REVIEW: The Useful Dead

The Useful Dead ($1.00) is all about leading adorable critters to the exit, working around obstacles and hazards, solving the puzzle, and sacrificing your pals for the greater good when required (hence the title). There’s been some discussion as to its originality, and it’s true that other games like it exist, notably the free-to-play SeppuKuties. The closest relative in the XBLIG family tree would be Cute Things Dying Violently (the title really tells it all there), though The Useful Dead does offer direct control, placing it more in the platformer genre.

Regardless of inspiration, puzzler / platformers are ultimately judged by their ingenuity and design. Here, variety starts and ends in the way your unfortunate partners-in-treasure-seeking die, be it by impalement, fire, falling from great heights, etc. Morbid as it is (if you really stop to think about it), those bodies then become valuable currency within the level, ‘useful’ as stepping stones to higher platforms, weights for switches, or as fodder for the stampers, happily taking the no-longer-painful ‘squish’ on your behalf and allowing you to pass freely.

Though you start with a large reserve of critters at your service, it doesn’t stay that way for long. Each stage comes with a ‘par’ number of allies that can (and usually, must) be deaded during the course of finding a solution. Completion need not be flawless, with ten of the creatures listed as expendable, and opportunities to collect ‘additional lives’, if you will, by coming in under par on certain levels. Any mistakes can be reset by restarting the current stage, too, making it more about personal satisfaction than a pressing issue you need to constantly be aware of.

It can also be argued that a lot of the game’s levels are rather easy, and the goal doesn’t change; all involve the death of a few cute creatures. In most, the solution is either immediately noticeable or soon apparent, and experimentation will get you the rest of the way to that ‘a-ha moment’. They’re not all pushovers, mind you. A handful of stages will require some thought, but The Useful Dead is definitely not as taxing to the brain as it could have been, more about timing and placement than prolonged head-scratching. You’ll either enjoy that change of pace or wish for something sterner. I appreciated the balance.

The Useful Dead - Screen

The only ‘good’ friend is a dead friend.

Whatever camp you fall into, The Useful Dead is an enjoyable experience. Its tricks may be telling to some at the outset, though there’s enough clever design in the puzzles to keep others on their toes. Much like in the previously-mentioned titles, you’ll gladly kill off plenty of cute things with a smile on your face.

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Review on Indie Gamer Chick

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15 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Useful Dead”

  1. Lets get to the point Don Hurley, what second enemy XBLIG and strippers have in common (the 1st is the catholic church, between indies boobs and strippers ba dunk-a-dunks you know how they get)… the answer is expectations. If the 1st time is sooooo good, you expect the second will be equal or better. Now, I’m not saying this is a bad game (there is a FREE game like this called Kill Me on PC), but after Bleed I was expecting something better. Unlike Silver Dollar, they can release crap or masterpieces and nobody will get in their minds more than what actually will be there. I was hoping that this game from Bootdisk will give me AVeryStrangeBoner of excitement, and that… never happened.

    I’m still wishing for Sir Mix-A-Lot to learn XNA so he can make Baby Got Back Online, yes Im officially a Gold Member yayyyyy!!!

    1. Uh-oh, the first part about strippers I could see, but are you implying that the Catholic Church, despite the other, numerous problems they’re faced with, is the reason that XBLIG has experienced the problems is has? I was all set to just blame Microsoft again, like I always do, but… divine retribution? I suppose that’s another viable theory.

      As for Bootdisk, and in all fairness to Ian (the developer), Bleed is such a fantastic game that I don’t think there’s any way he could have followed that up immediately with another landmark title. And after reading Cathy’s review over at Indie Gamer Chick, I -was- worried how the game would play, though that concern was for naught. I think The Useful Dead is a pretty good game, despite the similarities to other games that came before it and those still to be released.

      I will say this— matching it up against the fictional Baby Got Back Online, The Useful Dead would win… easily…. every time.

    1. …One of these days, we’re going to have to discuss why visiting this site gives you a boner. Until then, stay away from the furniture. I’m still paying it off.

  2. Take 10 seconds to look @ the screenshots from both of your Useful Dead posts lol. I didn’t buy this because I’m savin’ my last dollar for Astralis..I’m poor. I thought the game had nice controls and cute visuals. I was just bored after a few minutes and knew I’d never touch it again. I’d say it’s worth it if you just need something to play for a night and you’re into puzzle platformers.

    1. Haha. Hang onto that dollar, man. Astralis is on its way, very, very soon.

      And you’re right, The Useful Dead is good for a night of fun. I think my playime was about an hour and a half from start to finish. Puzzler / Platformers can veer into frustrating territory, but I think TUD had a good balance of easy / hard.

    2. *Shakes Tim*
      SAANSILT WANT ALIEN SHOOTY THING NOW!
      This game is fun actually, but no spendy until the other game comes out.
      You tease us.
      From the precious…
      Precious…
      SHOOTY!

      (Please take this post as lighthearted)

    3. Alright, finnnnnne. Here’s the new (possibly final) trailer for Astralis, if you haven’t seen it. I’ll let you watch it on the condition that you give ‘The Useful Dead’ a legitimate try, either now or later, wallet / budget permitting.

    4. Theres a bug tough for me.
      I start is and it freezes instead of showing the screen adjustment. Only reason I am holding off for now.

    5. Impressive. Looks like lots of challenging fun, and some serious depth for an XBLIG title.

    6. @Saansilt: Could be temporary. Works fine in the browser, but gave me some hiccups on an iPhone. Technology.

      @andregurov: I like how the combat is almost combo-driven now (since I last saw it), which gives you more options in building up to the ‘save beacon’. Hopefully I get my hands on this baby soon. 🙂

    7. Soon as in today? There I am wandering about Youtube when suddenly I see Splazer Productions has an Astralis gameplay vid up … it’s out! Nice surprise on hump day.

    8. Yup. I didn’t want to say for sure, since they didn’t know how long Peer Review would take, or if a bug would pop up. Astralis is up, and the Government’s (finally) got their shit (somewhat) together. Stars are aligned just right tonight, it seems. 🙂

      Enjoy.

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