When rock n roll music causes the dead to rise from their graves during the 1950’s, it’s up to three very different people to stop the undead threat from taking over the country.
Ah, the old “rock n roll will destroy the world” fear, one that was preceded by “jazz will destroy the world,” itself preceded by “ballet will destroy the world,” which was preceded by “symphonies will destroy the world,” going all the way back in time to “holy shit that guy is banging two sticks together, he’s going to destroy the world.” “Something, something, something,” has a long history of “going to destroy the world.” It seems like something is always out there just waiting to destroy the planet in a blaze of fiery death, comic books, movies, movies about comic books, all coming together to end life as we know it. I can only imagine the moral panic that must have broken out when that first caveman started scrawling pictures on the cave walls, and as bad as that was imagine when the first guy or gal created the wheel. I don’t even want to think of the firestorm that must have come down then, people running around screaming about the end of days being caused by the ease of transportation and proliferation of round, circular objects. We as a species go through millennia worried that the most mundane things were going to destroy us before we actually get to something that could destroy us, and what do we do then? We build thousands of the damn things, deciding that nuclear weapons were somehow not as scary as the use of the word “fuck” could be. Total annihilation via world ending bombs? Sure why not? Music with suggestive lyrics that caused hip gyration? BURN IT, BURN IT ALL! The living absolutely baffle me.
Dead Block takes you back to the ever idealized 1950’s that everyone likes to imagine was all milkshakes and cool cars while forgetting the McCarthyism and censorship. In small town, Middle America, the power of rock and roll music has brought the dead back to life and they’re hungry for the flesh of the town’s three remaining survivors, construction worker Jack Foster, overweight boy scout Mike Bacon, and traffic warden Foxy Jones. The three of them must survive the zombies’ onslaught by boarding up various buildings and setting traps for the undead, sometimes working together and sometimes making a go of it on their own. They’ll have to use the very same rock and roll bringing the dead back to life to put them back in the ground. It’s either that or join the undead in a 1950’s rock and roll version of Thriller.
This was a difficult game to review because as much fun as it was to play, as much as I enjoyed the setup, the b-movie feel, and the interesting, artistic designs, there was a huge glaring flaw that nearly destroys the entire game. It’s one I might as well get out of the way first and foremost because it’s bad enough that it is bound to immediately ruin any desire most are going to have to play Dead Block, and I couldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to waste their time with it. Dead Block has a huge glitch that causes the game to stall up at the end of each level about half the time, sometimes causing you to replay a single level two, three, or more times before you’re finally able to progress. It’s damn infuriating at times, no it’s actually infuriating all the time replaying level after level, not because you lost, that I could deal with, but simply because the game’s glitch refuses to let you pass on without a huge hassle. The most I was ever able to play was one level at a time before the glitch would cause the game to stall up, and that was usually after having had the glitch force me to replay the previous level at least once or twice already, sometimes more. It was a constant throughout the game and I was far from the only one dealing with it.
There was always the off chance that it was a mistake on my XBOX 360, possibly either my console in particular or something to do specifically with the XBOX 360 version, so I went into research mode and found many, many others dealing with the same problem with both systems, XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3. There were numerous threads detailing many others’ frustration with the glitch, not all mind you, there did seem to be some people that lucked out and didn’t have to deal with it, but for every person that had a glitch free version there were thirty others that had a glitchy version. There were some suggestions from developer Candygun Games about how to fix the glitch, both of which seemed like cheap cop outs and one of which was downright insulting. The first was to erase the game and then redownload it, as if no one would think to do that. That option didn’t fix the glitch for me, and it didn’t seem to fix it for a lot of other people either. The second suggestion was to press the “Skip” button over and over again starting at the end of each level directly before the end level cinematics would begin. This option would work if you managed to hit the button at just the right time, but more often than not did absolutely nothing. You’ll notice that neither of these options are an actual fix for the glitch that was ruining their game, but a lazy way of asking the player to fix it themselves without Candygun having to do anything to put out a working product, and I’m going to assume this pathetic response that showed a near refusal on Candygun’s part to repair a game that was obviously broken is the reason they don’t seem to have a very long list of titles that have been released.
