Category Archives: Adventure

REVIEW: Dizeaze

As developer NeuronVexx’s last game on XBLIG, Dizeaze ($1.00) fits comfortably in the ‘FPS zombie survival1‘ mold that’s come before it, similar in style to the DayZ crowd and its XBLIG brethren, such as Deadburg and ApocZ. It’s a definite change of pace from the developer’s previous projects, and there’s no doubting it’s BIG.

Dizeaze - Screen

‘Big’ if we’re stating things in total, explorable land area. Dizeaze isn’t content to set things on a small or medium-sized map; it basically asks you to survive— and travel on foot— across an entire continent filled with individual towns, cities, buildings and homes. The first time you view the map, then zoom out, you’ll be a little intimidated. It’s a pretty tall task, with miles and miles of digital real estate (read: miles and miles of boring, mostly empty forests) between you and that objective, delivering ‘the cure’ for the zombie infection you find yourself surrounded by.

‘The Cure’ is Dizeaze‘s default PvE mode, letting you roam the apocalypse solo (or with up to 8 players2), while ‘Survival’ drops the pretense of story and has you surviving as long as you can against the zombies— and other players. The world of Dizeaze is predictably vacant and ransacked. You’ll find some supplies scattered around, guns with limited ammunition, but you’ll be relying mostly on melee3 weapons and tools in a fight, or better still, running away to regroup and live another day. Of course, you do find better equipment eventually, color-coded according to their strength and rarity. You can even craft and upgrade those weapons and tools, provided you have the materials (and a workbench… oh… and available backpack space) at hand.

Dizeaze also tries for survival realism. You’re not without concerns, having to monitor your food, water, and sleep levels carefully, finding homes4 and beds to rest in, budgeting supplies and traveling during the day to avoid the larger zombie hordes at night. While scavenging, you can only carry so much stuff before it weighs you down, and with each day that passes, the world changes ever so slightly, giving increased stats to all the zombies. The message is clear; you can’t be complacent or stay in one place too long.

Dizeaze - Screen2

In practice, however, it’s more annoying than suspenseful. Survival games have always walked the line between requiring little urgency and too much of it, with the gameplay and exploration aspects designed to keep you engaged while ‘putting up’ with the constant need to find new supplies and keep moving. Dizeaze as that kind of game isn’t original, ditto for the zombies, but its scope is ambitious… perhaps too ambitious. You can only jog so many miles, rummage through so many nondescript houses, and chug so many milk cartons before the whole thing starts to feel like a chore, even if you are making slow but steady progress towards a spot on the map.

Having friends to help you loot and keep you company along the way will help, but even that can only do so much to make things interesting between the slower moments. For all it does, Dizeaze reminds me a lot of Deadburg, and I can’t help but think that’s a better game to play. To be fair, there’s more than enough options and content here to justify a $1.00 purchase, yet with a little more polish and a lot more variety, Dizeaze has the potential to be something really great. As is, sometimes it just plays like busywork.


  1. There’s a third-person view as well, allowing you to switch between the two as desired. My advice? Third-person outdoors, first-person indoors. You’re welcome. 
  2. I assume, as I never found more than two or three people in a game. Dizeaze‘s game page says eight total, and I’ll say that unless proven otherwise. 
  3. Melee combat is a weak spot for the game. It’s hard to accurately predict how your attacks will hit, and if a zombie ‘stuns’ you with its attack, you’re left defenseless for a few seconds. Against a pack of enemies, and cornered, you’re pretty much screwed. 
  4. And let me say it now; zombies spawning out of the ground inside houses and buildings is bullshit! I can appreciate the added challenge and the ‘nowhere is safe’ vibe, but it’s a little much. At least with Deadburg‘s Minecraft-ian look, it made some sense. 
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REVIEW: Game of Horror

Love it or hate it, plenty of indie titles have gone after the ‘jump scare’ market on console and / or PC, to varying degrees of success. XBLIG has been no stranger to the craze, but, when done right, it provides plenty of legitimate terrors… at a legitimately cheap price point. You can go ahead and add NeuronVexx‘s Game of Horror ($1.00) to that ‘done right’ list, if only for its gleeful willingness to quicken your pulse with each passing second spent in its pitch-black mansion.

Game of Horror - Screen Confirmed: not a nice guy.

