Giant Bomb Review

48 Comments

Dead Block Review

2
  • XBGS

Dead Block is dead boring.

In the opening minutes of Dead Block, you may find yourself intrigued. It presents a style that simultaneously pays reverence to the classic schlocky horror of the 1950s, Team Fortress 2, and, for some reason, rockabilly. Its gameplay appears an interesting mix of tower defense, third-person action, and assorted minigames. Its notion of a zombie game that's more about strategy and survival than producing buckets of button-mashy gore sounds like a good one. And as it goes along, you keep waiting for it to evolve past those early inklings of promise. And you wait. And wait. And wait some more.

Clearly, he's got the right tool for the job, if you know what I mean. (I mean sex.)

It never happens. For the entirety of its couple-of-hours-long campaign, Dead Block refuses to evolve past its initial impression. It is a game in which you do the exact same thing over and over and over for a handful of levels. You gain new items, you equip new weapons, and you fight new enemies. But the fundamental nature of the game remains staunchly constant: You break stuff, you build zombie traps, and you item hunt. You keep doing this until the game is over, or you have had your fill. Odds are, you'll have your fill very quickly.

In the game, you are presented with three playable characters: The construction worker from the Village People, the fat kid from Up, and Foxy Brown in a crossing guard uniform. Each character has their own particular strengths and weaknesses when it comes to searching for things, destroying objects, and fighting off zombie hordes. They also have their own unique traps they can set for zombies, ranging from a precariously placed nuclear bomb to a bucket of human excrement that hurts zombies for some reason.

You can fight the zombies in Dead Block, but that's not really the point, and that's good, because the combat is clunky and terrible. Rather, you're meant to find all the various points of entry that zombies might use to infiltrate whatever base of operations you're in, and stop them using blockades and traps. You gain the materials needed to build these traps by destroying furniture and other objects throughout the environment, and searching through boxes, packages, cases, and globes for other useful items.

You can also get wood for blockades by breaking toilets, but perhaps it's best if we just leave that one alone. Anyway, once you collect enough resources, you can plop a blockade or a trap down in any windowsill or door frame. The strategy is in trying to manage the waves of zombies breaking through. A few at a time is fairly manageable, but the more that pour in, the more hectic things tend to get. If you plan poorly, you'll have a whole horde of undead backing you into a corner. If you plot correctly, you'll be able to rummage through the various credenzas and cacti that hold the items which you seek with only minimal molestation.

What are you looking for besides resources, you ask? Oddly enough, guitar equipment. Someone on Dead Block's design team has a real hard-on for rockabilly, it seems. Apart from a soundtrack by Danish rockabilly act Vampyre State Building (whose same two songs play at the outset and outro of every level), the game uses the central conceit of Mars Attacks! that music will kill invading interlopers. Here, rock-and-roll guitar played at full volume is all you need to explode some zombie heads. In order to make that happen, you have to find a guitar, an amp, and a speaker. These are hidden throughout each level, sometimes in suitcases, sometimes in cow skulls. Again, don't ask.

Some of the methods of zombie death provide minor amusement, but you run out of new methods pretty quick.

Where Dead Block ultimately falls apart is in its refusal to evolve these tasks. Every stage is a foregone conclusion. You know that any nearby window will allow zombies in. You know what to break and what to search through. Almost immediately, the game begins recycling these concepts to the point of abject tedium. You'll hammer on the B button so many times while bustin' chifforobes that it may require replacement following the end of the game. The minigames inserted to try and add some "game" to the process of perpetual item-hunting are merely dull variations on "how fast can you press the trigger buttons in succession?" and "can you time this A button press correctly?" This never becomes more complicated, nor more interesting. You repeat the same meager set of actions ceaselessly until the game simply stops throwing more levels at you.

And that's after just a couple of hours. There are some multiplayer co-op levels, but you can't play them online. With so little content to speak of, and only early fits of charm to mask the overwhelmingly monotonous mechanics, Dead Block feels like a weird product of a bygone era. It's as if it was plucked from the earliest days of downloadable gaming, back when digital games often relied more on single-minded gimmicks than the fully fleshed-out concepts of late, and $10 seemed like such a great deal for any game you could play with buttons on a console. That era has long since passed us by, and we're better for it. Pass on Dead Block, and you'll be better for it, too.

