Review by Bill Wood

"Dawn of the Blockheads."

Oh, zombie-themed twin-stick shooters. Where would we be without your less-than-subtle graces? Nowhere else in gamedom can wholesale slaughter be so easily and conveniently justified because hey, they're already dead mirite?

So there are already a vast flood of these zombie-themed twin-stick shooters (hence: ZTTSS) competing for your cash on the XBox Live indie marketplace. I'm no game developer, but I'm assuming this is because these types of games are relatively easy to create and shovel out to the masses. (And while we're on the topic, how is it that Zombie Apocalypse still a $10 Live Arcade game? Anyone?!?) In any case, Block Zombies! is indeed another one of these games, but it manages to put enough of a spin on things to easily justify the one dollar asking price. In a nutshell, it's a ZTTSS with a LEGO twist. And it's worth your time and money.

If you've ever played any of the licensed LEGO games, you know how satisfying it is to whack everything in sight and watch those colorful little blocks go flying everywhere. Block Zombies! manages to recreate the same experience, only with zombie parts replacing mailboxes and whatnot. At first you are inadequately equipped to deal with the onslaught, but it isn't long before the busted-up zombies begin spilling ammo and weapon upgrades. The destroy-everything-in-sight system works very well, but gore fans take note: There are no guts, brains or vivid blood splatters, just bright little squares. This is the ZTTSS you can play in front of the kiddies.

The visuals are pure LEGO goodness. Or Minecraft goodness. Or 3D Dot Game Heroes goodness. Whichever you prefer, it's that "voxel" look (I didn't even know that word existed until today) that is currently all the rage with certain game designers. The style suits Block Zombies! to perfection, in fact it's such a natural fit that it makes me wonder why someone didn't think of this before. The game also features day-to-night shifts, and of course everything is harder to spot after dark. This was an unexpected and pleasant surprise as I soon found myself seeking out zombies in the dark by their glowing eyes. The terrain does tend to look all the same after awhile, but thankfully this is offset by the wide variety of enemies.

One thing I really appreciate about Block Zombies! is the openness of it all. Instead of squeezing all of the action onto a single screen that gives the player virtually zero freedom of movement, the game takes place on a bigger map, allowing the player to explore as necessary. Granted, most of this exploration simply involves reaching the next checkpoint and the scenery does tend to look the same after awhile, but I do prefer this approach to the claustrophobic confines of, say, Zombie Apocalypse (did I mention that game costs ten bucks?).

Complaints? Well, the weapon selection is pretty underwhelming at first. The pistol you start with feels more like a pea-shooter, but future weapon grabs and upgrades help to remedy this. Also, I don't recall seeing any multi-player options (local or online), which is a bit of a downer for anyone expecting to team up against the legions of undead. All things considered though, there really isn't a lot to complain about in an entertaining indie game at this price.

I have this unwritten rule when it comes to Xbox Live indie games: If I have a moderate amount of fun with the demo and it's only a buck, it gets my money. No hesitation, no debate, I just buy it. After all, I still remember the days when a buck would barely get me ten minutes worth of entertainment at the local arcade. I also remember purchasing numerous retail games that seemed like a steal for under $15 and still managed to leave me unfulfilled (Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, I'm looking at you). At the low asking price of one dollar, Block Zombies! is a fine little title to spend an hour or so with. There are certainly better recommendations on XBLIG, but it's difficult to imagine anyone not getting their money's worth out of this game.


Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 01/25/12, Updated 01/26/12

Game Release: Block Zombies! (US, 01/19/12)

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