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A girl, a puppy and a lot of zombies

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This is about a girl and her puppy and zombies, lots and lots of zombies.

In Dead Years you play the role of an amnesiac young woman who finds herself dropped into the middle of a broken world with her pet dog.

"The game starts with a girl landing in a parachute in this crazy empty world," said Natalie Petkova, art director at developer Zero Byte. "She loses some of her memory."

So when you start to play, neither you nor the woman you control know why the world is now peopled by zombies, but it has apparently been that way for a long time.

"It happened a long time ago," Petkova said. "This is far beyond the apocalypse."

The key to remembering is to explore the world and, with the help of your dog, start to regain what you lost.

"She tries to regain her understanding of how the world became the world it is now and the dog is an importnt part of that," Petkova said. "A very important part of the game. It's a game of two. The dog is not just a companion, it's a very, very important character. It can level up, be trained to go on missions, track scents. Find NPC."

And the dog isn't just there to help you survive physically, it's also a big part of the story.

"It helps the girl to survive and has a deep emotional connection to her," Petkova said.

The game is designed not to play out linearly, though. Instead, players take on the duo and explore an open world, occasionally coming up in things that create playable flashbacks, each a piece of the puzzle to what happened.

"Some are from when the girl was younger and the dog was a puppy," she said. "She will try to understand what happened. The dog is kind of a solution for her."

deadyears

Shown on the floor of PAX East, Dead Years remains a little rough around the edges, but shows great potential. The cel-shaded art style compliments the retro feel of the game nicely and customization of your character, is a nice addition.

I spent a bit of time wandering around a single town, checking out what was inside buildings, finishing quick missions for rewards like a handgun and trying not to be killed by the roaming zombies.

In the game's menu, players can assign clothing and armor to the woman, switch out weapons and set your dog to different modes that make him more or less aggressive. It looks like the dog also has the ability to level up to add new abilities.

A tap of the shift button lets you switch between the two characters, so you can play as either the woman or the dog.

The game is expected to go to early access by the end of the summer on Steam for Windows, Mac and Linux.

While the team knows they have a lot to do to finish up the main title, they're also already thinking of some new ways to add to the game.

Petkova said that one of those ideas is to allow for customization of the dog.

"We want to maybe expand the dog," she said. "Let players choose if it's male or female and its breed. We have talked about letting you import your own dog, so you can feel more of the emotional involvement."