Survival horror meets tower defense in this quirky but flawed Xbox Live title.

Dead Block is a third person 'building defense' style game. You'll be placed inside a building with the objective of covering windows and doors with blockades and traps to stop the endless waves of undead. Players are given control of up to 3 different unique characters, each with their own traps, special abilities, strengths and weaknesses. Objects inside the building must be scavenged and searched for trap-building materials and other special objects. The main goal, aside from getting a high score, is to scavenge 3 guitar pieces which are used to end the level by playing a music rhythm mini-game. In a few missions your objective is to kill a set number of zombies, but they tend to play identically to the guitar scavenge missions.

It all sounds good in theory, but starts to break down when you look at the fundamentals. The game requires you to dismantle and search literally everything in a room before moving on to the next, lest you miss an important guitar piece or run out of trap materials. Dismantling objects is done by mashing the B button, which you'll be doing ridiculous amounts of. Searching items is done by alternating between LT and RT repetitively, which is also button mashing. This is one of those games that will leave your fingers in tatters for no particularly good reason. With a turbo controller you may find it even more boring, standing there holding B while watching your character automatically bang up a bunch of appliances, tables, furniture, and what not. I did like the mini-game involved in building blockades, where timing your button presses accurately increases the building speed, but it seems to be lost in a sea of button mashing.

The guitar playing mini-game seems like an afterthought, with a slow moving staff and 3 buttons to press to the sounds of complete silence. I didn't find it particularly fun or challenging. At least the developers had the sense to pause the rest of the game while attempting the guitar mini-game, meaning you won't be blindsided by zombies while trying to rock out.

The sad fact is that Dead Block never progresses beyond the basic concept of searching and trap building. Most of the traps, despite their variety, have the same purpose of killing or disabling zombies in varying degrees of effectiveness. Zombies can be engaged in melee but it's fairly dangerous and usually a last resort. Each character has special abilities but they are just another way to distract or kill. The CPU will help in single player mode by doing some scavenging and searching for you, but it doesn't make up for the core gameplay being so tedious and repetitive. It all merges into one big blur of running into a room, boarding up the entrances, scavenging everything in hopes of a guitar piece, then moving on to the next room. There may be a memorable level or two thrown in there, but don't count on being able to distinguish one from the next.

In single player mode, the CPU controls any characters not currently in use. In multiplayer, up to 4 players can join in with the character of their choice. Unfortunately Dead Block is limited to local co-op only, with no option to play on Xbox Live. This severely limits what should have been a major part of the game - having fun with other players, perhaps to relieve the tedium, or just to have competent allies. The CPU player controlled AI is about as dumb as the shambling zombies, getting caught on walls, caught on zombies trying to pathfind to the player, and trying to engage the zombies in melee and quickly dying.

Dead Block has a scoring system and leaderboards, but I found it to be rather unappealing. Players are rated on objects broken, objects searched, zombies killed, and deaths (including CPU controlled allies, who die rather easily). Zombies will spawn endlessly and there is no limit to the amount of points rewarded. Since time is not a scoring factor, the player is encouraged to kill as many zombies as possible with the buildings limited resources. The problem is that it's tedious and boring mowing down the undead seeing how long you can last until you're forced to grab the guitar and end the level. The top scorers will always be players with the patience to slowly grind hundreds of zombies into dust, which could possibly take hours for a single mission.

Dead Block is presented in a cheesy 50's horror movie style, complete with bad voice acting, huge lettering across the screen, and obviously reused audio cut-ins. Each of the 3 characters are well animated with lots of personality. The zombies look good with a cartoony mix of horror and campiness. Despite the poor gameplay, it's a good looking game with a well executed theme. Probably the most fun to be had is in checking out the different traps, animations, and cheesy cutscenes.

Dead Block is a building defense game with a lot of potential, but ends up being too shallow and repetitive. It might be good for a bit of mindless fun in local multiplayer, though. The most enjoyable part of the game is checking out the various traps, zombies, and character models.

  • Charmingly cheesy 50s horror theme
  • Characters and zombies are well animated with personality
  • Building defense concept is interesting
  • Decent timewaster if you have friends who want to play locally
  • Endless button mashing
  • Very repetitive gameplay
  • No online co-op
  • Scoring system is a grind
Quote: "Dead Block is a building defense game with a lot of potential, but ends up being too shallow and repetitive."
Reviewed by Matthew Emirzian | 07.21.11

Similar Games: Naughty Bear (5.3) | Trenched (8.0) | Left 4 Dead 2 (8.8)


Dead Block

Namco Bandai

Candygun Games


US Release
July '11


Xbox Live Arcade

Players 1-4
Co-Op 2-4
D/L Content
800 MS Points