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Typing of the Dead

Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Empire Interactive
Developer: Smilebit / Segasoft
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

The graphics in Typing of the Dead are a mixed bag. For one, the environments are well-detailed, with lots of different structures and whatnot in the backgrounds and the foreground, which is nice. And the various beasties that you shoot look exquisite (when you can see them past the word bubbles), with pretty much every shot of damage visible. Watching their limbs get blown off as you type their word is quite cool. However, the PC version of Typing of the Dead has a locked resolution, stuck at 640x480 or thereabouts. This is a real shame, as a higher resolution would have shown the game off much better than the somewhat jaggy look of the lower settings. Ah, well.

I have to say, I damn near snorted milk out of my nose when I saw the Dreamcasts with batteries strapped to the back of the people, along with their keyboards. Bwah!

The sound in Typing of the Dead is bad. Really bad. Really, really bad. One could compare the voice acting in it to Resident Evil, but that's almost insulting the Jill sandwich. 'Thank you' voices repeat in the same level, from both kids and adults; the characters' deliveries are horribly dry and unconvincing, and the lines they read are often ludicrous. Do yourself a favour and skip all of the cinematic scenes that the game lets you, because the plot is nonsensical anyways, and you're going to be much saner the less you have to listen to the people whine. The sound effects are passable, but not particularly stellar; the music is more noise than anything else, although a few of the tunes are decent. This is definitely a game that volume is pretty much unnecessary, unless you want to hear your misses 'ping' off of the landscape.


Gameplay:

This is one strange bird. Typing of the Dead uses--rather, abuses--both the engine and the content of House of the Dead 2, turning it into a typing challenge. Think of it as MasterType on speed, for those of you old enough to remember that program. Of course, instead of goofy little spaceships coming towards a space station, in Typing of the Dead you're blowing messy chunks into various zombie-type things in an attempt to save your bacon. And you do that by typing the words that appear in front of them.

Because this was originally a gun-based shooter, the game is entirely on rails. You're going to be automatically moving between the areas, and while it's a good idea to keep a look out for the environments, for the most part you want to concentrate on the screen so that when word bubbles appear you can start hammering away at them.

Most enemies take simple words or basic sentences, depending on how far you are into the game. Each correct letter is a 'hit', and each incorrect one is a miss. Fortunately the words don't reset if you typo, so you can bang away until you get them. If you need to switch what you're attacking--if something throws a weapon at you, for example--you can hit escape and start typing the next thing's starting character. In reality, that ability isn't necessary (for me, at least) until the last levels, when most zombies have five-word sentences for their shots and you don't have enough time to finish one before another pops up closer.

It sounds utterly bizarre, but it works very well. The game tracks your accuracy and reflexes, like any good gun game, only now it's with the keyboard. There's something appealing about wailing away on the keys in an attempt to defeat a boss, and I found myself more satisfied with Typing of the Dead than many other games I've played recently. In addition to the 'standard' mode, there's an Original Mode which lets you use items at your discretion, a Drill mode that lets you practice various skills (speed typing, accuracy, and the like), and a Boss Attack mode that is pretty much self-explanatory. There's also an unsupported two-player mode, which I unfortunately did not have a chance to try out.


Difficulty:

The game supports variable difficulty levels, which means that just about anyone should be able to find a challenge that suits them. Along with that, each level is more or less difficult, depending on the phrase and speed distributions between the zombies. Even expert typists will have their hands full at the higher difficulty levels, whereas beginning typers can have fun at the lower-numbered stages and with the difficulty level cranked down.

Game Mechanics:

You use the keyboard, you see. You type the phrases that pop up. You don't have to type spaces or capital letters, just whatever symbols are there. It works. The game never gave me any problems with respect to crashes and the like. However, those who don't read instructions may be in for a rude shock when they discover the complete lack of an interface. You have to hit Alt-F4 to quit the game, and other key combinations do various things. This is a major design no-no; even for an arcade port, you should have a pause menu or the like that lets you pick what you want to do.

Typing of the Dead is the sort of game that Smilebit and Sega are known for--crazy, strange, and hellishly entertaining. Nonetheless, this PC port is definitely inferior; with the lack of a decent interface, and the forced low resolution settings, it aspires to greatness but doesn't quite make it. Nonetheless, anyone who's looking for something completely different from the norm would do well to pick up a copy of Typing of the Dead, because it's definitely unique, even if you have played House of the Dead 2 before. Now, excuse me; I have to go rest my hands for a few hours. After wiping the floor with the last boss, my hands are rather numb.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:



Win9x/Me, P2 233, 660MB HD space, 64MB RAM, 3D accelerator card w/ 8MB RAM, 8x CD-ROM, sound card, keyboard, mouse
 

Test System:



Athlon 1.1GHz running Win98 SE, 512MB RAM, GeForce 2 GTS w/ 32MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live!, 8x DVD-ROM

Windows Tropico Windows Clive Barker's Undying

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated