Back on the PlayStation 3, the PixelJunk games were a staple of the digital offerings on the PlayStation Store. Whether it was Racers, Monsters, Eden, or the ever-popular Shooter titles, each game managed to bring something new to the table and make it fun. Developer Q-Games is now looking to continue that mythos in virtual reality with PixelJunk VR Dead Hungry, a game that blends fastfood with the zombie horde. It sounds good on greaseproof paper, but does this hodgepodge manage to cook up a storm?
Most undead swarms crave the taste of human flesh, but in Dead Hungry, all they want is a bit of fast food. Armed with a food truck, it’s your job to distribute those calories out to as many zombies as possible. Burgers are stacked onto the grill, pizzas cooked in the oven, chips fried, fizzy drinks are topped up, and when any one of those are ready, it’s time to chuck it out to an undead member to cure them and turn them back into a human.
With the amount of items you can have cooking at any one time, the game quickly becomes about managing meters. Once the green bar fills up above an individual item, it’s ready to be served. But if you leave it under the heat for too long then that pizza in the oven will start to burn and eventually set on fire. This of course doesn’t satisfy the zombie’s hunger when eaten, and so being aware of how quickly your food is cooking is essential.
The cooking mechanic gets its depth from the burger customisation, with a nicely designed hamburger curing a zombie much quicker than a basic one would. You can add lettuce, tomato, cheese, and even more patties to your creation, along with condiments. This turns up the ludicrousness of the game even more as you can create giant burgers that would put the eating challenges at your local pub to shame.
Micro-managing every piece of meat on the simmer can become stressful when you have multiple undead legionnaires gaining ground on your food truck, but it remains a fun concept throughout. Controlling everything with the PlayStation Move sticks is simple thanks to a simple hold of the trigger button to pick anything up, and the headset itself is well positioned within the truck to give easy access to every piece of apparatus.
It’s unfortunate then that everything presented to you on the first level is the exact same as what’s on offer in the finale. You won’t gain access to any new foods to cook or another accessory for a burger as you progress, and so it’s easy for a repetitious feeling to set in. What is there is fun from the outset but you’ll be left wanting more in the latter stages of the experience.
The game splits itself up into 30 stages, all of which considerably rank up in difficulty as you progress. Every so often a stage will through a few modifications into the mix, such as lower zombie HP but they move much quicker, or the title will throw you a bone and simply quicken the time it takes for food to cook. A few new enemies are also introduced such as a much fatter zombie who must consume a lot more food than any regular foe to be cured, and a mega zombie which acts as a boss fight.
This variety is welcomed, but it’s not carried over into the location itself. Every single stage takes place on the same backdrop of a generic street with other food stalls along the side. It works for the first few stages, but new locales were sorely needed half an hour into our time with the game. As you can imagine, stretching the same exact road across another four to five hours means that Dead Hungry lacks any sort of visual appeal.
While the visuals lack interest, the audible side of things fares much better. A cheesy heavy metal soundtrack encompasses the whole experience and just adds another layer to the absurdity of it all. It complements each stage with ripping songs that will get your foot tapping as you cook a burger or two, whether you like it or not. One neat little touch is that you can swap out tapes found inside the food truck and put them into the radio present to change songs. Furthermore, you can get rid of any music altogether by throwing the radio at an enemy and they’ll gobble it up. These zombies really will eat anything.
PixelJunk VR Dead Hungry offers a fun combination of zombie curing and food management to create an enjoyable VR experience. Unfortunately, the lack of gameplay variety means that the repetitious nature of the game sets in a little too quickly resulting in anything past the few hours feeling like too much of a slog.