The Typing of the Dead
Meat cleaver... shot gun... oh, look! A keyboard! - Review By zerothreat
The typewritten word is truly mightier than the gun. At least that’s what developer Smilebit would have you believe, as is evidenced by The Typing of the Dead, their quirky re-make of the Sega arcade (and Dreamcast) classic, The House of the Dead 2. For those unfamiliar with the original title, House of the Dead 2 pits wary, lightgun-wielding gamers against hordes of bloodthirsty zombies in a vivid, highly detailed, on-rails shooting spree. The only real difference between House of the Dead 2 and Typing of the Dead is... well... the Dreamcast keyboard. Same graphics, same vivid detail, same blown-open torsos and split-open heads as the original. However, this time, a well placed keystroke -- as opposed to a squeeze of the trigger -- can make all the difference between life and death.
They sure don't look like disco queens... maybe they're dead macho men.
This game is fun. Flat out. Players are pitted against gruesome zombies in a variety of compelling locations. When a zombie appears, a word or a phrase pops up in a little foreground window, and the player must type the word or phrase quickly and accurately before the zombie attacks, in order to defeat him. Quickly, the game becomes both a strangely cerebral and a deeply visceral experience, since every keystroke produces a loud, satisfying BLAM!, as well as a bullet in the head or chest of some sick-making undead creature. Quickly type a phrase such as "Lettuce pray," and you’ve blown off a zombie’s arms and head. Tap away at single letters, U (BLAM!), X (BLAM!), P (BLAM!) and you’ve managed to shoot down any number of fast-approaching projectiles.
Well, no, I shouldn’t say "fast-approaching." Most projectiles approach rather slowly, just as most of the enemies are slow to attack. This is a good thing, and an utterly necessary thing, as players require an ample amount of time to view the next word or phrase, cognitively process it, and respond to it. If enemies were too quick to attack, then the game would be no fun for dummies like me who need to look up at the screen, see the current word or phrase, and then look back down at the keyboard in order to type it.
Another much-appreciated aid for remedial typists like me: For the most part, players don’t need to worry at all about spacing or capitalization. If a phrase like "Don’t worry" appears on the screen, you need only tap out "don’tworry." Typing against the undead can be hairy enough without having to fumble for the spacebar or the shift key. By placing emphasis on typing only letters and punctuation, Smilebit gives casual players (or mediocre typists) a chance to get a grip on the game without stressing too much over typing mechanics.
You won't find yourself leaping in fear from zombies with silly phrases like these.
In addition to the standard "type what you see on the screen" mode of play, Smilebit has managed to throw in some additional fun and interesting challenges. For example, every stage contains a speed challenge mode, where players are required to destroy ten zombies within 30 seconds. Zombies enter the scene quickly in a line, as though they were part of a carnival shooting gallery, and the word appearing before each one is either part of a common theme or part of a rhyming pattern. Usually, at the end of each 10-word series, the designers throw the player a curve ball. You might become comfortable zipping through words like "dizzy," "tizzy," "lizzy," "grizzly," only to have "pterodactyl" meet you at the end of the string. The first time the game hit me with a change-up like that, I actually dropped my jaw and laughed out loud.
In fact, there are many opportunities to laugh all throughout the game, because many of the pop-up phrases sound like the results of an all-night Mad Libs game. They’re often bizarre and inventive, and sometimes even subversive. Some pop-up phrases arrive in a logical order and tell a bizarre story, while others actually seem to communicate with the player on a subconscious level. Other phrases such as "Graffiti is art" aren’t so subtle. As a side note, my personal favorite phrase is "brain douche." Make of it what you will.
Next: Some More Good, The Bad, and The Final Word