must bring the pieces to the appropriate area where they will start the Rock n’ Roll mini-game that’s quite akin to Guitar Hero. Not confident in your rhythm skills? Don’t worry, the mini-game doesn’t last long and isn’t that difficult.
Each of our three heroes have their own special barricades–Mike Bacon, for example, builds an ingenious trap with a pipe that spews offal onto zombies, infecting them with a poison that spreads in groups and slowly drains their health. Foxy Jones has an extremely useful nuke trap that acts as a barricade with a bomb. When the zombies break through the barricade, the nuke falls and decimates the group, no matter how many undead are standing there.
Amongst the variety of traps and special barricades players can make use of each character’s weapon by pressing ‘X’ in-game. Foxy Jone’s weapon is the most effective as she’s made for melee combat, and her tazer can destroy multiple zombies. There are also weapon upgrades hidden throughout the game that amplify the effects of a character’s weapon, such as the enhanced nailgun upgrade for Jack or the super tazer upgrade for Foxy.
This Xbox Live Arcade title has a smattering of unique features that set it apart from other zombie games on the marketplace today. While the mechanics of strategy and tactics are quite forthcoming, some of these unique features can only be experienced by playing the game itself. The features found in Dead Block include an awesome cast of characters, enjoyable in-game graphics and the
awesome ’50s style surf rock tracks that provide a great ambiance to the gameplay.
Dead Block takes three ordinary characters and transforms them into heroic survivors in a zombie apocalypse, each with their own traits and attributes that define them. Jack Foster is the burly and tough construction worker who’s a pro at building effective barricades, Mike Bacon is the gluttonous boy scout who has an array of useful traps that are most effective in team-play, and of course the indomitable Foxy Jones who’s attitude is as fierce as her marksmanship with her deadly electric tazer and has a knack for melee combat.
The graphics in this title are enjoyable and clean, and are reminiscent of Team Fortress 2’s graphics as well as the 3D renders seen in such films as The Incredibles. Dead Block’s in-game graphics were built with the Unreal Engine and they make the title seem cartoonish, bringing a level of moderate humor as the game is devoid of gruesome gore that’s commonly found in some zombie-themed games.
With a wealth of 1950s surf rock n’ roll-style music from the band Vampyre State Building, Dead Block provides a fun experience for both the eyes and the ears. The tracks really bring together the whole rock motif that the game is built upon and give that classic vintage feel and sound that makes it quite a signature element in the XBLA title itself.
Dead Block is a different kind of zombie game that offers awesome graphics, somewhat hectic strategic gameplay, and a humorous gameplay interface that plays like a TV show. Although the Xbox Live Arcade title only has local couch co-op, the game is still quite worthy of it’s 800 MSP price tag in that it offers nearly un-ending replayability with three difficulty modes that change gameplay with each playthrough.
Playing this game with a friend is much more enjoyable than playing alone with the AI, however playing solo is still fun as you’re constantly frantically searching boxes and cans for precious resources and checking barricades. The level of strategic and tactics involved can be much more enjoyable for clever gamers, but this game may not be for players who love never-ending action and explosions.
+ Enjoyable graphics
+ Interactive & destructible environment
+ Awesome musical tracks from Vampyre State Building
+ Unique strategy style gameplay mechanics
+ Memorable cast of characters
+ Unique TV show intros
– No online co-op
– Fixed camera view
– Requires tons of button-mashing