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The Typing of the Dead (PC)
The Prince of Darkness teaches typing.
By - Andrew S. Bub

PC gamers don't have light guns. Though there are a few models available, they are almost impossible to find. This means we don't get to play too many rail shooters on the PC. That's good, because most of them are awful, but sometimes that's bad because we can't enjoy a decent example from the genre, even when ported, like Sega's PC version of House of the Dead 2.

Ironically, most Dreamcast owners didn't buy that keyboard peripheral they offered last year, so they missed one of the most dramatic re-imaginings ever seen to video games. They missed The Typing of the Dead and now that it's been ported over to the keyboard centric PC community, that's their loss and our gain. Really. Whether you're an arcade fan looking for an undead fright fest, a novice keyboarder looking for practice, or a veteran writer in need of a brush up on the words-per-minute fundamentals, The Typing of the Dead is one hell of a way to take a refresher course.

Fearless Webster Hunters

The Typing of the Dead is the same game as House of the Dead 2. Complete with its "so bad it bypasses good and reaches bad again" voice acting, terrible writing, threadbare plot, mediocre (by today's standards) graphics and sound, and ever-so simplistic gameplay. It's a rail shooter and that means all you'll be doing is riding around in the protagonist's head and, um, typing really fast rather than shooting really fast. As zombies and other weirdoes appear and lurch toward you, words appear before them. Type the word or phrase fast enough and each successful keystroke results in a gunshot hit. The monsters explode under a hail of verbose firepower and you move on to the next group of word/phrase bearing undead. This creativity even stretches to the cutscenes, which show our hero and his compatriots running around with keyboards slung on their shoulders. Hoo boy!

That's simple enough, but the result is much more than the sum of its admittedly anemic parts. The phrases are often witty, obscure, humorous or challenging, and the tension you'll feel as your fingers fly across the keyboard faster than you knew they could is exhilarating and often unnerving. In this simple way, The Typing of the Dead may be the most tension inducing experiences you can buy, and real tension is rare in PC gaming. The phrase "Tell Tale Heart" appears on the screen, just below an axe wielding walking corpse, and you type the Poe title as fast as you can, then scan the screen waiting for the next monster. Each correct keystroke is a ringing shot. Each flub, a ricochet audio cue miss. The zombie crumples. Leeches appear on the ground, each emblazoned with a single letter, you've got to hit them all in seconds: A, Z, G, B! "It's an amazing coincidence" appears. If you nail it in time, you won't lose a life. But that's not all. Some of these word puzzles depend on speed, and one of them asks a question and challenges you to find and then type the correct answer out of three choices.

The Keyboard Modes of the Dead

Several modes are offered in the game: arcade mode; a few training levels (which adequately teach keyboarding); Boss mode, which has you fighting the bosses in a race against time; the inaptly named 'Original' mode, which is the same as 'Arcade' mode only it adds power-ups and new challenges; and even multiplayer co-op (but only on a LAN, not on the same PC or Net).

At the start of both 'Original' and 'Arcade' modes you're given three health points per continue and three continues per game (though you can earn more of both). Once you've unlocked a new level you can always restart there. This makes up for a lack of a save game system, and the levels aren't that big anyway. Occasionally you can nail a single letter that briefly appears and get an item, like extra health, or use your speed to kill a monster before it kills a hapless character. Saving people and obtaining items nets you points and other bonuses, and the game even rates your performance at the end of each level (using it's own unique ratings system, not any keyboarding speed rating you can put on your resume).

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