I never played the original House of the Dead: Overkill when it was released because I never owned a Nintendo Wii, or a Playstation Move, so I was going into Typing of the Dead not exactly knowing what to expect. The house of the dead series has always been ridiculous, campy, and over the top; however, Typing of the Dead takes the camp in a completely different direction than the first or second games in the series.
Graphically the game isn’t very impressive, I found the lighting effects to be poor, the character models are stiff and rigid and the facial animations are sub par making the characters look unrealistic when they try to speak. However, all of these things can be easily ignored because they are not essential to the experience and actually add to the charm of the game by reinforcing the intentionally cheap 70’s slasher B movie aesthetic that the game is trying to parody.
What little story is present in the game seems to be ripped right out of the minds that brought us Grindhouse. Everything about Typing of the Dead feels like it is trying too hard to be Planet Terror, even going to such lengths as to make every time it loads display an “intermission” screen and even including a sudden “missing reel” scene. What really makes Typing of the Dead work is wrapping a typing instructor around this campy atmosphere and including lots of humor in the increasingly complicated and ludicrous phrases the game requires you to type in order to progress.
The story tropes are ripped right out of just about every exploitation slasher flick imaginable. Mad scientist, secret agents, police officer looking for revenge, Latin accents, strippers, and it still manages to include a few twists at the end that managed to catch me off guard. The issue that I found to be the most annoying is the language used by Detective Isaac Washington. There isn’t a single scene with him in it where he doesn’t go on an expletive filled rant, this happens so frequently and to such a high degree that it becomes annoying. I understand what they are trying to achieve with this character; however, I feel as if the amount of foul language is unnecessary. The use of the word “fuck” could have been toned down significantly with no obvious changes to the character’s overall effectiveness. Fortunately, this is just a very minor complaint that I had with this character; further, most of the humour in the game doesn’t actually come from the dialogue or the narrator. While playing this game I found myself laughing the hardest at some of the context aware and or self aware phrases that the game asks you to type.
Despite these drawbacks I am glad to say that actually playing the game is a very enjoyable experience. However, because of the nature of a typing instructor the game is restricted in ways a traditional, House of the Dead game would not be. The player is unable to change targets once typing a phrase has started, this inability to change targets is where the game’s difficulty comes from. Zombies will run at you at different speeds and if you aim at the first available target what you selected may not end up being the most immediate threat. The enemies that seem to pose the greatest threat to the player are the zombies which use projectiles. The phrase for attacking the zombie directly are usually displayed first, after you have already started typing the zombie will throw something at you which will have its own phrase that needs to be completed, even though the player is unable to switch targets until they complete the first phrase. In this version of the game being a little bit patient with selecting your targets can help you keep your combo going for longer.
In just about any other light gun game background zombies would be targets that could be shot; however, in this game you can only type when there are prompts for you to type. So, any time the camera is moving from one encounter to another the background zombies just stand there, not doing anything but creating a disconnect from the immediate action.
Each level ends with what are supposed to be climactic boss fights, but thanks to the restrictions imposed by the core mechanics of the game, each boss plays just like a longer normal encounter. Many of the words still seemed random, however, some boss specific phrases are added in order to add humour to the ridiculous nature of these boss encounters. I have to imagine that the normal difficulty, that I played, would pose no real challenge to anybody who played online games before the widespread adoption of voice chat services. The game does have a hardcore mode which will reset the current word or phrase if a single mistake is made and I have not tried the game on the other difficulties to see what the differences between them are.
The price to content ratio is a little bit hard to defend. Currently the game is selling for $19.99 USD on steam and I managed to finish the game on normal in only a few hours. Once the story has been completed I am not sure if there is any reason to go back to it, I have not returned to the game since I completed it. However, the original House of the Dead: Overkill is included in the package and that plays like a traditional light gun game, using the mouse to control where you shoot instead of a light gun. Currently there isn’t a demo available on steam for people interested in trying the game if they are on the fence about spending money on a game that clearly may not be for everybody.
What really matters about any game experience is whether it was fun or not and I had a blast with Typing of the Dead. I appreciate that the style, mood and stupid humour of the game is able to transform a mundane typing instructor into an enjoyable experience. The core typing mechanic utilizes a very diverse dictionary which manages to find a balance between being too challenging and too leisurely; hence, being an effective typing instructor while also being a fun game. Even if you know how to type I still think that the Typing of the Dead is worth checking out.