Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep68: Dead Meets Lead

Stranded on a zombie plague island, hack 'n' slash your way to an antidote.

I'm a sucker for top-down or isometric hack 'n' slash games, and probably even more so for zombies. Cram them together and you should have a title I'm going to love, right? I thought so, but Dead Meets Lead somehow manages to fail at doing anything interesting.

You play as the lone survivor of a shipwreck, now stranded on a zombie-plagued isle. You've contracted the plague and are searching for both a cure and the cause of the scourge before you fall victim to it.

On the surface, Dead Meets Lead looks like a good game. The art style is bright and a bit cartoonish, similar to that of WoW. The music score fits the setting perfectly, with bellowing drums that evoke the feeling you're going to encounter tribal natives... and they might not be friendly. The level UI is unobtrusive and informative. Upon playing the game, I quickly realized that this title's beauty was only skin deep.

The majority of the game involves you click-spamming your sword and walking backwards to avoid the zombie hordes. Your rage builds as you slay undead, making your attacks faster and stronger. You can right-click for an AoE stun at the cost of some rage, which is useful when surrounded. You also have a rifle which is quite strong, but ammo is scarce - you begin with zero and cannot keep any between stages. Note that when you attack, your character can't move until his attack animation is complete, which serves to let the zombies close in on you. Regardless, you'll often be able to cut an opening through the swarm of zombies and escape without a hitch... as long as you're not caught by one or more of the game's handful of hazards.

The most notable and infuriating of these hazards are the nets thrown by the green zombies. They have a short range, but momentarily stop you from moving. As far as I can tell, there's no way to dodge or escape the damned things, and multiple netters can essentially chain-snare you. The best way to deal with the green zombies is at range, if you're lucky enough to even have ammo. The other hazards are continuous damage in the forms of piranha-infested water or the ubiquitous "malaria" whenever you stray off the main path. This means you can easily get backed into a spot that will kill you regardless of which direction you go, assuming you can move at all. Additionally, the poorly-named "malaria" effect punishes exploration in a genre that typically rewards going off the beaten path.

You can sometimes find rage or health potions scattered about the levels, which are sadly consumed immediately when you move over them. You won't find new weapons, upgrades, or anything of interest during the levels, either - the silver you gain can be used to purchase weapons from the meager assortment in main screen. This approach is fine for a tower defense game, but feels entirely out of place here.

If you've ever wondered what would Diablo be like without loot, character options/progression, or interesting gameplay, I believe the answer is Dead Meets Lead.

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