Two dollars doesn’t buy you much these days. A sad looking McDonald’s hamburger, a roll of no-brand cling wrap from Hot Dollar or a few seconds of feigned gratitude from a homeless vagrant are about all the bang you can squeeze out of two bucks in today’s overpriced world. Thankfully, for those of us seeking a thrifty source of entertainment, the burgeoning independent games industry swings to the rescue with its readily accessible range of cheap, simple to play games; easier to digest than a Maccas burger and more dignified than chuckling at a drunken bum attempting to perform the Peanut Butter Jelly dance for spare change from passing commuters.
Zombies are at it yet again in Dead Pixels, the self acclaimed ‘8-bit zombie sim’ from CSR-Studios. Capitalising on the still fertile (though extensively trod) soil that is everything to do with zombies, Dead Pixels drops you – the player – into the middle of a once bustling city where a mysterious chemical spill has transformed almost all of its erstwhile denizens into shambling mobs of mindless zombies. Thankfully, like always, this zompocalypse comes with a massive influx of readily available weapons of all shapes, sizes and calibres.
The living dead are ravenous, they’re unstoppable and they’re out to get you. The only thing preventing these reanimated cadavers from tearing into your still bleeding corpse like a pack of starving hobos on a garbage bag full of soggy, lukewarm McDonald’s hamburger patties is your wit, your speed, and a whole lot of bullets.
The objective of the game is simple: shoot or run past endless waves of the living dead as you attempt to reach salvation. Along the way you’ll encounter abandoned shops, homes and businesses which contain all manner of goodies for you to loot. Be prepared for some truly Zimbabwe-esque situations as you sell off your newly looted $200 tin of Spam in order to purchase another box of rifle rounds.
Unlike other side scrolling shooters, Dead Pixels folds some elements of resource management into the overall experience; holding down the fire button and forward keys is not a viable tactic in the post-zombie apocalypse world. Ammunition is often scarce and being forced to economise your usage of the weapons adds some unexpected depth to the overall experience. Shops where you can purchase weapons, items or skills exist, but their inventories are likewise limited.
Combine to this mix a procedurally generated gaming world which makes it all but impossible to determine just what you’ll be coming up against next. It alao helps lend a few tense moments to what at first glance seems to be a very simple game. Likewise, the opponents you will meet will also be procedurally generated, guaranteeing you a unique experience every time you load up the game.
Aside from the main storyline, there are also two separate game modes packaged into this package of 8-bit zombie blasting delight: a secondary campaign titled “The Solution”; and a swarm defense survival mode aptly titled “Last Stand”.
The Solution follows on from the main campaign and puts you in the shoes of a convicted criminal who is sent into the infested city at the behest of the government in order to bring about a conclusion to the situation. Unlike the main game where shops act as save/resupply points for your character, in The Solution your character carries items which gives you access to a finite number of resupply drops and saves, forcing you to carefully ration out your resources.
In Last Stand, you play the role of a character who altruistically decides to remain behind so that his friends can get to safety. Ensconced within a mall beset by all manner of foul, undead beings, your only objective is to survive as long as possible and cause as much carnage as you can before the hordes eventually overwhelm you and nibble on your pancreas as aperitifs. Thankfully, being a well-stocked shopping centre means that all the latest and greatest weapons are available for purchase, satisfying both your consumerist and sociopathic desires in one convenient location.
Although Dead Pixels brings nothing new to the scene, nor is it outstanding in any way, it is still a fun, action-packed, guns-ablazing romp through a genre we’re all well acquainted with. The multiple game modes and procedurally generated levels and enemies gives this game a decent measure of replayability, but ultimately the gameplay will become quite repetitive.
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