While the game is less a machine for easy jump scares1 than it is a slow-burning sense of dread at what waits for you on the other side of the door, Game of Horror does a great (albeit familiar) job of ratcheting up the tension without making things too complicated. Your objective is straightforward; some serial killer nicknamed ‘The Eviscerator’2 is tossing people into a maze-like mansion and throwing away the proverbial keys, then hunting them down for sport. Should you find said keys (think Slender-like collectathon) to unlock a series of doors and survive, you’ll be granted your freedom.

Oh, but did I mention your search and the path you take is randomized on every attempt? Starting in a very Resident Evil-ish main hall, the game closes off each portion of the mansion behind a themed door (Clubs, Hearts, Diamonds, etc.). Each area contains a handful of rooms, offices, and storage closets, with you searching all the drawers and cabinets3 along the way. Exploring one section for a key grants you access to the next, etc. etc., all while ‘The Eviscerator’ silently— and continuously— stalks you.

There’s very little music in the game, which makes the idea of that relentless pursuit and its scares that much more terrifying, hearing the approaching killer’s breath through its mask, say, or the jiggle of a door’s handle being turned. You don’t have any real means of fighting back, either. Your only options are to duck behind furniture, shut off your flashlight and pray it doesn’t see you, or try to ‘block’ the door from being opened4. You can be ‘caught’ twice, with the third time being fatal and resetting your progress.

And so it goes, until you either escape or chicken out and curl up into the fetal position in the corner (…I chose the latter). Granted it’s nothing original, but it’s unnerving and not for the faint of heart, as the description states. And that’s really the only endorsement this game’s prospective audience needs. I still can’t understand why anybody would readily commit to scaring themselves for entertainment, but Game of Horror is absolutely up to the challenge.


  1. Don’t worry; you’ll still get plenty of those. 
  2. It’s… cute, right? Yeah, you don’t earn that title by being the affable sort. 
  3. The game helpfully ‘fills in’ objects you’ve searched already, ensuring you won’t easily backtrack or waste precious time second-guessing your work. 
  4. Word to the wise, this option isn’t very reliable. Mash on the button prompt all you want, the killer getting in seems like a 50 / 50 chance either way. 

REVIEW: Deadburg

Similar to DayZ— or XBLIG’s own ApocZReanimated GamesDeadburg ($1.00) is a zombie survival adventure set in a sprawling, completely explorable world. Visually, it’s a cross between Minecraft‘s blocky environs and a more realistic look for its items and zombies1, meeting nicely somewhere in the middle of the two styles. Its idea is well-worn by now, but the end result is one of the more playable crafter / shooter types you can find on the service.

Deadburg - Screen

Staying true to the genre and those aforementioned games, your objective in Deadburg is survival. This requires the obvious finesse in combat, battling undead hordes and watching your health, but also in monitoring your food and water situation. Strangely, this zombie apocalypse overfloweth with water bottles and canned goods, making this less of a serious concern about micromanagement and more of an annoying, ‘Don’t forget to to eat and drink’ bit.

Regardless, you will certainly have no shortage of houses and stores to search for said gear. Each world ‘seed’ is procedurally-generated, granting you hundreds2 of options to loot out life-saving bandages, firearms, items, materials, etc. In fact, it’s quite overwhelming at first glance. Multi-storied homes and abandoned businesses line the zombie-filled streets. Huge skyscrapers and buildings loom in the distance, erupting upwards into your game world all Inception-like, promising their own rewards and surprises.

Deadburg - Screen2

And dangers. Zombies are keen to taste human flesh, of course, and Deadburg offers up a large collection of melee weapons and guns, ranging from sledgehammers (which doubles as your ‘pickaxe’ to break apart the buildings / blocks) and golf clubs, to pistols and assault rifles. Each comes with their own durability and damage output (or limited ammo), necessitating that usual carrot-on-the-stick strategy of continuing to explore and look for better gear.

Your avatar can effectively ‘level up’ as well, buffing skills like strength and stamina, or various attributes that will, say, give you an edge in combat, grant you night vision, or increase your odds and talents in crafting. The Minecraft-ian hook is more than just an excuse to design and / or wreck the environments, too. Build makeshift bridges to cross rooftops and avoid a fight, or stack together a barricade to block off a pack of zombies. Options abound.

Deadburg - Screen3

Pertinent info aside, the online play— seemingly one of Deadburg‘s most popular features— remains sketchy even a month after release. Up to three players can join a world (or host their own)… when that game world is stable. Lag / stutters create some issues, as does the lack of an in-game map, making it hard for players / friends to find each other and team up. The zombies, too, are literally hit and miss, featuring some wonky AI where they’ll just kind of stand around looking at you until you get close. To counter this, the game does boost their collective stats, making them stronger and more resilient with each passing day / night cycle3.

