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A Shambling Mess: Trapped Dead: Lockdown Review
Trapped Dead: Lockdown is the sequel to Crenetic’s 2011 indie title Trapped Dead. Reception for this first entry was rather poor– main reason being the plethora of bugs that plagued it. I feel this drew attention away from the fact that the game itself was generally boring, an attribute that the sequel hasn’t shaken off. Either way, Headup Games (the previous publishers) seem to feel that the IP deserves another shot. With development being handed off to BigMoon Studios, Trapped Dead: Lockdown is a third-person isometric zombie romp with a shallow progression system, pointless equipment, and stale combat.
Amazingly, the combat is more dull than Dynasty Warriors. You have two choices when it comes to fighting the undead: melee or ranged. This translates into either doing a one step waltz with every single enemy, or playing run around the magical merry-go-round. The weapons themselves are unremarkable and give no real satisfaction. All of them are purchasable from a teleporting tramp who charges you $200 for a burger that he presumably fashioned from some poor jerk’s corpse.
To make things worse, the enemy types are lacking. Differences between them inconsequential, and every boss (aside from their appearance) is one of two archetypes. You guessed it. Melee or ranged. By the one hour mark, players will have encountered nearly every adversary and obstacle the game has to offer. The UI deserves a special mention for being an absolute nightmare to control when using a gamepad.
Lockdown really doesn’t do itself any favors. Being as drawn out as Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy is, surprisingly, not a good thing for pacing. The story progression pulls Mario’s “wrong castle” stunt on three consecutive occasions. Each time I was optimistic the game was about to end, I’d have no such luck. The character (read: macguffin) I had been looking for throughout the game was always somewhere else. The game should have just informed me with Toads– at least then I might’ve laughed at the absurdity of it all.
The aesthetic is serviceable but the writing is corny. The whole game screams “B-movie.” If only BigMoon had taken themselves less seriously and embraced parody like the brilliant House of the Dead: Overkill, I might have enjoyed something out of this tedious affair. That being said, the game’s resident pimp Big Baws gives a entertaining performance. While players run into this larger-than-life quest giver only a handful of times, his ostentatious limo and dialogue always made me crack a smile. It’s a bit like when the resident office idiot tells his only funny joke of the month.
Any sort of progression through the RPG-lite mechanic is meaningless. Your character levels up every twenty minutes or so after killing a abundance of zombies. All this means is you now have to fight with the awkward menu controls (again, an astounding feat) to assign fifty points in a chosen stat. Your options are a simple damage increase for whichever combat role you have chosen. The choice is arbitrary, and only someone severely hammered could incorrectly spec their character.
After every level up players are also given an ability to assign points as they see fit. These can be new attacks, buffs or yet more damage increases. It really doesn’t matter what you choose because by the end of the game you have them all unlocked anyway. You can only assign two attacks and a few abilities at a time. Any wish to change your loadout involves opening the menu and fighting with the UI again. Simply having the option to create pre-made loadouts and switch between them with a single button press would have made combat vastly more interesting.
Hope remains though. Trapped Dead: Lockdown features multiplayer, allowing you to choose from various characters such as the Marine, Assassin, Exorcist, Marshal, or Cleric. Play through the campaign alongside your friends. Unfortunately, even that can’t save you from the flawed game design. The entire enterprise, solo or co-op, remains fundamentally a chore. This is only exacerbated by the eight-hour runtime. The music is bland, uninspired and monotonous. One track did remind me of Legacy of Kain though, which granted me thirty blissful minutes of reminiscence. So that was nice.
On the plus side, the occasional eruption of blood is quite pleasing, the controls are responsive throughout, and the two segments that allowed use of a vehicle was, while short, incredibly enjoyable. The only bug I noticed was occasionally character’s animations glitched out, making attacking impossible. None of these aspects redeem Trapped Dead: Lockdown enough for me to recommend it. Play Torchlight 2 instead.
This review is based on a review copy of Trapped Dead: Lockdown by Bigmoon Studios, played on the PC using a gamepad.