Dead Sky is an overhead dual stick shooter with a zombie theme and a cell shaded aesthetic that you’ll never notice, because you’re above the action. In short, the game has a lot of good mechanics I do enjoy, but the whole game is just marred by dull, uninspired level design and poor choices that make what could be an awesome game far too dull and needlessly difficult to enjoy. The game has a single player campaign, but boasts online multiplayer through a server connection, so you’ll need friends and someone to host.
I’ll start with the good. The game plays well enough and a controller is recommended. You have a trigger to shoot enemies, a left stick to walk and a right stick to aim. You have a flashlight that you can turn on or off, but since it never runs low on power, why turn it off? Then there’s one button to reload and another to interact with things. The interactions are limited and most of the time you’re picking up a weapon with the button. Other times you can pull a wall switch using the button.
To make the game more interesting, you can use the interact button to pick up and place objects that you’ll find or forge using scrap. I say forge, but its just paying to have it made. There are gun sentries, flame sentries, barbed wire barricades, bear traps and so on. It turns the game into a tower defense that I rather enjoy, even if the levels are just too dull and simple to get much out of them. The companion, and weapons do their job with the only catch being that you still need to collect things from the corpses. As well as it does its job, i question the choice of targets that the sentries make. When something is closer to them, they chose to shoot a further target. Perhaps that’s just closer to their view cone. Whatever the reason, I’d shoot the enemy beating me up than the one further away.
You’ll find a wide array of foes, most of which are inspired or taken from Resident Evil. If you’re going to take something, borrow from the best. There are arm stretching mutants, zombie attack dogs, swat zombies, electric zombies and bosses with sack heads wielding chainsaws. Other than that, there are acid sputters, exploding foes, typical zombies and a giant worm of a boss that burrows out of the ground.
There’s a diverse array of things to do with good simple mechanics to do them, such as driving sections, shooting sections, on the fly tower defense and boring turret sections. Shooting zombies from a helicopter the size of ants with a mini gun designed to shoot from the side rather than top down is a needless chore. Having a cool down mechanic only prolongs the experience.
None of it is all that fun. Shooting feels weak. You can get shotguns, flame throwers and machine guns, but it never affects the zombies in a satisfying way. They all feel equally ineffective and the zombies have the same animation cycle, so if you can get a group of them together, watch as they conga line in sync with one another. The rail gun feels effective, it goes straight through a lot of zombies and everything off screen too. To balance it out, you need to reload after each shot. Chainsaws put you in harms way, because when you get close to a zombie, they can still hit you.
You start with a trusty pistol that has unlimited ammunition, but a limited clip. Shooting feels sluggish, like its slow to empty an entire magazine. I would say that’s your character taking aim. Each of the weapons has a laser sight to ensure that you’ll hit a target if your aim is correct. Of course weapons like the rocket launcher fire projectiles, so they have a chance to miss.
There are alternate weapons that get dropped at random by zombies. You can carry one at a time and there is no way to switch between them. If you get a new weapon, you need to drop your old one. There’s limited ammunition and reloading takes quite a while. Of course, in a zombie apocalypse I’d probably take just as long to switch out a magazine. When your alternate weapon runs out of ammo its back to the pistol
Dead Sky has a few glaring issues. Nothing game breaking, but they could be improved. The first is its awful voice acting. I’d rather have bad voice acting than no voice acting, but this was a step above abysmal.There’s even an announcer to tell you pick ups like “Flame thrower,” and “Shotgun.”
The second is the lack of checkpoints for a game with no health. To some people this is a feature, until you feel just how dull the game is with its basic level design such as a cabin in the woods with a square lawn and an underground sewer that’s just a single passage with a slimy center to walk through. Having to do these over if you fail becomes a chore. If its too much, there’s always a different level of difficulty.
One of the biggest sins is the camera distance. The game keeps the screen centered on you with only about 35 – 40% to the north, which becomes an issue. I’d rather see more of where I’m going, but I suppose that’s a personal preference. This way you can see zombies creep up behind you long before they get to you.
Speaking of getting to you, sometimes the zombies are a distance away when they hit you. This is demonstrated with the game over screen that freezes the game as is so you can clearly see the distance. For a game that has no health at least early on, this is a big issue. You’ll have to compensate and just stay away from zombies, but some of these creatures will chase you faster than you can walk.
With all the negatives out there, the single player campaign ends with a cliffhanger of what looks to be a level aboard a train followed with “to be continued.” While its best to leave an audience wanting more, it feels so short and bland that its an insult to anyone that would get that far. I’d rather have a remix of areas with previously used assets than just have it cut off after six quick chapters; one of which is just a turret section. Its all just to drive you into the multiplayer.
Multiplayer is relegated to a horde mode with waves of zombies. There’s no way to select from games and that hurts the fun. You need to know a server IP to join, so you need a friend, but at least you can purchase a four pack for less than the price of three.
When you do play the game online, its a simple survival that borders on tower defense and the best mode it can be. You select from four different uninspiring and small maps that are a mere square of land and you stay alive by purchasing upgrades like health and defense. You lay down traps and turrets. Then you strive to survive. It feels just as tacked on as the entire single player campaign.
Dead Sky is a budget game that manages to feel cheap rather than a good game. It has all the right mechanics, but none of the fun. With the extensive diversity it has, its never fleshed out. You use it once then destroy and that sums up the entire experience.