Indie Quickie: Pixel Puzzles: UndeadZ

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? A jigsaw puzzle game…with zombies!

Who made it and where can you get it? Decaying Logic and KISS Ltd. are selling the game on Steam for $6.99, with a 33% off discount available during the summer sale until June 30th.

How much did we play? Solved 7 of the 19 currently available puzzles in slightly less than two hours. According to the Steam page, more puzzles will be added as free DLC in the future.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements or other details you should know about? All of the pieces seem to fit together without any major concerns. The game has windowed and full screen viewing options, but doesn’t offer any resolution settings or customization, for those who care about such things.

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Why should you play it?

    First-person shooters combined with real-time strategy. Platformers with rogue-like elements. JRPG turn-based battles streamlined into a runner format. Genre hybrids come in all shapes and sizes. But just when it seemed like every possible genre combination had been attempted, in drops Pixel Puzzles: UndeadZ, a traditional jigsaw puzzle game with a zombie apocalypse twist. How many of you saw that coming?

    This game is way more than just jigsaw puzzles with gruesome (and actually kind of humorous) imagery of a hobo zombie pushing around a grocery cart full of entrails or a little zombie girl snacking on brains and sipping a spot of blood in a stuffed animal tea party gone horribly wrong. At the same time you are plucking jigsaw pieces from a watery moat area bordering the top half of the puzzle board and figuring out where to slot them to complete the image, a persistent top-down zombie survival shooter is occurring along the bottom of the screen. A little survivor dude is bunkered behind a barrier in a small boxed off area at the bottom-right corner connected to an alleyway which stretches all the way across to the bottom-left corner. Zombies will periodically mosey on down the path and attempt to breach the barrier at the far end, while you move the survivor guy around using the WASD keys and fire off rifle shots with the spacebar or lob grenades with the Q key. A timer can also be seen ticking down, and when the clock strikes zero a full on zombie onslaught begins. If you thwart the attack, the countdown starts all over again and the waves repeat until the puzzle is finished. If at any time a zombie breaks through the barrier and eats the survivor, the game ends.

    The zombie shooter element is a fairly shallow add-on, but it does bring a greater sense of urgency to the relaxed mental stimulation of doing a traditional jigsaw as you use the mouse to drag and drop puzzle pieces while simultaneously keeping an eye out on what the zombies are up to below. It’s also neat how the two mechanics are unified by an upgrade system which randomly awards Zombucks as puzzle pieces are properly placed. This funny money can then be used to purchase extra rifle and grenade ammo, claymores and additional barriers to place along the zombie alley, or puzzle hints which temporarily overlay the completed puzzle picture on the board to make it easier to identify where pieces go, which can be pretty tough without the help, because many of the puzzles contain pieces with interlocking edges that are cut very differently from a normal jigsaw pattern. The combination probably sounds weird, but the two vastly different gameplay styles really do work well together.

Parting Thoughts: If the whole zombie shooter thing doesn’t do much for you, a free play mode makes the puzzles playable in a safe environment where the zombie plague has not yet broken out. The survival element provides a clever hook should you choose to use it, but at the end of the day this newest installment in the Pixel Puzzles series (be sure to check out Pixel Puzzles: Japan) lives on its solid core jigsaw mechanic. And that’s the great thing about this game. If you find traditional jigsaw puzzles too slow and dull, UndeadZ amps up the excitement to help keep you engaged. But if you like your jigsaw puzzles the way they’ve been done for centuries, without all the bells and whistles, you are free to play that way, too. My only real gripe is the occasional inconsistency with puzzle piece selection. Since the pieces are always in motion floating around in the moat selection pool, it’s common to see a piece and attempt to grab it only to have the mouse cursor latch onto another piece that you couldn’t see right next to or even underneath it. Perhaps a scroll wheel zoom function could be added so it would be a little easier to distinguish the pieces from one another. A suspend feature sure would be nice as well to save puzzle progress should you have to suddenly quit out before completing a level. The early 60 to 112 piece puzzles don’t take much time, but once the puzzles with pieces in the multiple hundreds come around I have a feeling the option to quick save would prove helpful for a lot of players. Even on one of the shorter levels, I had to scrap a half-completed puzzle and quit the game to take care of something else. At least the game has been fun enough that I didn’t mind starting over again.

Disclosure: A free Steam key for Pixel Puzzles: UndeadZ was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s developer.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!