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Panic! Zombies! More Zombies! Picross! Shrines!

Production Panic

  • Xbox Live Indie - 240 Microsoft Points (2.04)

Among the many spirit-crushing jobs that punctuated extended periods of unemployment in the early 1990s, I worked in a rural chicken factory. Some might claim that it was character-building, but no, manning that conveyor belt made furniture delivery seem like rock stardom.

On the plus side, it may have inadvertently prepared me for Mike Enoch's (the code lead on Crackdown 2, dontchaknow) brain-breaking multi-tasking conveyor puzzler, where getting products from A to B to C and back to A keeps an egomaniac supervisor happy.

Rather like iOS gem Trainyard Express, much of it is about laying pieces of the puzzle in the appropriate orientation, but Production Panic takes it one step further by requiring you to continually fiddle around with the arrangement in order to get the job done.

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Such a harsh mistress.

Early on you might find yourself trying to direct sponge bases through an icing machine, or directing planks of wood to their appropriate carving destination before they get made into chairs. But with some of the conveyor belt parts missing, you have to use your initiative, constantly borrow from Peter to pay Paul and hastily swap and rotate sections around to make sure everything ends up where it's supposed to.

On other occasions it's all about forethought and wild multitasking, as items pour out from all directions to be redirected, coloured, then teleported to the other side and back again.

It's panic-inducing, alright, and pretty stressful too. But although it can feel a little overwhelming at times, once you get into its hectic rhythm there's perverse pleasure to be had from the punishment.

7/10

Dead Horde

Having just vigorously defended a developer's right to celebrate the undead's potential for gaming goodness, I'm now going to revert to type. Sorry.

But let me start off by saying that Dead Horde isn't that bad. It's a perfectly competent twin-stick zombie blaster, in fact. It ticks all the boxes with its moody, detailed isometric environments, co-op play (both online and local), vehicle sections and ever-evolving band of mutant freaks to battle against.

That's just the issue. It's competent. Solid. Inoffensive. Somewhere down the line, DnS Development got mired in the details and neglected to inject the spark necessary to make the run-and-gun fun.

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Flogging a Dead Horde.

For as long as your boredom threshold can take it, the game essentially involves trudging along, wiping out one gaggle of undead after another. Over the short term, this creeping dread for what's to come serves it well, and you look forward to upgrading your crappy assault rifle or maybe buying that buzzsaw.

The problem is that the sense of overfamiliarity washes over you too soon, and the game trundles along in a rut of its own making.

New, more challenging creatures enter the fray to keep you on your toes, but you're still largely just mowing down hundreds of samey enemies in the hope that it goes somewhere.

And to add the final insult, if you quit playing before you've finished the chapter, you can forget about picking up from where you left off. It's back to the start for you, sonny. This might not be so much of an issue if the levels were short and sharp. But this, along with some suspect checkpointing, quickly makes you wonder why you're not doing something more fun with your life.

5/10

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