Dead Pixels review: River City gruesome

Icon for Post #20377 Genre: Action
Release Date: September 15, 2011
Platform: XBLIG, Xbox 360
Price: 80 Microsoft points ($1)

The living dead are at it again. Driving mankind to the brink of extinction is the order of the day and all you can do is escape the Hell that Earth has become. Dead Pixels is a grindhouse shooter, and while it could be better it is certainly a solid adventure. It’s not the worst way to spend a few hours. I’ve heard comparisons drawn between this game and River City Ransom and all I can say to that is “Man, I wish.” Aside from buying stuff and having a similar perspective, these two games aren’t anything alike. Free smiles from the girl at the burger shop and hidden shops in the tunnels would have gone a long way toward making me think otherwise.

The goal is to reach Salvation, a goal accomplished by making your way through 20 different streets (30 if you’re playing on the hard difficulty). The undead prowl these streets and when they spot you they will chase you down. Some attack with a bite while others spit gooey projectiles. They operate under the idea of numerical superiority. Sure, you can dodge one or even a few, but when they clog up the streets you’re doomed. Also, they can hit pretty hard and have a habit of trapping you if you’re far towards the top or bottom of the screen. On special occasions there are boss zombies and sometimes organized waves of them. How these guys manage to organize anything without brains totally reeks of videogame-logic.

What the zombies fail to understand is that you’re about as smart as the average zombie-outbreak survivor. You grabbed a shotgun from an abandoned house and you’re ready to roll. Ammo is limited so it’s important to conserve. You can buy more ammo from the shops, while you’ll sometimes find clips or shells in random empty houses as well. Expect to also put your cash towards new weapons, items, and even upgrades that raise various stats and abilities. Shops carry only limited amounts of everything and you should always buy what you can afford when the opportunity presents itself. When you move on to the next street the chances are high that you won’t be able to go back due to them being overwhelmed by the walking dead. Boy, that must suck for the shopkeepers you left behind. All that cash and zombies don’t accept bribes.

Over time, however, you won’t too worried about surviving. After a certain point you’ll be tripping over more weapons and ammo then you need and, no matter how much damage the hordes are doing, you’re staying topped-off thanks to all of the cheap medkits that basically turn you into a walking hospital. This is really unfortunate since all that’s left to look forward to is the ending and maybe some sweet unique weapons. Shooting through masses of zombies stays relatively fun throughout, but again, it depends on factors like difficulty to stay fresh. Some sort of editable difficulty would be a really neat idea. Like you could set how much money drops, how much stock the shops carry, the costs of various essentials, and the numbers or ferocity of the hordes. It would certainly help the game stay fresh on any subsequent play-through.

Unique weapons such as the “Boom-stick” (from some movie nobody cares about) the Minigun, and the chainsaw are only found towards what seems to be the tail end of the game or very, very rarely elsewhere. This is especially unfortunate since when the rate of survival goes way up there aren’t nearly enough toys to play around with to keep things interesting. Furthermore, the frame-rate starts taking serious hits when too much killing is going on. I don’t know whether it’s caused by the weapons, the difficulty, or what. This is not good at all since before you know it some zombie that was at the end of the screen is suddenly in your face and chewing on it.

Still, this is all more a nuisance than anything since the game will end shortly afterwards and all you can really do is wait for the downloadable content. There is a two-player mode and that may inject a bit of life into the game, but otherwise? When you’re done, you’re done. There’s a combo meter that tracks number of zombies killed in a short period of time. While it is nice to cut through the undead there aren’t any bonuses applied for killing large numbers of them. This is probably for the best since I was sitting on close to a hundred grand by the time I finished the hard difficulty.

It is rather interesting that the DLC is referred to as “The Solution”. Maybe it’ll solve all of the problems I have with the game? All things considered the flaws aren’t that bad and considering the Xbox Live Indie Games’ average output this makes Dead Pixels a game that can’t be missed. I’m just hoping some work is put into making the game more challenging, doling out the unique weapons with a bit more regularity and giving more creative abilities to the zombies aside from bite and spit. Oh, and that frame-rate! That definitely needs a fix. If “The Solution” pans out then this game would be one of my highest recommendations. Even now it stands as one of the only zombie games I actually like. Besides, it’s only a dollar right? No excuses.

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