These are minor bumps in the road, however. The game gives you plenty to keep you busy and exploring, finding new crafting recipes and better weapons, and leveling up to meet the challenge. Deadburg feels ambitious, massive, and involving, its environments larger and more varied than ApocZ. It’s ultimately missing the apocalyptic presentation and the ‘human element’ of something like Survivalist, but if you’ve yet to fully scratch your ‘zombie survival’ itch, Deadburg is certainly worth a look.


  1. Some of which look like an undead Vladimir Putin, curiously. 
  2. The game’s description says ‘thousands’ of explorable buildings / homes, but I’m leaning more towards the conservative side until proven otherwise. Not that it matters; you literally won’t run out of property to search or stuff to pick up. 
  3. There’s been other issues as well, including crashes and other gameplay bugs, but the developer is working on another patch to address some of those outstanding issues. Even better news, they’re working on a new ‘Defense’ mode and other tweaks / options that will be added in a future update. Keep an eye on their site for details. 

REVIEW: Survival Games: Season 1

Given XBLIG’s recent plight, its various brushes with death, and the lack of new games worthy of a look, it’s been rare to come across a release that you can truly be excited about. Survival Games Season 1 ($1.00) is certainly unassuming at first glance, easy to pass off as another Minecraft clone. However, I can say— unequivocally— that this is one of the better games to hit the indie marketplace in 2014.

Survival Games comes across as Minecraft meets Hunger Games meets Stephen King’s Under The Dome1 meets a first-person shooter2. Yes, that’s a mouthful. It’s also a cocktail of awesome, a mashup of different styles and scenes that work rather well together. The scope of this game is impressive by any standard, but especially so for an indie. Developer 2.0 Studios has experience building crafters on the service, but they’ve truly created something great here that everyone should play. When it all runs smooth, that is.

Survival Games Season 1 - Screen

To start with, Survival Games is not a ‘block world crafter’. Despite its appearance, despite any inferred comparisons, you are not building square worlds of your own design here. Survival Games is a first-person shooter first and foremost, specializing in online PvP battles for up to sixteen players3 across a large and random landscape. All that said, it’s not the FPS components themselves that thrill, but rather the ancillary parts that join together and compliment it. While your main objective is to eliminate other players and be the last player standing (YOLO is the theme here, almost roguelike), there is more to the matter of surviving than just, well… surviving.

As the title implies, your survival depends on a multi-pronged approach. Other players aren’t your only concern. You’ve also got to manage your hunger and sleep levels, as well as a stamina meter directly tied to your actions. Things like running, jumping, and attacking all use stamina, forcing you to strike a balance and constantly look for ways to improve your lot. Survival Games is nothing if not accommodating… to an extent. You’ll have to hunt animals for food, look for berries / mushrooms in the environments, even take a nap when your energy runs low (and the coast is clear, natch). Customizable perks can mitigate some of this, or give you an advantage in other instances. A playable tutorial acquaints you with the basics, and a few matches in, you’re already (mostly) a pro.

Foraging for food applies to your weaponry and equipment as well. The randomly-drawn world contains scattered loot chests, holding a number of swords, guns, grenades, and armor, among dozens of other useful (and sometimes not-so-useful) items. You can equip new clothing to your character, playing dress up and giving a boost to certain stats, or go the ‘hypochondriac’ route and carry around a stockpile of food and / or healing items in your backpack.

All of these items are coded according to quality, including rare and epic weapons / equipment. You can draw a Ghillie suit from one, say, or a pirate outfit and eye patch from another. Night-vision goggles will give you an edge at night, as do torches, and there’s even a Harry Potter-style map that fills in as you walk and tracks other players in real-time4. While exploration and improvisation are key, combat is inevitable. To that end, the game has a ‘sudden death’ option, speeding up the fight as the dome slowly closes in on you (pro tip: don’t mess with the dome) and the other combatants.

Survival Games Season 1 - Screen2

The resulting gameplay is incredibly dynamic, allowing for a number of clever events’ and firefights. Just take this montage of moments I’ve had with the game so far— 1. Finding a hidden weapons cache behind a waterfall, Zelda-style. 2. Setting up a bear trap just inside the house I was sleeping in, killing my would-be intruder. 3. Lighting a campfire in an open field at night, then hiding in the woods and waiting for players to show up and ambush them. 4. Being killed by the very same wildcat I was hunting just a moment prior to my death. 5. C4 on a castle bridge = awesome escape from other players.

