Dead Stop is a tower defense game with a delightful twist: Imagine if Doc Brown from the Back to the Future movies was faced with defending himself against an army of zombies, and designed all sorts of crazy-but-cool, high-tech contraptions in order to do it.
Of course it isn’t the Doctor Emmett L. Brown, but the wild-haired mad scientist put in his place is close enough. Meanwhile, you get to be an unseen Marty McFly of sorts, who instead of traveling across the history of Hill Valley, does all the legwork of choosing which devices to use and where to impede the oncoming horde of zombies, lest they reach the innocent people at the goal.
Welcome to Camp Zombie. We have clean bathrooms and activities for the kids!
Thankfully, these zombies are only able to follow worn and paved pathways, leaving you any empty spot along the path to place your devices: turrets, multidirectional blasters, lasers, frost-blasters, and bear traps– er, “snares.” Most of these can be upgraded by one level, increasing their power and efficiency, or you can sell them off as necessary to help further fund your defenses. Unfortunately, you cannot move them once they’ve been placed, which can be detrimental thanks to the sometimes-iffy touch controls.
As zombies are mowed down, you collect coins to buy or upgrade more weapons and items, though some must be collected by touching them on the screen. Among the touchable coins, you sometimes also get items such as lightning bolts for frying zombies, ice to freeze them in solid blocks, teleporters, turret enhancers, and so on. You also have opportunities to blow up some of the local scenery in order to earn yet more coins.
Scattered throughout the levels are the occasional stages where you don’t have to place turrets. Instead, you chase zombies with lightning, or place snares in the path of zombies moving randomly through a tightly-woven network of paths. Unfortunately, these present a strange aspect of the game: a well-assembled arrangement of turrets and traps can require little interaction at all and be a lot of fun as your best-laid plans take care of everything, while the potentially more interactive turret-less one-offs just aren’t as much fun to play.
The biggest detriment to the game is that the touch controls don’t always work as you would like. Sometimes you’ll try to place a snare in a desperate bid to kill that one zombie who got past the other defenses, only for the game not to recognize your tap and allow the zombie to wander on, dropping your rank by one star. In some cases, you’ll want to destroy certain parts of the scenery, only to have the controls not respond right, or alternately, try to shift those same turrets back to the zombies.
Overall, Dead Stop is a fun game and a good one, though not quite great. If you’ve played tower defense games before, you have a decent idea of the standard ups and downs that come with the genre. And while this one manages to throw in a few twists, they sometimes work as much against the game as they do for it.