i only paid fifteen bucks for this!

the background

First of all, I didn’t even pay fifteen bucks. Including S&H, it was $14.90.

One of the games that really made me /want/ a Dreamcast to begin with was Typing of the Dead. I wasn’t a big House of the Dead fan. To be totally honest, I didn’t even like the game. It was fun to watch a good player play HOTD, but I wasn’t any good. There are some shooting games at which I’ve excelled, and some at which I stink. I stunk at HOTD, and I didn’t enjoy the game enough to dump an endless supply of quarters into it. I played Ms. Pac-Man or Puzzle Fighter instead.

Still, it was a zombie game, and I am a /serious/ sucker for zombies.

When I saw IGN’s announcement that there was going to be a HOTD spin-off /typing game/, I was amazed and elated. I /like/ typing games. This may well be due to the fact that typing is one of the few things at which I really excel, compared to most gamers. It also may well be because I used to play kiddie typing games on my old TI-99. At any rate, the prospect of a modern, console typing game blew my mind. I had to have it, even if I didn’t have a DC. Eventually, though, I broke down and got the DC – but /no one/ had Typing of the Dead around. It was only on eBay, and I didn’t like the prices. Was I nuts for buying a system largely for one game and then putting off buying the game when it cost $30? Probably.

After a few months, though, there was a price drop, and the game became available for about ten dollars. I got it on eBay and agonized while I waited for it to ship. It arrived today, and I tore it open and showed it to all of my co-workers. They said, “Uh. Ok.” Once I got home and settled, I stuck it in and played for a few hours.

the game

I’ll be frank: this game does not present me with a big challenge. This actually makes me feel /good/, because I know it would be a very hard game for some people. Is it wrong that I feel sheer glee at being better than others? Yes. Still, I love it.

Basically, it’s a direct port of House of the Dead. (Well, I think it’s really HOTD2, but who the hell can tell?) The graphics are identical, as are the /incredibly/ bad voice-overs. I have a hard time imagining that the voice talent in the “of the Dead” games is not coached to suck. Their lines are often read with so little inflection that I think they’re actually very good voice synthesis. The point is: if you have seen HOTD, you know what this game looks like.

The difference is that as the zombies approach, they bring with them a dread horror: /dialog boxes/!

If you can type the text in their box, they take damage. As far as I can see, the game makes absolutely no effort to explain WTF is going on. In cut scenes, the “good guys” all wear Dreamcast backpacks and have keyboards slung in front of them. The jaw-dropping weirdness of this isn’t explained, and I’m A-OK with that.

In early chapters, the zombies’ death words are simple: zombie, cutlass, butler. As the levels get harder, so do the phrases: nervous doctor, frilly underpants, flaky waitress, What da ya mean ya got none?, and so on. When small animals or weapons rush at you, you can shoot them down by hitting their one-character codes. The words that really tripped me up were foreign words (“Ja’taime”) and highly-punctuated phrases. Axes that need to be shot down by hitting “#” were no picnic, either. Unfortunately, the font used for the phrases is really clear /except/ for the distinction between commas and periods; that got me.

Case doesn’t matter, and spaces are omitted. I thought this would distract me, but it works very well. I’m also pretty happy with the “errors are ignored” system. Actually, errors break your “perfect streak” but generally don’t cost you, unless you’re in a situation where they do. Got it? See, some of the bosses have weird requirements. To beat one, you must only type when his chest cavity has opened. To kill another, you must type the correct response (from a list) to a given question – very quickly. My favorite, I think, was the boss who chased me through a maze. To keep him at bay, I needed to keep typing lines from very long sentences.

I have no idea how difficult this game really is. I need to get one of my non-typing friends over and see how he does. The great thing is that, despite the fact that the game was easy to beat, I can still go back and play it over and over, and I might even feel like I’m /doing something productive/ when I do so. I could really some work on my typing accuracy. I can do that through the “drill mode,” which is a set of about a dozen mini-games that help you practice for speed, accuracy, reflexes, and “special keys.” Special keys is wicked hard: you must shoot down projectiles or animals by hitting single characters (often including numbers, punctuation, or “funny characters”) or, worse, strings of them. When you get rushed by a horde of flesh-eating frogs, each with something like “$@@#!” over their head, you will know the meaning of true fear.

The console world needs more keyboard-using games. Who wouldn’t rush out to buy Zork I for GameCube? I sure would.

There are some other modes in TOTD, and I’ll try them out, but I don’t expect to find anything new. I don’t care. This game rocks. I will play it over and over, or at least until I get sick of it.

Written on January 15, 2003
dreamcast   games   gamesite   typing   videogame