PSN Review: Dead Block



Have you ever caught yourself hankering for a version of Call of Duty’s Zombies that was in third person, more cartoony and featured a rockabilly soundtrack? If the answer’s ‘Hell yes!’, then Dead Block is the game for you! And if not, well, Dead Block’s a pretty damn fun and addictive little PSN title with plenty of character that’s worth checking out.

Like Call of Duty: Zombies, the aim of the game is to board up the windows to a building and fight for survival as undead hordes try to find their way in and chomp on your grey matter. Handily for you, as well as blocking entrances, you can also rig up traps around the rooms. There are doorway traps that’ll freeze zombies solid for easy smashing, one that drops cardboard boxes on their heads, leading them to attack each other, and you can drop steaks on electrifying radiators for them to chomp. And, of course, you’ll mostly be using your melee weapon to button-mash and bludgeon them into to re-death.
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In order to build barricades, you’ll need bare materials, which means you’ll be hacking up tables and chairs for wood and sorting through objects and boxes for screws to build traps – the more complex the trap, the more screw components you’ll need. The game puts heavy focus on minigame actions and Quick-Time Events throughout, so to search boxes, you’ll be alternately hammering the shoulder buttons, rotating a series of hoops like a lock mechanism to grab the item inside or guiding a hand across silhouette object outlines to get the right one. The final task often requires playing through a Guitar Hero-style rhythm sequence to play a rockin’ solo and end the level.

Each of the three playable characters – Jack Foster: Construction Worker, Foxy Jones: Blaxploitation Cop and Mike Bacon: Chubby Boy Scout – has their own unique skills and traps, with Foster being the quickest to destroy furniture for wood, Bacon being the speediest to sort through objects for trap resources and Foxy Jones having the most effective melee attack. You can switch between each to make the most of their talents, but they’ll go about their business when left alone.
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Adopting a funky ’50s B-Movie style, there’s plenty of visual charm on display in Dead Block, and the rockabilly soundtrack is an excellent fit. The gameplay is simple for anyone to jump in to and can subsequently prove tough to put down, even if the ‘hammer the button’ nature of the gameplay can sometimes feel a tad repetitive. Still, there’s plenty of fun variety in level design and traps throughout the numerous lengthy stages, and a stack of replay value if you feel like going back to snag the gold medals in each level.

Unfortunately the AI team and item system aren’t as well thought out as they should be – Bacon the Boy Scout gets the worst traps but speedily steals almost all the resources, leaving Foster capable of building indestructible barricades but with nothing to fashion them from. The inability to exchange items between characters feels like a strange omission, as does the lack of online co-op multiplayer (though you can play split-screen locally if you like).
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Despite being a little too repetitive and simplistic in nature, with some unfortunate multiplayer missed opportunities, Dead Block is nonetheless an addictive title brimming with fun, goofy charm, and is ideal for a few hours of mindless fun between more deep and substantial games.

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Dead Block is available to buy on the US PlayStation Network Store now. An EU release is due soon.