Alex Navarro on Google+
48 Comments
Edited by emergency

Never heard of this before, though based on the screenshots and review I doubt I would be intested.

Posted by cancerdancer

Hu? Whu? Why is Alex reviewing these stupid downloadable games?

Posted by Video_Game_King

So it's like Costume Quest :P?

Posted by Donos

What is this game I've never heard of and probably don't care about because it has dead in the title?

Edited by MisterMouse

wow I have heard nothing of this game, seems like a good review though.

Posted by Ramone

@cancerdancer said:

Hu? Whu? Why is Alex reviewing these stupid downloadable games?

Cos NY ain't shit.

Posted by kingzetta

Wow I've never heard of this game, odd.

Posted by Godlyawesomeguy

Great summarized line for the review, Alex.

Posted by Bhatman

The moment I heard it didn't have online co-op I was like "Why even make this game then?".

Posted by Mento

I'm guessing at this point Alex gets to choose the games he wants to cover, with the exceptions of major titles that GB HQ have dibs on. Giant Bomb's editorial staff has never been big enough to mention everything, so this way he gets to decide what will make the best review. In this case it's some also-ran, downloadable, Tower Defense #19381 (or Zombie Game #19381, I'm sure those two genres are level-pegging) Steam sale-bait that's perfect for some amusing vitriol.

Then again, it is summer. Maybe this is all that's come out. If so, Alex, they really should use you for something better and let one of the Kingterns do this game, since them creating site content is apparently a thing now.

Moderator
Edited by rmanthorp

Sex.

Moderator
Posted by Baraka528

good review.. WON'T be getting this.. the art style reminds of of evil genius somehow i dunno if you remember that game for PC. Rock-On Alex

Posted by FluxWaveZ

Wow, I've never even heard of this. Odd.

Online
Posted by AaronChance

Glad to have a review of this game. I was curious if it evolved past what was presented in the demo, but not curious enough to buy it.

Posted by AuthenticM

Why did you even play this game, Alex?

Posted by DonChipotle

I am glad to see Alex is on top of bad downloadable games.

Posted by Hailinel

Rockabilly is a cosmic sin. Other than that, I have nothing else to say about this review.

Posted by Damian
@Donos said:

What is this game I've never heard of and probably don't care about because it has dead in the title?

Like Dead Space 2? Left 4 Dead? Kane & Lynch: Dead Man Walking? Dead or Alive 4? 
 
:P 
 
I just checked cause I got curious, and wanted to bug you. Good collection, BTW.
Edited by Codeacious

Why is Alex stuck reviewing strange downloadable games we've never heard of? Is it because there are absolutely no games coming out right now? And isn't he a Screened guy mainly?

Edited by geirr

I thought at first her head was a badly made Giant Bomb logo thing and got excited about user creation.. but no!

Posted by SleepyDoughnut

@AuthenticM said:

Why did you even play this game, Alex?

Posted by IkariNoTekken

You have always written fantastic reviews for bad games Alex, I wouldn't want to subject you to too many of them but there really is no other person I'd rather have writing negative reviews.
 
 An enjoyable read.

Posted by Deusoma

This is the first time in the entire history of the site that I've never heard of a game prior to it getting a review. Huh.  
@Video_Game_King said:

So it's like Costume Quest :P?
Do you need a hug, your majesty? :)
Posted by Video_Game_King
Posted by Alex

Just so everyone knows, I am given these assignments just like anyone else on staff. This is a slow time for games, and this is what's out right now. So, just to be clear, it's not just me reviewing whatever crap I feel like. These are assignments, like any other.

Staff
Edited by superfunhappygun

Shame. Would've loved to see a Quick Look on this but it'll probably go the way of Lucha Fury: small downloadable game reviewed by Alex =/= Quick Look :(
 
review itself is good though. Looked kind of neat but I figured it wouldn't be high quality.

Posted by Portis

Never even heard of this game.

Edited by Xpgamer7

You can always count on Alex for trying to find the next Big Rigs.

Posted by GS_Dan

Alex needs those cartoons done, stat.

Posted by lordofultima

@GS_Dan said:

Alex needs those cartoons done, stat.

No more cartoons being made, they're removing them.

Posted by Peanut

Another Alex review? Question. What do the rest of the GB crew, outside of Vinny, do on a daily basis? 

Posted by Supercancer

I honestly never even heard of the game until I read this review. So... nothing of value was lost?

