Zombies, am I right? Nowadays, you can’t swing a machete without hitting a newly-risen corpse who is looking to dine on your skull’s nougat center. Movies, books, video games… The zombies have finally taken over our pop culture and I am kind of getting sick of them. So many examples of zombedia (zombie + media. Clever, eh?) just take whatever stock antagonist they originally had, add shambling masses, and call it a day. Dead Pixels, from fledgling CSR Studios, made an awesome “zombie apocalypse simulation” and they did it all in a style you never knew you missed.
CSR Studios (CSR for Can’t Strafe Right *amused*) officially started up in 2011 and is the largely the work of one man, John Common. Thankfully for us all, this game is anything but. Set in a world where a toxic waste spill has poisoned the water supply and raised the dead, Dead Pixels easily could have been just another zombie shooter. However, CSR peppered its game with references to past zombie games and movies all while filtering it through a loving grindhouse movie filter. The story? Well… you’re alive and they’re not. You have to… ugh… GET TO THA CHOPPA* that is waiting to take you to safety, but hordes of the undead are just waiting to go om nom nom on your fleshy bits.
The game is presented in a nostalgic infusion of pixels. If you ever wondered how the zombie invasion would look on your Nintendo, search no further. Everything is pitch-perfect as far as an 8-bit presentation goes. Large character sprites, animated gore, and the soundtrack… oh, the soundtrack. You get the blips and bleeps that you’d expect, but thanks to modern processing power, you also get the killer guitar licks and hard drums that you want to survive. All the visuals are even given a film grain appearance that only enhances the grindhouse groove. You can turn it off, but I honestly have no clue why you would. Seriously, if you do, I don’t think we can be friends anymore. It only adds to the fun atmosphere.
Well, I think I talked about the appearance enough, so let’s dig into the gameplay. The zombies are exactly as they should be. They’re former folks who move rather slowly and bite you if you get close. Simple, yeah? Fortunately, CSR was paying attention to past efforts and included zombies that spit bile and even a zombie hoard that rushes your character en masse. That alone might sell you, but we haven’t even scratched the surface. The traders set up along the streets leading to freedom will be happy to sell you more ammo, new guns, even some RPG-style character upgrades. They’ll also buy the items that you scrounge up by exploring empty structures. It’s good to know that even during the end of life as we know it, there’s a thriving economy. It does get a little rough sometimes, though. Thankfully, there is a melee attack for when you just don’t have enough ammo and something is between you and that last trader. Also, I would be a horrible person if I didn’t touch on the local co-op mode! You can invite anyone else who is sitting in your living room to join your struggle. Two heads are definitely better than one when it comes to killing flesh eaters, but the pickups aren’t divided automatically between the players, so expect some light discussion when it comes to who gets what.
Dead Pixels may not be the prettiest girl at the dance, but it sure knows how to have fun and leave you wanting more. For those of us who know what it felt like to hold that uncomfortably rectangular NES controller for hours on end, this game is for you. The game appears to be randomly generated as well, so you’ll never get the same situation twice. You can pick this gem up on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 80 Microsoft Points or for the PC at Desura for the low price of $2.99. So what are you waiting for? Get it right now and let me know what YOU think!
You better hurry, too. You want to beat it before the sequel comes out… ;)
*Please forgive the Ah-nold callout above. I just couldn’t help myself