LifeisXbox’s Heaven Dust review | You may not know about it, but zombies in games are older than most of the game icons we have today. Looking on the internet, I discover that the first game to include zombies was Entombed, a game released in 1982 to Atari 26000 – making it older than me. With a few exceptions, we’ve seen a new zombie game hit the shelves every year after that with some great titles in the list that reshaped the genre, age after age. The most famous of them? Resident Evil, of course, which first released in 1996. But why I’m telling you all this story? Well, that’s because, like me, the team behind Heaven Dust is a great fan of the series!
Developed by the Chinese studio One Gruel Studio and published by Monster Couch and indienova, Heaven Dust is a love letter to the 96’s classic. Playing as a survivor locked in a mansion full of zombies, it’s up to you to discover what happened in this place and find your way out! Look for weapons to defend yourself while solving many puzzles that this mansion hides for you. But what are they trying to hide behind these walls – and most important: what went wrong here? Let’s look for answers in this review!
Raf spent around 6 hours on his Xbox One X fighting zombies and solving puzzles in Heaven Dust. Know that you can also enjoy it on PCs (Steam) and Nintendo Switch.
What we liked!
- Visuals | Instead of using a camera positioned over the shoulder of our character or in fixed spots in each room, Heaven Dust uses an isometric view that gives an interesting new aspect to the genre – and what’s even better, with no loading screens as you explore the mansion! The rooms and environments you explore are simple but still entertaining and quite satisfactory. I just think that some visual effects from the game are overly simplistic, unlike scenarios and enemies that show a good detail level. Nonetheless, it’s a pleasing experience to the eyes.
- Audio | Like the vast majority of survival games, Heaven Dust prioritizes the ambiance’s sound instead of music during its gameplay. Although simple, I must say that the sound design worked perfectly for this game! The sound effects of your footsteps, your gun, and the zombie groans are all really well implemented.
- Different endings | Heaven Dust isn’t a very long game. Still, it offers different outcomes to the adventure, giving it some precious replay value. And good luck to you if you want to get that sweet 1000 G in this game: you need to be a true ninja to finish this game, killing no more than three enemies in less than 30 minutes and not loading your game. I honestly have no idea if it’s even possible to be done.
- Gameplay | Like the classic that inspired it, the gameplay in Heaven Dust is very slow-paced. You will be running up and down in the mansion where you are trapped, looking for clues and items to solve the puzzles in your way. As your inventory is very limited, you will constantly need to visit safe areas to store some of your things. And guess what? These safe areas contain a magical chest (THAT same magical chest from the Resident Evil series) interconnected with other rooms where you can store items to be used later. To solve its many puzzles, you will count on clues scattered in rooms and documents all over the mansion. A few of them gave some headache, but the majority of these puzzles are very simple: push a box, press a series of buttons in the correct sequence, or (the vast majority of them) input the valid number on a terminal. Nothing particularly new or remarkable.
- Combat | On Heaven Dust – like many other survival games – you can opt for a stealth/sneaky approach, avoiding the zombies at all costs. Or you can choose to eliminate every one of them that crosses your path. To do so, you will count on your faithful pistol – the only weapon available for you. As the ammo is pretty scarce, you will not want to miss any shots. Thankfully, the game will help you with an auto-aim that always targets the closest zombie. Unfortunately, you can’t aim at their limbs or heads looking for headshots. Your encounters with enemies will consist of holding the weapon button and pressing the trigger to fire it, hoping for a critical hit. The simplicity of the combat system took away a significant part of the fun of the game.
- Story | One Gruel Studio clearly opted to play in the safe zone with Heaven Dust. We’ve all already seen this story before – dozens of times, if I may: an experiment that went wrong and infected everyone in the place. And I’m not even giving spoilers here – just stating what you will discover in the right on the first minutes of gameplay. I’m not saying that the game’s story is a bad one. Still, after so many different games telling this same story, I wished they have taken a different approach or, at least, expanded it a little bit.
- Vending machines | One of my biggest surprises with this game was the presence of vending machines in this mansion. From them, you can buy gun-powder to make ammo for your gun, upgrades, maps of the estate, and tips on how to solve the puzzles on your way. To purchase these items, you will need to gather money from the body of fallen enemies. I have no problem with them, but it makes no sense to have this resource available in this game world. It simply doesn’t fit.
What we disliked
- Enemy variation | Or actually, the absence of variation in enemies. From the moment you start the game to the moment you finish it, you will be fighting the same sort of enemies: workers and scientists turned into zombies. The same enemy with 3 or 4 different skins. It makes sense in the game’s world, but it made me lack variety in this game. Well, maybe it’s just because other titles spoiled me, and I was waiting for some zombie dogs or zombie frogs… I’ll never know.
- Playing too safe | The thing that most disappointed me on Heaven Dust is that One Gruel Studio played too safe with it. The studio clearly intended to make a homage, a reinterpretation of the Resident Evil series. Still, it added little to the old formula of puzzles, low ammo, and running away from zombies. It is a formula we all know and love, but it has already been overused over the years.
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With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.