the Typing of the Dead Front Cover

The Typing of the Dead Review


October 26th, 2012

Posted in Reviews

Typically, this type of terse tedium treads terribly towards turning the task of typing to travailing troubles.

You do not generally jump at the chance to use a keyboard, often less now that most communication is thrown about by telephones using evolved languages that are bereft of punctuation and actual words. It’s a rather mundane experience that even grandma can do.We are taught how to use one in school, and most jobs require you to be able to at least finger peck the thing to death, words per minute be damned. So to have such a pleasantly enjoyable and skill testing experience with that pedestrian and button filled monstrosity further proves just how golden of an age the Dreamcast was in.

Previously, SEGA and the Typing of the Dead developer Smilebit were comfortable arming players with some sort of fire arm to dispatch robots, criminals or mutant scum whenever the idea for a new light gun game would arise. This makes sense, and gives players that one-to-one gameplay experience of blasting down enemies as if they were looking down a firing range at moving targets. So why change that weapon into something that ordinarily can only hurt people with evil thoughts and a sailor mouthed vocabulary? Because taking chunks out of these mutants with the compound word CROTCH-LESS is way more satisfying.

Explaining the mechanics of the game is rather simple: this is basically the House of the Dead 2 without a gun. Words or phrases (and in one boss battle, questions) appear in a window on-screen corresponding to a particular creature that must be taken down before they can reach you and remove health from your vitality gauge. To dispose of them, simply type what is in the window as quickly and perfectly as possible in that time limit and the creature will stagger or melt into a bubbly puddle of goo, advancing the game forward. Chain together multiple “perfect types” successfully and your points multiplier increases and the Bonus Gauge fills up, ultimately netting you an additional life.

Once you get a hang of punctuating the monster’s attempts at murdering you, four or five words at a time, the game pulls you into what I refer to as ‘Zen-Mode’.

Reaching into the deepest neurological control centers of your inner being, once Zen-Mode is activated all activity outside of the game world is no longer existent. Time is seemingly stopped; your body is in stasis, you are no longer holding a controller (keyboard), your mind is vacant of all thoughts and your being is in a void. Empty save for the one thing all of your energy is focused on, the game.

During my years of gaming, only a few games have ever brought me to the point of Zen-Mode. Tetris, perhaps the definitive video game, is synonymous with this state of being and is pretty much required to stand a chance against the instantaneous appearance of blocks on high levels. Getting your rhythm and flawless typing in sync while having split seconds of reaction time in the Typing of the Dead requires such play, and I am often just too bad to achieve it. My typing skills are fairly poor and I never actually learned how to Touch Type. Add in the fright of having multiple monstrosities at once and hearing their footsteps accelerating closer puts me into a panic and I often blank out on keys, which results in the whole thing turning into a mess and the Game Over screen. But I love it. The game is purely skill, any faults are on myself and my buttery fingers. This is the trait of a timeless and satisfying game, where only the start of my own crude typing skills and the evolution into a master typist will leave me happy and fulfilled.

Instead of a carnival-like experience that a traditional light-gun game provides, playing the House of the Dead 2 with a keyboard expands the gameplay into a more tactile and explosively reactionary mind game. What was once a three step action (see enemy, point gun, shoot) is now something that requires sometimes 20 or more button presses along with seeing and successfully translating and transferring the information on screen via the keyboard, sometimes within 5 seconds. With a total of 67 variables found in the alphanumeric collection the game uses to generate all of the vocabulary it throws at you, including symbols with modifier keys, the chance to make a mistake is incredibly high. Thankfully, there is no need to capitalize proper nouns or the beginning of sentences, but don’t think that the apostrophes in FLIRT’N’SQUIRT can be ignored, otherwise you’ll be suffering like G did.

Existing as a video game, the Typing of the Dead improves and magnifies the fun of an on rails light-gun game using the most unique weapon and a skill often lauded only on a résumé for an office job. By taking these two disparate elements it creates something so fresh and stimulating that it never grows old. However, it also exists as a training device that gives the player a real-world skill few (if any) games offer, and does it intensely engagingly with production that is entertaining and masterful. The Dreamcast is the last point in gaming to offer simply skillful and original experiences full of flavor and love. Games were full of life and radical gameplay, which can’t be any more apparent than one about shooting dead monsters with a keyboard.

note: This game was purchased recently and played for the first time after procrastinating for years to buy it. It was a mistake waiting so long. I currently cannot beat Arcade or Original Mode even on Easy, which is sad, but I’m still trying for hours repeatedly. Drill Mode and Tutorial Mode have been cleared, and replayed ad nauseam to increase my skills. SEGA Typing Proficiency as of now is averaging a B-. The game has two-player but requires an additional keyboard, which I don’t have.

Presentation 7.0 Sharp and clean disc art, decent cover but really clever writing on the package and in-game tutorials. Simple and clear menus are intuitive to navigate using the keyboard with classic SEGA design.
Gameplay 10 The game puts all the work on me and my ability, the result of rock-solid perfect gameplay.
Graphics 9.0 There is a reason these assets have been reused years later and still look modern. Expertly crafted environments and monster designs that are unforgettable, the Dreamcast backpack is worn with pride and it shows.
Sound 8.0 Help, ME! The dogs of the AMS and any survivors are still laugh-out-loud (lol) funny, but Goldman steals the show. Gun shot sounds are tasty and the now classic House of the Dead music fills the experience with suspense and energy.
Lasting Appeal 9.0 Infinite replay value in improving and then maintaining your typing skills. The sharpening of my reaction time and the testing of my reflexes goes beyond playing the game and aids me in the real world, not only in typing.