Pixel Puzzles: UndeadZ
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9

After the calm experience that was Pixel Puzzles: Japan, I was quite surprised by what Pixel Puzzles: UndeadZ had in store for me. The inclusion of zombies that you have to shoot while solving jigsaw puzzles adds a whole new dimension to the game and ensures that there is never a dull moment. Fans of traditional jigsaw puzzles might not agree, but personally we loved the new action oriented elements of the game.

Gameplay: The first ever combination of peaceful jigsaw puzzles, and top down shooter gameplay.

Graphics: Gruesome zombie themed hand-drawn artwork.

Sound: Moody tunes and disturbing sound effects

Summary 9.0 Outstanding
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Pixel Puzzles: UndeadZ

Developer: Decaying Logic | Publisher: Kiss ltd | Release Date: 2014 | Genre: Casual / Indie / Strategy | Website: Official Website | Format: Digital Download

After releasing the first ever jigsaw puzzle game on Steam, Decaying Logic is back with another one, but this time there is a twist. As the name implies, the new puzzle theme is zombies, but you will be doing more than just fitting together jigsaw pieces. While you are trying to concentrate on completing the puzzles, the walking dead will come shambling towards your character, forcing you to focus on killing them and placing defenses before you can return to the puzzle.

In our review for Pixel Puzzlse: Japan we called it a nice relaxing game where you don’t have worry about quick reflexes. The same definitely does not apply for Pixel Puzzles: UndeadZ. Not only are the puzzle pictures that you have to complete far from relaxing, but the ticking time limit and frequent zombie attacks make for a much more tense experience altogether.

When I started up the game for the first time it actually took me quite a few minutes to get to the puzzles because the mini-game on the title screen where you shoot incoming zombies was so much fun. Anyone that has played the first Pixel Puzzles title or indeed completed an actual jigsaw puzzle will immediately know what to do when it comes to this game. You select a puzzle, with pieces that range from 60 to 350, and then try to fit everything together. There are 19 puzzles on offer and Decaying Logic has promised multiple free DLC puzzles in the future. I’m inclined to take their word for this as they have already released a new 220 piece puzzle for the first game.

The playing field is viewed from a top down perspective with the puzzle building taking place on the flat surface of a helicopter landing zone. The puzzle pieces are floating around in some water that surrounds the playing field while down below all the action takes place. Using the WASD keys you control a small character that has barricaded himself next to a crashed helicopter. Zombies come shambling towards him every so often and can be disposed with shots fired by pressing the spacebar. Individually the zombies don’t pose much of a threat, but you will also notice a timer ticking down and when this reaches zero you have a whole herd of zombies coming at you. You have limited bullets and your barricade won’t last forever, so the goal is to kill the zombies before they can get to your character. To give him more of a fighting chance you earn cash by placing puzzle pieces correctly and the money can then be used to buy more bullets, bombs, barricades and traps. If you are desperate you can also use some of the money to briefly reveal the puzzle.

If you squander all your cash you might end up with no bullets or barricades between you and the undead. As soon as the zombies get their claws on your character it is game over and considering how long it takes to complete some of the puzzles this is obviously something that you want to avoid at all costs. If you survive a herd attack the timer resets, which means you only have to deal with the occasional zombie until the timer reaches zero again and the herd returns.

The whole zombie shooting angle completely changes the pace and atmosphere of the game and while the earlier puzzles are still very easy you will encounter some tense showdowns on some of the larger ones. There is a real sense of panic when you are down to one bullet and you see a zombie approaching without any money in the bank. A few times I found myself frantically trying to fit together pieces in order to earn cash while a horde of zombies were chomping at my barricades. Sometimes I succeeded and used the money to buy bombs, blowing them to bits inches before they got me, and other times I was not so lucky. Not everyone who enjoys jigsaw puzzles enjoy the distraction of zombies though, so the developers are working on an update to disable the zombies for those who want a pure puzzle experience. (Note: The “Freeplay” update has indeed been released and disables the zombie menace.)

The hand-drawn artwork in Pixel Puzzles: UndeadZ is definitely not for the squeamish and features everything from evil clowns to twisted tea parties, a few decapitations and even an undead baby. As with Pixel Puzzles: Japan the puzzle piece shapes come in all kinds of crazy variations, making it quite tricky to figure out some of the combinations. As the playing field doesn’t get any bigger, the bigger puzzles have smaller pieces which increases the difficulty. Trying to find a certain pieces with weird angles while it is floating around in a river of other pieces AND trying to fend off attacking zombies at the same time is no easy feat. You can’t save your puzzles when you exit, which is a bit of a nuisance, especially for the bigger ones.

Don’t expect to hear some soothing tunes and calming noises from a shishi-odoshi like in Pixel Puzzles: Japan for this game. The background music is different for each group of puzzles and I would classify them as “atmospheric” and not mellow. The growls and moans from incoming zombies will also keep you on edge and alert you to their presence in case you get too caught up in the puzzle.

Decaying Logic could easily have released this game without the action feature so kudos to them for going the extra mile and actually trying something new with the concept. Personally, I really enjoyed the added tension caused by the zombies, but I can see how some folk might not appreciate the distraction. If you are one of those people who think jigsaw puzzles are boring, this might just be the game to change your opinion. Pixel Puzzles: UndeadZ is every bit as addictive as the first game, so be prepared to lose quite a few hours on this one.

*Review originally published June 2014.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7, Vista
  • Processor: Core 2 Duo
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: DirectX 9.0 Compatible
  • Hard Drive: 150 MB available space
  • Sound Card: Generic Sound Device
  • OS: Windows 7, Vista
  • Processor: Quad Core
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: DirectX 9.0 Compatible
  • Hard Drive: 150 MB available space
  • Sound Card: Generic Sound Device

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