When most people think of the House of the Dead series, they’ll more than likely think of the light gun games that used to be found in arcades the world over. One thing that they probably won’t think of is connecting a keyboard to the latest House of the Dead offering – The Typing of the Dead: Overkill – and killing hordes of zombies using, literally, the power of the English language.
Sure, the story isn’t much to write home about (boom, boom – Ed), but when you’re basing the entire experience on a 70’s B-Movie, you can’t really expect Shakespeare. Still, despite the story’s shortcomings, it remains hugely entertaining to watch, experience and take part in. It won’t win any awards – not by a long shot – but if you’re looking for a story that will give you a little bit of a laugh, you can’t go far wrong here.
The graphics and sound design of The Typing of the Dead are both severely lacking, although both can be excused given the subject matter of a terribly directed B-Movie. The audio, despite being awfully produced, is actually quite entertaining; the narrator giving an impressive performance throughout all of the levels and adding a huge amount to the overall feel of the game. The graphical elements are a little more difficult to forgive however. House of the Dead: Overkill didn’t look fantastic when it was released on the Nintendo Wii over four years ago, and it looks as if the developers haven’t felt the need to update anything for the new release. Models all look bad, with a shockingly low polygon count that would be just about acceptable on a Wii game from 2009, but on a PC game from 2013 it sticks out like a sore thumb. Still, it’s all about the gameplay, and that’s there in spades.
As the name would suggest, the main gameplay mechanic in The Typing of the Dead is to type the words that you see printed on the screen quickly enough to stay alive. Each of the words correlate to a single shuffling walking dead; as soon as you complete the word, the zombie for which it belongs to will fall into a messy heap on the floor. It’s as much a game of precision typing and accuracy as it is speed though, and sometimes the zombies will be relatively far away, giving you plenty of time to type the word. However, the world you’re given might be “schadenfreude” meaning you’ll have to put some thought into it before you put fingers to keys if you don’t want to be the next meat feast.
Each level you encounter takes the form of its own little B-Movie, with all of them coming together to form an overall narrative. The levels consist of you controlling whoever happens to be the main character of this particular B-Movie, taking them through the winding corridors of their environment (although, the game is on rails, so you’re never actually controlling the character’s movements) and then finishing it all off with a boss battle.
While the majority of the levels themselves are rather simplistic – asking you to just type the letters they see on the screen as soon as they appear, as quickly as you can – the boss battles can be a little bit more complex. Using the first one as an example (which can be seen in the above Let’s Play video) there are moments during the fight when you’re supposed to hold back and wait for the enemy to attack before unleashing your own barrage of bullets (or letters). This type of tactical typing is rather refreshing and would have translated well into other areas of the game but, sadly, it’s never necessary. Still, it makes the boss battles that much more memorable.
There’s no real longevity in The Typing of the Dead. Sure, you can play through the levels as many times as you want, laughing at the script and over-the-top nature of the entire thing, but once you’ve picked up all of the collectibles – something that’s pretty easy once you learn just to mash the Tab button while the character is moving – you’re only going to replay levels to increase your high score. If that’s your thing, then have at it, if not, then you’re not going to find yourself coming back for round two once you’ve gotten to the end of the “story”.
VERDICT: The Typing of the Dead is stark-raving bonkers, yes, but it’s that lunacy that keeps you wanting to play. There are moments when you’ll find yourself cringing at the action on screen, or even just the script, but there’s always that knowledge sitting in the back of your mind that the developers wanted you to be cringing, that they wanted you to think that it’s terrible. That’s the point. Games like The Typing of the Dead are only really good for a passing gimmick, something to throw on when you’re in the mood for a bit of silliness, but when you’re in the mood for something as crazy as this, it scratches that itch better than most.
GOOD. A game that scores 7/10 is worthy of note, but unworthy of fanfare. It does many things well, but only a few of them incredibly well and, despite a handful of good qualities, fresh ideas and solid mechanics, it fails to overwhelm.