So if Candygun Games obviously couldn’t care less about the game they put out, only hoping to get a few bucks before they crawled back into their hidey holes laughing manically and twirling their mustaches, then why would I possibly recommend purchasing Dead Block even if it can be a fun game? I’m not. I’m not at all recommending that you purchase this game, the fact that the glitch still exists and Candygun doesn’t seem willing to fix it should say enough about how much this company does not deserve your money. However, sometimes you can find these games for free as giveaways from either Microsoft or Sony, it pops up as a free download from time to time. Should it come up as a giveaway and you think you can stomach the annoyance of having to constantly restart levels to play them over and over and over again, then I would suggest you give it a shot as it can be immensely fun for a few different reasons.
Dead Block is a mix of tower defense, strategy, and action, though the action part of it is generally a bit light and something I avoided for the most part. Each level you play through is presented to you almost as if from a 1950’s television show, adding to the retro feeling of the game with an announcer that will introduce you to the various characters you’ll be playing as and the areas you’ll be playing through, each area presented as an individual episode in the overall show. The levels are all different buildings such as a diner, a small house, a garage, or a school. Your goal is usually to find three musical objects in order to play a rock and roll song that will kill every zombie in the building and allow you to clear the level, though a couple do have extra goals you’ll need to complete. In order to find these instruments you’ll have to search through objects scattered around each building, also looking for keys and materials you’ll need to build the various traps as you go. Traps are an important part of making your way through the levels as there will be a constant stream of the undead pouring in through windows, intent on adding you to their ranks. There is a clunky attack mechanism that you can use to fight off the zombies as they come inside, the action part of the game I tried to avoid, but it generally takes far too long to take out a single zombie as they constantly deal damage to you. One or two is manageable, but with a dozen or more coming at you, fighting them off isn’t going to be the best option. That means traps are going to be your best friends. They come in various different varieties depending on the character you’re using, things such as a trap that will freeze zombies in place so you can easily destroy them, one that will drop a box on individual zombies that cause unboxed zombies to attack it, and another that will drop flesh eating flies that transfer from zombie to zombie, among others. In addition to trapping zombies you can also board up windows, this won’t hurt the zombies but will keep them out, allowing you to more easily manage the amount of zombies inside at any given time. While searching through the objects concealing keys and the instruments you need to win is how you find the parts for building traps, the materials you need for boarding up windows come from destroying furniture and appliances. How easily obtaining building materials comes to you is going to depend on the character you choose.
Each of the three main characters has different advantages, disadvantages, and a special weapon. Jack, the construction worker, can easily destroy anything in the house, smashing his way through furniture with ease and using the boards he collects to build strong barricades. He’s slow searching through objects though and his special weapon, a nail gun, only pins zombies for a short period of time. Mike, the boy scout, is almost the exact opposite, he can search though objects in a heartbeat, but it takes him forever to destroy furniture so he can collect what he needs to board up windows. Of course his window blockades are the weakest in the game, they won’t last long once you get them built. To make up for that he has a great distraction weapon, a hamburger that attracts all the zombies in an area, giving you time to try and bash them as quickly as you can while they ignore you, or run away to set up more traps. Last but not least is Foxy Jones, a traffic cop who is fairly middle of the road as far as searching objects and destroying furniture and builds window blockades that aren’t too strong but not as weak as Mike’s. Her real advantage comes in her special weapon, a firearm able to take down zombies. Some levels will only let you use a single character, others all three, and the rest a combination of two. You’ll have to plan your strategy for winning whatever level you’re playing based on which characters you have. On top of simply winning the level, you can also earn medals from each building by killing a certain number of zombies, destroying everything breakable, and searching through every object. The medals won’t affect the game, but it would have added a lot of replayability had the glitch not ruined things so thoroughly.
I found it to be a very fun game with an interesting and enjoyable mix of tower defense and strategy. There were times it became repetitive when it came to searching through objects and destroying furniture, but the chaos of trying to keep an ever growing number of zombies out by figuring out the best combination of traps and blockades kept it from ever getting boring. I would have loved to have been able to give this one a shining review. Even with the few problems present like the occasional repetitiveness, the poorly designed combat system, and the fact that you are forced to listen to the same rock and roll song over and over and over again, it was still a lot of fun. Unfortunately, with the glaring issue of the glitch kicking in at any moment to force you to restart, the fun was kind of sucked out of it. If you happen to find it on a free download give it a play, and when I say free download, I mean from Microsoft or Sony specifically, but otherwise do not waste your money on a game that the developers didn’t bother to properly complete, not when there are so many other zombie games out there to play.
The Undead Review
Developed By: Candygun Games
Published By: Digital Reality
Platforms: XBOX 360, PlayStation 3, Microsoft Windows
Release Year: 2011
Rotten Heads: One Head Out of Five