Dead Pixels is a 2D Run & Gun that takes place in a zombie apocalypse caused by an accident inside a chemical plant. We play as a nameless guy that has caught word that a group of survivors found a functional helicopter and plan to leave the infected city. With that in mind, we must traverse a multitude of streets swarming with the undead for that one hope of survival. The amount of streets separating you from your goal depends on which of the four difficulty modes you select before starting your journey.
Starting off, we are given a shotgun and a few small med-kits to defend ourselves against the horde. At first, there are not that many zombies roaming around, and you can easily blast them apart to collect the money that they drop. The thing with that, however, is that ammo is typically very limited and you may need those wasted shells sooner than you’d imagine. There is a melee attack in where you jab the barrel of your weapon into a zombie which is effective against a single foe but against more, you do not want to ever be within melee range.
Scattered around the place are some unlocked doors into houses or shops that you can enter inside of to scavenge. You may find ammo, more weapons, items or other useless valuables that you can sell to traders holed up somewhere. There is a carry limit, so it is best to be wary of how much you take unless you want to find your speed greatly reduced. The aforementioned traders will buy whatever you are selling and often times have a specific item they are on the look out for and are willing to pay a ton to have. In here you can save the game, buy ammo or whatever they are selling as well as upgrade your stats via cold, hard cash. These range from speed, bargaining, strength and luck to name a few.
Their stocks are limited so even if you have an insane amount of money it is impossible to simply buy absurd amounts of ammo for your favorite gun to use without worry. You can find traders view green arrows spray painted on the wall that is pointing at their door. This game is randomly generated, and each play-through will be different. There may be times when you hardly ever encounter traders and others when you can find three of them on the same street. Not encountering any for some time will not usually end a run if you are careful with your resources and have luck on your side while scavenging through buildings.
Dead Pixels is not a mindless zombie shooter. You have to take everything into account, from how many grenades or other throwable items you have left, the ammo you can afford to waste and managing your income potential from scavenging or taking the money from the undead. Ammo is easily the most important resource here so you have to choose when to fight or when to run as there is no way you can take them all on. The closer you get towards your goal, the thicker the horde will be, and as they swarm in from both sides of the screen, shooting will mostly be done to cut a small path through them instead of holding your ground.
With the right weapon, you very well could effortlessly mow legions of them down though these powerful weapons usually require a ton of ammo. As an example is the quad-barreled shotgun. With it, you are neigh unstoppable, but with four shells gun every time you squeeze the trigger, you may find yourself in a very bad position. The hordes will never stop coming, you can fight them off for a while, and this will get you quite a bit of cash if you can afford the ammo though you will eventually have to accept that this is a battle you ultimately can not win. There are a plethora of guns or weapons you can get your hands on from rifles and chainsaws to more wacky stuff like a freeze ray. Each does require their own ammo types and to make it easier for the players they are color coded in the menus. Such as a rifle being blue and the ammo required for it being blue as well.
The amount of weight you can carry is dependent on your Strength stat, so you typically can not carry every gun you find. Having multiple types of weapons is vital, however, if you run out of ammo for one simply switch to another to avoid having to go mano a mano with a group of flesh eating monsters. Going into the menus will pause the game, so you will have all the time you need to plan things out and use your items accordingly. There is a ton of variety from zombie to zombie-like their form of attacks, speed, and resilience against your weaponry. Some may take a single shot to bring down depending on the weapon while others will take much more damage before succumbing to your hail of gunfire.
Learning these differences will save your life as you are surrounded on all sides and are able to spot an opening where you can quickly dispose of a certain cluster of enemies to create a path to flee through. One zombie may be able to spit acid from range, another may have a running speed that far surpasses your own and a ton of other variables to take into account. Your footwork and split second decisions to avoid the swarm will be the thing to cause you to prevail here, not the amount of firepower you have. It is a fight for survival, and in it, you are the hunted instead of the hunter. Another neat detail is that zombie do react to gunfire. Letting off a round will alert everyone in the vicinity that it is dinner time, leading to a potentially more difficult situation. Some zombies are blind and harmlessly stumble about though as soon as they hear gunfire, they will actively hunt you down.
Towards the end of the game you may encounter a few bosses and these you will have to take down. You can try to run though the survivors barricading that street will pretty much tell you like hell that they’ll open the gate with that creature roaming outside. Bosses will require much more of a battle to take down than the regular zombie variants, and it would be far easier to throw a grenade into the gate hatch but alas, we can not. The arrival of something really bad will be notified via a pack of rats running the opposite direction, and that is your signal to get prepared while you can. Taking some painkiller to reduce the damage you take and injecting some adrenaline into yourself for increased speeds are always useful though temporary advantages you can give yourself.
Playing it on the easier difficulty, you will have little to worry about and can play a lot more recklessly for those just looking to shoot stuff. One can also bring a buddy on board via local coop and survive together. I am unsure as to how I unlocked them myself, but there are extra modifiers such as big head mode and colorful blood to spice things up. There are two more modes aside from the base game to play as named The Solution and Last Stand. The Solution takes place after the events of the base game, and we can choose from multiple characters, each having their own unique stats that can not be improved like we could with the base game character. All the characters are prisoners being offered a presidential pardon if they agree to go into the city, blow up the chemical plant which is the source of the problem and somehow manage to make it back to receive that pardon.
The city is now completely dead with no survivors or traders to be found anymore. As soon as we step foot into that city, we are alone and must scavenge what we can to push on. There is nobody alive to sell stuff to so carry only what you need and leave behind needless loot. It is quite a change from the base game though money is still important. You can call in an airdrop a limited amount of times for gear and ammo. These will land a street down from you, forcing you to make a mad dash if you haven’t planned ahead and found yourself out of ammo. It is a very interesting mechanic, and capitalism is still alive and well for these services. You will have to pay for the stuff you request, so we don’t simply ask for the best guns from the start and bulldoze are way through it. She will not buy anything from you so hoarding stuff is pointless. The only way to earn money is by taking it from the undead that cross your path.
In the final mode called Last Stand, we play as a man that sacrificed himself for the group by attracting the attention of the horde and locking himself into the mall. As you may imagine, there is no happy ending here. We must fight with all we got until we inevitably drop. The zombies will come at you in increasingly difficult waves and in between them we are able to buy stuff from the vendor. This mode is the easiest due to how quickly we can get our hands on insanely powerful weaponry, but the vendor still has a limited stock so we can’t use them forever. While we are destined to die this mode does have online leaderboards to motivate you to fight tooth and nail. This is the mode for those seeking more action instead of survival and is the easiest way to test out all the weapons this game has to offer.
The spritework here is well done with every enemy being instantly recognizable from a glance and gib apart nicely during death. It is one of the few games where I actually keep the film grain setting on to retain its stylish grindhouse movie type of look. Its soundtrack fits the title very well and ranges from somber during your visit to a trader to blood pumping while you are out fighting in the streets. You can get the entire soundtrack for free via the developer CSR Studios website (LINK). This game pulls off everything it set out to do extremely well. The only fault I can attribute to it is the lack of online coop. The most insane part is that this game is only $3 which is an absolute steal for this amount of quality content. I’d easily recommend Dead Pixels to anybody and is a title you very likely won’t be able to put down once you try it.