Typing of the Dead
High school is as close to a living hell as life gets for young men and women. The poor, hyperactive bastards must deal with acne problems, a budding innuendo, teen angst, peer pressure, and even an occasional class. And though curriculum staples like algebra 2, American history, or biology can prove vexing, no hour-long period is ever so spiritually unrewarding as one spent taking instruction in the fine art of keyboarding. That said, Sega stepped out on a freakin' limb by converting its phenomenal shooter, House of the Dead 2, into a finger-blistering typing tutorial called Typing of the Dead. Strangely enough, however, while the aftermath of this unholy matrimony of "edutaintment" should've found the publisher painfully straddling said branch, in actuality the wedding goes off without a hitch.
While birthed as a freakish genre-independent love child, the game eventually grows up to be a magnificently beautiful species unto itself. As in typical shooters, ToTD players repel a slavering horde of undead monstrosities, albeit using a keyboard instead of a light gun. Typing short phrases, longer sentences and complete paragraphs lets unsung heroes separate heads, legs, arms or vestigial limbs from animated corpses as they attack. For a mature rated title, it's a revolutionary concept that works amazingly well, presumably because speed is such a driving factor. Hesitate one moment too long and critters strike back, sapping health boxes and invaluable continues from your precious supply. Learning how to work the keystrokes like a machine is paramount. Frankly, if a professional writer finds it a challenge, just imagine how much work you'll end up putting in.
In spite of what common sense says about most derivative products sucking, Typing of the Dead actually betters its sire. Whereas House of the Dead was repetitive and predictable, an element of unpredictability has now crept into the formula. Because long-winded phrases must be typed, errors are more common and the pace graduates from agitated to chaotic. Pure insanity reigns as humans bang out letters in rapid succession so that creatures are slain, projectiles are deflected, and blows are harmlessly diverted. Seldom is there a dull moment, and you'll have a blast (pun intended) constantly determining which of the many dialogue boxes on screen you should copy at any given time when multiple assailants approach. Keeping up with rapidly displayed dialogue can be murder, but practice makes perfect, and it renders Sega's baby oh so addictive.
The only sour note would only be that this offering undoubtedly promotes arthritis. Tackling chainsaw wielding butchers and half-monkey, half-robot mutants is difficult, but bosses are a whole 'nother ball o' wax. Old pals like headless suit of armor Kuarl and a three headed hydra can only be laid low if tricky verses are precisely quoted and certain questions answered with split-second accuracy. Sure, you mastered tricky quips during normal levels ranging from "fart in a bottle" to "I'm your mom!" Dealing with an entire discussion on cloning in less than thirty seconds is a tad more troublesome, however. Ditto goes for repeating key presses during brief moments in which a fishman's vulnerable chest area is exposed or killer worm's jaws are open. Count on restarting many, many times before being rewarded with that sought after ending cinematic.
Surprisingly though, frustration doesn't come with the territory. A fresh, offbeat sense of humor keeps aggravation levels at a minimum. Quotes like "let me shave your legs" and "gag me with a spoon" are frequent. Nasty surprises also lie in store, though, as you must be on the lookout for trick blurbs such as "deep friend kitchen" or words that begin in capital letters, even though case sensitivity isn't an issue. Eventually, perseverance is rewarded with humorous clips, as zombies approach bearing tags that say "no means no", "lounge lizards", or "Freudian daydream". Nonetheless, it ain't no thang but a chicken wang, considering the unnatural state of the eccentric minds who dreamed up such a bizarre escapade.
Because Typing of the Dead was constructed on House of the Dead 2's engine, you can also count on some equally unique visuals. Gorgeous 3D recreations of towns, sewers, wharves, and high-tech buildings house the adventure, which runs at tiptop speeds. Blood flows and meaty chunks soar when keystrokes hit home, with the violence factor clocking in higher than ever. Audio effects, voice-overs and movies remain wonderful as always, though in a goofy twist, characters run around with keyboard packs strapped onto their backs. Albeit not necessarily a gripe, once chilling screams and gunshots adopt a playful air in this kind of atmosphere. Forget Mario or Rayman Teaches Typing's cartoon approach. This is the stuff kids will go bonkers for.
All things considered, Typing of the Dead turns out to be a guaranteed sleeper hit. While its edutainment background seems at odds with the subject material, these two worlds collide rather splendidly. If life was fair, this game by all rights would bite horse hiney. The former sure as heck isn't and the latter darn well doesn't, so wannabe developers must yet again admit Sega's software labs are overflowing with creative juices. It's not merely enough that the game rocks. As an added bonus, you'll also learn practical skills through gameplay. Therefore it shouldn't come as a surprise when a rash of carpal tunnel syndrome breaks out amongst otherwise healthy teens. Remember, you've been warned.
- Look for single letter prompts first. These are either projectile attacks that demand your immediate attention, fast-attacking and weak enemies, or nifty secret items.
- Take a second to locate closer opponents and target them first, lest you lose health indiscriminately.