Posted by ApolloBob

I will never understand as long as I live why so many comments on this website pertain to which staff member is posting the content and why. Alex wrote this review. What secrets of the universe are you expecting to uncover by not allowing that simple straightforward fact to pass easily through your head without worrying on it like a dog on a bone?

Posted by Pie
@ApolloBob said:

I will never understand as long as I live why so many comments on this website pertain to which staff member is posting the content and why. Alex wrote this review. What secrets of the universe are you expecting to uncover by not allowing that simple straightforward fact to pass easily through your head without worrying on it like a dog on a bone?

In a way it's a success for The Giant Bomb people. One of their aims was to "bring back the byline" and the fact that people care about what staff members are writing reviews and producing content shows that they are succeeding whereas on sites like IGN and others the majority of people including myself don't care who wrote the review or the opinions he might have on certain subjects.  
Posted by Eldredpe
@alex said:

Just so everyone knows, I am given these assignments just like anyone else on staff. This is a slow time for games, and this is what's out right now. So, just to be clear, it's not just me reviewing whatever crap I feel like. These are assignments, like any other.

To be honest, I kind of like the attention toward smaller games as of late, even if it's just because that's what's available. It's hard to find good information on low profile downloadable games from outlets that I trust. And you seem to be able to really crank these reviews out lately. 
Posted by SparkleMotion

I get sad every time I see that a review is from Alex Navarro. Can't he stick to Screened so I know which Whiskey Media site to not visit?

Posted by RenegadeSaint

@Eldredpe said:

@alex said:

Just so everyone knows, I am given these assignments just like anyone else on staff. This is a slow time for games, and this is what's out right now. So, just to be clear, it's not just me reviewing whatever crap I feel like. These are assignments, like any other.

To be honest, I kind of like the attention toward smaller games as of late, even if it's just because that's what's available. It's hard to find good information on low profile downloadable games from outlets that I trust. And you seem to be able to really crank these reviews out lately.

Well said.

Posted by ManMadeGod
@Eldredpe said:
@alex said:

Just so everyone knows, I am given these assignments just like anyone else on staff. This is a slow time for games, and this is what's out right now. So, just to be clear, it's not just me reviewing whatever crap I feel like. These are assignments, like any other.

To be honest, I kind of like the attention toward smaller games as of late, even if it's just because that's what's available. It's hard to find good information on low profile downloadable games from outlets that I trust. And you seem to be able to really crank these reviews out lately. 
I agree with this. Most of these titles get zero coverage let alone full reviews. 
Posted by craigbo180

I hope this trend of reviewing XBLA games continues, even if it's just so they get a little more coverage. There is definitely some good stuff on the way with the likes of Skull Girls, Ms. Splosion Man, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Trials Evolution and more on the horizon.

Posted by Godlyawesomeguy
@SparkleMotion said:
I get sad every time I see that a review is from Alex Navarro. Can't he stick to Screened so I know which Whiskey Media site to not visit?
Well you can simply fuck off of the comments for his reviews can't you? I suggest trying to do that so nobody else is subjected to your pointless bitching.
Posted by Apollo87

I think since Alex has done quite a few reviews as of late he should get his toons made for each review score like the rest of the staff.

Posted by SparkleMotion
@Godlyawesomeguy:  More like, I can do whatever I feel like.
Posted by AssInAss
@SparkleMotion said:
I get sad every time I see that a review is from Alex Navarro. Can't he stick to Screened so I know which Whiskey Media site to not visit?
Funny that your name is from a movie (Donnie Darko) and yet  you don't want to the frequent the movie site? 
Posted by Ohvee

@SparkleMotion said:

@Godlyawesomeguy: More like, I can do whatever I feel like.

You'll go far, kid.

Posted by mavs

No Alex. There needs to be less of you.
Posted by eccentrix

@Jonny7892 said:

@cancerdancer said:

Hu? Whu? Why is Alex reviewing these stupid downloadable games?

Cos NY ain't shit.

Does that mean "NY isn't bad" or "NY is nothing"?

Posted by tsolless

I don't mind if Alex sticks to the reviews of games I don't care about, just so long as he stays out of Quicklooks.
 
His awkward internet humour is what is truly dead boring.

Posted by NickBOTT

Just by looking at the cover I said to myself, "what the hell is the fat kid from Up doing in this game?"