Everyone likes zombies. So everyone will love a tower defense game feature zombies, right? At least I assume this was the rationale used by Digital Reality and Candygun Games when they decided to release “Dead Block” for the Xbox Live Arcade. Unfortunately what we end up with is a game so tedious a zombie would get bored with it.
The premise is fairly simple. The object of the game is to keep the zombie hoards at bay long enough to find three pieces of a guitar and amp set in order to play the rock and roll music that makes the zombies dance themselves to death (or back to death). The cut scenes and narration are done like the trailers to a bad 1950s b-movie, which is entertaining the first time you see it, but gets obnoxious in pretty short order.
The gameplay is where it really begins to fall apart. The zombies can be held back by constructing barricades or traps over windows and door frames. Barricades require wood found by smashing furniture and traps require parts found by searching containers.
The problem here is that every piece of furniture you smash only gives you one piece of wood which equals one board in a barricade, and most barricades are at least three or four boards. This means you’ll be smashing a lot of furniture which requires a ton of button mashing. Any strategy involved here is soon overshadowed by the monotony of endless resource collecting. When the zombies inevitably break through the barricades your last ditch defense is to fight them which requires, yes, you guessed it, even more button mashing. Finding all three pieces to the guitar and amp set introduces a rhythm mini-game to end the level, a la Guitar Hero, which may have actually worked if the zombies continued to advance while you are trying to complete the mini-game, adding a little pressure. Instead the zombies freeze as soon as you begin, making the whole thing pointless.
The graphics are very cartoonish. Environments are bright and colorful and the zombies don’t appear very threatening, all of which makes me feel that this game is geared more toward younger gamers. However, are younger gamers really interested in playing a tower defense game?
Given that this game has a few different playable characters and a multiplayer game mode, I might say that this game has some replay value. But that would assume that you would actually want to replay it, and you won’t.
In the end, “Dead Block” was an interesting idea that was completely bogged down by poor execution. To use a phrase coined from a TV show set in the 1950s, “Dead Block” may be the game where the whole zombie craze finally “jumps the shark.”
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