Dead Pixels Review
An 8-bit Ammo Hording Sim
There is an inherent and basic drama to needing more than you have. This is the element that appeals to me the most about zombie fiction. I enjoy reading about people scavenging in old department stores and pharmacies, siphoning gas from abandoned cars, and looking at ordinary mundane places and imagining how it could be refitted as a safe haven against a hostile world. It’s not the end of the world, but the rebuilding of it that thrills me. Zombie games usually focus on the more visceral elements of the zombie genre. Left 4 Dead has you blasting holes in heads and running for your life. The Walking Dead focuses on the social drama of the scenario, having you navigate heated arguments and making tough decisions involving the lives of people that have become an adopted family to the player and dealing with their inevitable loss. But Dead Pixels is about making the most out of what you have. It’s solving the problem of having to cross a street filled with 30 zombies when you only have 10 bullets and then figuring out how to cross the next one with what you have left over.
Dead Pixels is a simple game. You move right. In the more complicated The Situation mode, you move right until you can’t anymore and then you go left. As you go right you come across buildings that you can search for supplies and shops where you can buy from a limited inventory. It’s enjoyable if relatively thoughtless on the easier difficulties but the game’s character shows when played on the hardest difficulty. On the hardest difficulty you don’t so much fight the undead but run from them. You pick routes to weave through the hordes or just try to punch a hole big enough in the waves to run through. Elements you take for granted become relevant when the difficulty necessitates you exploit them. You hold off shooting as long as possible to avoid waking up the tougher zombies, the pointless fireworks become a god send when you’re cut off and the stores become vital safe houses.
The game has two modes in addition to the standard campaign called The Solution and Last Stand. The Solution serves as an epilogue to the standard game mode and limits your resources even more. The stores are removed completely and are replaced by a radio and ink ribbon that lets you order equipment and save anywhere but only allows you to do so four times during the game. It gives the game a much different feeling, trading the suspense of discovering vital shelters for a more calculated style of play where you weigh the desperation of your current situation against what you’ll need in the future. The Solution also adds a lot of replay value by having you pick a character with pre-set stats at the beginning, giving you different playstyles to try on future playthroughs. The Last Stand, the game’s horde mode, is a fun diversion but quickly becomes dull. Stretching your resources is an interesting challenge when you’re trying to cross an obstacle course but winds up becoming a fairly dull exercise when you’re just trying to figure out how to kill the most zombies with the fewest bullets. The play quickly turns into tedium as it’s easy to figure out a routine that can be done effortlessly for over an hour before you run out of bullets.
Dead Pixels makes the most of its 8-bit graphics by flinging itself whole-heartily into a retro style that elicits the feeling of playing through a 70’s zombie movie. Iconic period music plays as the game delightfully informs you that it is presented in Technospectrum Vision (just as gleefully enigmatic as Technicolor) where available and an intermission occurs halfway through the game with fake ads for the imaginary snack counter. Artificial film grain and screen flickers help complete the vintage vibe. Peppering the game with plenty of nods and winks to the era and zombie genre help round out the aesthetic, adding a lot of charm to this A-rate game with B-movie aspirations.
I thoroughly enjoyed Dead Pixels. It doesn’t really hold up to extended gaming sessions but it’s enjoyable in small spurts. It’s gaming sushi, bite sized but filling with a unique flavor. At $3 it’s a steal and cheap enough to try on a whim.
Rating: B Buy? Yes
(I know I said it’s A-rate earlier but I just meant it’s an excellent game, I feel like I can only give an A rating to something that absolutely floored me. Not that there is a science or anything to rating games though, it’s all highly subjective.)
You can buy Dead Pixels for $3 on Steam or 80 microsoft points on Xbox Live Indie Games. Check out the game’s site at http://deadpixelsthegame.com/.