Toxic sludge in the waterway can only mean one thing – those who were once dead are born again! Now a whole host of undead citizens you once shared the same streets with now want your sweet sweet blood (to them it tastes like cream soda).
Formed in the classic beat em up mould, this is straight up River City Ransom but with zombies and shotguns. The mission objective is simple enough: there are a bunch of survivors on the other side of the city looking for greener pastures and there’s no way you want to be left behind. The developers call it a “8 bit zombie sim”, which goes some way to describing it.
Some of these modern retro games have a tyrannical purity to them, simulating a period in gaming history but with modern assistance, like Shotgun Ninja (review coming soon) and You Have to Win the Game (kind of). Others have added features that are now commonplace in contemporary gaming without alienating the feel of a bygone era (Super Meat Boy). While Dead Pixel salutes its 8 bit brothers and sisters, it follows these trends by featuring a max screen res of 1920 x 1200, mouse aiming and a rock soundtrack that, surprise, doesn’t sound like MIDI (you collected them before that thing called MP3 came out). The game also has a film grain filter. It’s an odd inclusion that adds a B grade retro touch (it can be turned off in options).
You begin in the middle of a nondescript street. The white noise of impatient taxies, phone banter and derelict hobos a receding memory; now it’s the relentless feet-dragging of mindless brain sucking foes – no it’s not the 5pm corporate rush hour, and the in-laws aren’t in town, it’s actual zombies this time, approaching without caution or care (though you could easily replace the zombies with overeager Greenpeace ambassadors). Initial zombies approach at a Romero-movie level clip, but the reserves must’ve put some time in at the gym while waiting for their shot because foes become more athletic as the game progresses. All that stands between you and the ever growing horde is your shotgun and a few shells. Groovy.
Killing what were probably your neighbours is painful but when you find out they drop giant Mario coins, the bittersweet guilt is replaced with the cool refreshing taste of consumerism and greed. And so with this loot – if you can find a shop still open for business – you can treat yourself to some retail therapy with a new weapon, some ammo (that you will need replacing often) or a grenade or two. Each store even has their own bluegrass band, a respite from the zombie groan and rock symphony that’s playing outside. You can also loot abandoned stores and churches, which exactly as you’d expect turn up items like batteries, rope and essential teddy bears that you can exchange for even more Mario coins. For extra rewards, you can even hit up some JRPG style quests and retrieve items for the cowardly store owners. Some guy asked me to get him some soap. Poor bastard.
To its credit, this game uses elements from several genres that helps it elevate itself beyond standard beat em up fare. The mouse is used for primitive aiming and changing weapons. We’ve come a long way, baby! But there’s also an RPG aspect with the ability to upgrade stats like speed, melee damage and the ever enigmatic “luck” stat. There is some strategic depth which steps things away from mindless arcade action – one factor that can wreak havoc with your trigger happy finger is the limited supply of ammo, so you need to be a little more selective or creative with how you deal with the walkers. Because each weapon has different damage, penetration and range statistics you can be somewhat flexible in how you approach your zombie hunt… And, as for the zombies, they also come in different flavours: those that were probably zombies before the outbreak, spitters, army types, armless types and a few others. Personally, I like to put on my Stetson hat, do a little zombie herding and use my boomstick up close for maximum gibs.
I paid $1 for this game on sale, the RRP is $2.99. I remember buying the Sims for $50 and playing it all of 15 minutes (says you, I spent at least 40 hours making houses without doors and pools without ladders myself, now a major motion picture -ed). The get-what-you-pay-for mantra is not really so clear cut in the gaming world so it’s hard to quantify a ratio, but I can say that I enjoyed this game, rotting pixels and all. It does get repetitive, but the slight RPG upgrades system sheen kept me hooked. I finished the main game mode in under 2 hours, and, given the aforementioned, this is about the right length to keep your interest to the end. Of course, there are replayability options; you also tackle an alternate mode as a prison inmate with a chance for a pardon, time attack or survival modes. As a lone gunman I’ve had fun looting and shooting but if you can, grab somebody you can count on for some local coop blasting. I would invite you over, but my room’s a mess.
Posted on July 20, 2015, in Arcade and tagged $1-5, 1 Player, 2 Players (local coop), CSR-Studios (developer), River City Ransom, Upgrades, Windows, Zombie. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Dead Pixels.