Of course, all of this requires a community to be effective, and Survival Games has the beginnings of one. As host, you can tweak a number of game factors, including starting loadouts, map size, player counts, and modifiers to the hunger / sleep component. On the flip side, this amount of choice, as well as its ambitious design, comes with some serious drawbacks. I was routinely dropped from matches (particularly those with more players), the game crashed on me a few times, and there’s noticeable lag that can pop up at any time. These issues will undoubtedly be settled in future updates, but it’s worth noting the game is far from perfect in its current form.

Online hiccups and other issues aside, Survival Games Season 1 is the best reason in a long time to come back to XBLIG. While its options and game modes may ultimately be finite, its more unique elements and random outcomes promise almost limitless possibilities. Fun is a constant. If you have a dollar, a few friends, and a bit of patience, you owe it to yourself to spend it here.


  1. The book, anyway. It’s 1,000 pages long, but an excellent read. I can’t vouch for the ongoing TV series. 
  2. I’m sure there’s plenty of mods / tweaks for Minecraft on PC that do this already, but it’s a console first, as far as I know. Yes, Avatar Survival Games did the Hunger Games first, but nowhere near the size and scale that’s on display here. 
  3. I regularly found games with five to six players, even a few that ran up to ten(!). By XBLIG standards, this is good. 
  4. Mischief managed. 

REVIEW: Avatar of the Dead

Just by exiting the starting gate of marketplace publication, Avatar of the Dead ($1.00) has a huge advantage. I mean, sure, zombies, but if the continued popularity of ApocZ is anything to go by, then people can’t get enough of the PvE1 / PvP these types of open world games specialize in. That said, while the undead are more of an afterthought or bonus in games like ApocZ and the like, with players focused on robbing and killing each other2, Avatar of the Dead runs into the same fate as all online-based XBLIGs do these days…

… with that being that nobody’s home. So, despite the potential (or murderous free-for-all) of eight-player co-op, odds are you’ll only have the offline, single-player portion of Avatar of the Dead to play with. Just you versus a horde of bloodthirsty zombies. How does that work out, you might ask? Well, sometimes… not so good.

Awkward, occasionally-broken combat aside, the setup here is straightforward and well-traveled; survive against a world of zombies, scrounging weapons from the surrounding exteriors of homes and barns. Don’t mistake that self-supplied mission objective for an actual objective, though. There is no statement of purpose, no score-keeping in Avatar of the Dead, no progress markers, no HUD even, to clue you in on what you’re supposed to be doing. You simply exist, slay some zombies until you die, then respawn next to a lonely van in the middle of nowhere and repeat.

Weapons consist of the usual melee tools, like a shovel or hatchet, and a pistol with unlimited ammo3. The ‘open world’ itself is quite limited in design, mostly featureless prairie in all directions. The few buildings that do dot the landscape may harbor a weapon, but there’s otherwise nothing of interest to see here. While ApocZ at least had the ‘survival’ part of its plan down, gathering supplies and watching out for your health, Avatar of the Dead is really just an arena to test out some weapons in. Sadly, it’s not even very good at that.

The zombies lack any kind of killer instinct, sometimes not even bothering to come after you. When they do, it’s relatively easy to dispatch them with whatever is at hand (your fists do just fine). Unfortunately, your sense of accomplishment at doing so will be muted at best. It’s not your fault. Any kind of tension or fear is lost when the walking dead wear bright, neon clothing(!), which is just as ridiculous and undercooked as the rest of the game.

Try as it does to be relevant and timely, Avatar of the Dead is a mess of a game, a shadow of the much better games it’s based on. While the scarcity of online players on XBLIG is something to lament, in the case of this game, I’d like to think of it as a blessing in disguise.


  1. Er… PvZ, that is. And that’s ‘Player versus Zombie’, by the way. Not to be confused with Plants Vs. Zombies, or its FPS spinoff, Garden Warfare, which is a whole other deal. 
  2. Once again, I weep for the lack of decency / empathy in the human race, even in fictional circumstances. So it goes. 
  3. That’s really more like a compact sniper rifle. I was picking off one-pixel tall zombies from a massive distance. Where the hell do you get a gun like this, and can I transfer it over to my Warlock character in Destiny