It’s nice to see a game that takes the worn cliché of zombies and does something different with it. In Dead Eyes, you’re not going to be shooting them, or jumping over their heads, or making a fire to ward them off. Rather than take the action or survival route, Dead Eyes is a puzzle game that tasks you to get to the end of a level without getting eaten.
Its main mechanic is this: for every tile you move, the zombies on screen move one as well, and if you and the zombie reach the same tile simultaneously, you die. It’s a turn-based affair, giving you ample time to plan out your every move, and you’re going to need to. Each of the four episodes start simple enough, as they introduce you to new stage mechanics and zombie types. The early levels are as easy as taking the only path and walking straight to the end with no resistance or thought, allowing you to observe the zombies to prepare yourself for later levels. The difficulty soon ramps up, and you’re forced to plan out the perfect path in order to progress to the next level, and its immensely satisfying when you do.
You can make the game much easier by ignoring the optional challenges that each level contains; these range from collecting all gas tanks, to saving the civilians, to reaching the end within a certain amount of moves. But by avoiding these challenges, you’re missing out on some cleverly designed puzzles, and completing all of them in the special stages will unlock journal entries which add some flavor to the world.
There’s a lot of content on offer here, with more than 100 levels to wrack your brain around, but if there’s one thing the game lacks, its variety. For being the only obstacle in the game, there are a disappointing number of zombie types; only four. With each episode consisting of around twenty levels, there are long stretches where nothing new is thrown at you, and you’re trekking through similar looking environments. Because of this, it’s easy to become bored. Thankfully, the puzzles are enjoyable enough to alleviate this feeling, and there are level mechanics that make up for the lack of zombie types, such as manholes that take you from one part of the level to another, and fences that open after a certain amount of moves.
There is a story in the game, but it’s hardly worth mentioning. You’re just a boy named Jack who gets caught in a bad situation and must stay alive, while meeting other survivors on the way, such as an ex-sheriff whose motives are unclear. But what is worth mentioning is the poorly translated script. There are several lines that don’t make sense, like “he seemed to have no will to rescue me from this hell. In fact there’s no other way to do anything in this situation.” An odd pairing of sentences. After browsing the developer’s website, it’s apparent that they’re not native English speakers, and since you’re likely not playing for the story, it’s easy to let slide.
Although it might outstay its welcome, Dead Eyes is a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle game. Its mechanics are well implemented, and the puzzles are a pleasure to try and figure out. It’s a unique take on the zombie trope, and one that you should check out.
Is it Hardcore?
A dark and moody art style coupled with well-designed puzzles.