Dead Pixels by CSR-Studios is an 8-bit pixilated version of the zombie apocalypse. That statement alone should be enough to sell you on this game. I mean how could it possibly go wrong? The answer is that it can’t. And Dead Pixels definitely delivers the goods.
The story is pretty straightforward. A toxic waste spill turns all the recently deceased into brain-hungry zombies and now you gotta get out of the city. Depending on what difficulty you play on, you’ll have to make it a certain number of streets to reach the end. Normal difficulty has you running 20 blocks to reach salvation while easy knocks it to 10 and hard bumps it up to 30. Like in Left 4 Dead, there’s also an “A.I. director” who will throw a horde at you every once and awhile if you are moving too fast (or too slow).
The game is a side-scroller that feels reminiscent of River City Ransom on NES as you go street by street collecting bouncing coins off the corpses of your defeated enemies. If there is one complaint I have about this game, it’s that the coins disappear too quickly. Once you kill an enemy, you really only have a few seconds to collect the rewards of expending your all too precious ammunition.
There are a variety of weapons in the game, all of which are named after characters from Resident Evil (e.g. Redfield Shotgun, Valentine Beretta, etc). Weapons, ammo, and items must either be found or purchased from one of the many traders still alive (and oddly seemingly safe) in the city. You can search abandoned buildings for valuables to sell, but there is a limit to how much weight you can carry at any given time and if you overburden yourself, your character won’t be able to run, much like in Fallout.
The game is further enhanced by several purchasable skill upgrades that will make your character better such as the ability to deal more damage, get critical hits more often, or increase your maximum health. You’ll definitely want to load up on as much ammo as possible early on, though. Enemies get tougher and tougher as you progress through the streets so your ammo supply can quickly dwindle when you have to pump half a dozen shots into each zomb.
In addition to the standard game, there are also two other game modes – The Solution and Last Stand – which are actually expansions that were added in after release. The Solution plays a lot like the normal version of Dead Pixels with a few key differences. This time around you’re a prisoner who, for some reason or another, is chosen to carry out a top secret military mission to save the city. You can choose from a bunch of different characters that each have varying levels of skills. This is important because there are no traders in the city anymore. This means that looting buildings for stuff to sell is no longer a viable option. Instead, you can radio in for supplies (which for some reason you still have to pay money for) but your drops are limited. You also have limited saves, and must use an ink ribbon (another nod to Resident Evil).
Last Stand is a mode that plays just like it sounds – survive as long as possible. You’re holed up in a shopping mall and have to survive as many waves of zombies as you possibly can. Since you are rewarded with copious amounts of cash between each round, Last Stand is fun to experiment with all the weapons you never got a chance to try out in the other modes such as the energy or nitrogen-powered weapons.
There isn’t much reason to go back and play through the game again after you’ve beaten it except for the fact all three modes support two player local co-op and games are always refreshing to play with a friend.
Dead Pixels costs 80 Microsoft Points to download. It’s a fun little game and will easily be one of the best dollars you ever spent on a video game.
Final Score: 5 / 5 stars
(This review was based off a review copy of the game).