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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (407)

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Tyranny 3.5/5
Pine 2/5
Victor Vran 3/5
Front Mission Evolved 2/5
Greedfall 4.5/5
The Deep Paths: Labyrin... 3/5
The Vagrant 4/5
Avadon: The Black Fortr... 2/5
Mass Effect 3 3.5/5
Mass Effect 2 3.5/5
Mass Effect 2.5/5
Knightin'+ 3.5/5
Indivisible 3/5
Final Fantasy XIV Onlin... 2/5
A Total War Saga: Troy 3/5
Stardew Valley 3/5
Soulcalibur VI 4.5/5
Owlboy 3/5
Battletech 3/5
Bloodstained: Ritual of... 3/5
The Legend of Zelda: A ... 4/5
Hob 3/5
Assassin's Creed Odyssey 4.5/5
Ittle Dew 2 4.5/5
Luigi's Mansion 3 4/5

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Dead Block   PlayStation Network 

Dull Brick    2/5 stars

“Dead Block” is the first release by Indie developer Candygun Games. The MeltedJoystick crew was in desperate need of a new local co-op game, and this $7 PSN purchase seemed to fit the bill (plus it has ‘dead’ in the title, so Chris had to own it). As a Tower Defense game by an unknown developer, “Dead Block” was quite a mystery to us, but the price made it easy to take the risk.

Presentation
“Dead Block” is a fairly simple, cut-and-dry Unreal Engine game. The characters and environments aren’t overly complex, but are decently animated and jaggy-free. The art style is exaggerated and cartoony, with the occasional 1950s photograph appearing in the background to add a jolt of realism.

Soundwise, “Dead Block” is pretty minimal. There are a few great 1950s style ‘fake Elvis’ music tracks, but the voiceacting and other sound effects are barely noticeable. The most predominant sound effect, groaning zombies, doesn’t really work for splitscreen play, as it is just constantly droning in the background instead of serving as an indicator that an unseen zombie is nearby.

Story
In an alternate version of 1950s USA, the heathen sounds of Rock ‘n Roll music have caused the dead to rise. The only survivors of the musical zombie apocalypse are Jack Foster, a porn-stached construction worker; Mike Bacon, a chubby Boy Scout (and dead ringer for MeltedJoystick’s Chris); and Foxy Jones, the token black, token female traffic cop. These three must eliminate the zombies threatening them and survive the night.

It’s never really clear how the trio of heroes is meant to survive the musical zombie apocalypse. If they survive the night, won’t the zombies come back the next night? If the zombies are driven by Rock ‘n Roll, shouldn’t the music industry be involved in the cleanup effort? There really is not enough narrative to make sense of the game’s happenings. However, I really like the cheesy ‘50s vibe of the whole thing.

Gameplay
Most tower defense games require the player to defend a stationary object from a finite number of enemies using limited resources. “Dead Block,” on the other hand, simply requires the player to defend their character using limited resources. Through the handful of stages in the game, there are only two different goals: Kill X zombies, then activate a zombie-frying machine to take out the rest; or find three pieces of musical gear, then make the zombies self destruct via power chords. In both scenarios, there are an infinite number of zombies.

Each character begins each stage with the ability to build a simple board blockade across a door or window, the ability to smash zombies and/or furniture with a melee weapon, and the ability to use a zombie-eliminating special attack (that requires a long cooldown between uses). The stages all take place within various buildings, with zombies coming in through the windows and doors. The characters must smash furniture and search through boxes, books, globes, potted cacti, and other objects for wood, bolts, and upgrades to their capabilities. Each character ultimately can find three different trap-style blockades and add two extra boards to their default blockade, as well as upgrade their melee and special attacks by two levels each. None of these upgrades are permanent and must be reacquired in each stage. Wood is necessary to build standard blockades while bolts are necessary for special blockades. In multi-player, the characters all share resources, so it’s a good idea to have at least one player focus on building blockades while the others work on smashing furniture and looking for upgrades.

The controls are a bit counter-intuitive. X makes a character begin searching, with one of a handful of simple minigames required to clear the spiders and dust out of an object to find the prize within. X is also used to build blockades on doors and windows, and to revive a dead ally in multi-player. O makes a character swing their melee weapon to smash furniture… but this kind of swing DOESN’T work on zombies. Instead, the R1 button is the specially designated, ‘swing at zombies’ buttons. The 4 d-buttons are each mapped to one of the character’s 4 blockade types, which makes switching between them a breeze.

Overall, the frantic searching of furniture and running from room-to-room in “Dead Block” reminded me quite a bit of the old NES “Spy VS Spy” game… except less cryptic.

Overall
“Dead Block” is a simple, straight-forward zombie defense game… to its own detriment. There just isn’t enough variety or substance to this game. It’s simplistic, repetitive, and shallow. While the setting and premise might have provided enough humor to put some shine on the gameplay’s turd, the almost complete lack of anything that could be considered a script leaves the entire experience lacking. The tiny number of stages also means that, as a multi-player experience, the game is only good for a single evening of mediocrity.

Presentation: 4/5
Story: 2.5/5
Gameplay: 2/5
Overall (not an average): 2/5

 

 


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