Review: The Typing of the Dead
I have always liked games that feature unique mechanics or play-styles, which is why I picked up Typing of the Dead: Overkill when it was on sale. As the name implies, this game is pretty much just a remake of House of the Dead: Overkill, but with the shooting mechanics pushed to the side in favor of typing words at the zombies. It’s an educational tool and horror game in one!
You once again take control over Agent G, Isaac Washington and Varla Guns as they fight their way through Louisiana in pursuit of the crime lord “Papa Caesar” and his army of mutants. For those who did not play the original version of the game, the story is pretty much a satire of the zombie genre and it deliberately evokes every trope it can. The story will drag you through classic locations such as hospitals, festivals, laboratories and swamps while pitting you against various types of zombies, which of course includes a few nurses and strippers. Our three heroes are also deliberately generic; Isaac and G play the predictable roles of the two cops with radically different personalities, swearing black guy and by-the-books rookie respectively, and Varla is a (still living) stripper that tags along for the ride to avenge her brother.
The gameplay is very simple and still maintains House of the Dead’s on-rails methods. Your characters walk through each stage and look around without your intervention, but once zombies show up, the camera will focus on them and you’ll be presented a word or sentence for each zombie you can kill. These can be simple 3-letter verbs or entire Shakespearean lines, depending on what difficulty you play on and how far the zombie was away from you when it first appeared. Even on the easier difficulties, it can sometimes be really challenging to type words under this kind of pressure, so you’re guaranteed to take a hit every once in a while.
This isn’t the first time a game has combined typing words and killing zombies. Simply typing “Zombie Typing Game” on Google will result in a whole list of free-to-play titles with a similar premise. While Overkill obviously has more polish to it then some random, online flash game, it also has to compete with an earlier version of itself that launched back in the year 2000 and it’s not even half as good as it was then.
One of the more annoying issues with the game is that it’s very easy for a single mistake to lead into utter chaos. If you try to type a word, but hit the wrong letter at the very start, then it’s likely you will instead start attacking, and thus lock onto another zombie altogether while you are still trying to deal with the original one. You can repair such a mistake by hitting backspace, but it usually takes a while to notice and by then you’re already swarmed. When multiple zombies show up, it can also be near-impossible to determine which enemy is at the front, meaning you have to take a lucky guess. A randomly recurring type of mutant also tends to throw knives at you that have to be shot, but you won’t figure out you are fighting one until after you start typing its word and thus can’t switch to the projectile anymore without cancelling the lock.
Another issue I have is that Overkill’s transition to a typing game was clearly rushed. Tons of collectibles litter each level, but you no longer have the ability to shoot these, which you are then punished for at the end of each stage. You can instead press tab while they are on-screen, but this doesn’t flow into gameplay as naturally as before. I also had to search around the Steam forums to figure this out, because it was apparently too much effort to list the controls anywhere in the game itself; if you go to the game’s settings and look under the controls category, it instead lists the controls for the original House of the Dead: Overkill. You also can’t shoot the many random zombies anymore, except for a few arbitrarily-chosen situations in which the game will suddenly give you a one-button prompt for them.
It’s also also a shame that there still no point to saving any of the innocent survivors, whereas succeeding or failing to do so would open different parts of each level in the first Typing of the Dead. Here it’s just for points, so unless you are into leaderboards, it’s going to be a massive downgrade. Now that the different routes are gone, it also becomes more obvious that typing isn’t really that much of an engaging form of gameplay and boredom became quite frequent. I started playing the game in incredibly short bursts and was usually annoyed by the length of each stage; by the time I finally beat the final boss, I force-closed the game before I even received the achievement for doing so.
On the other hand, the game also introduces a few improvements, though these are somewhat minor. I really enjoyed not having to use symbols while typing, the enemies are a lot less obnoxious this time around and the boss-fights are handled much better; instead of having the player type as many words as possible before a boss attacks, it instead focuses on countering their moves to open them up. The most impressive fact, however, is that the entirety of the regular Overkill is included as a bonus, making the $20 price tag seem a lot more attractive.
To summarize: The game is mostly functional and you can definitely get an hour or two of fun out of it, but it’s not engaging or polished enough to keep you coming back. The grindhouse humor isn’t particularly good, the game feels rushed and its main gameplay gimmick has been done before many times, often for free. The only thing it has going for it is that it’s pretty cheap and goes on sale pretty often, but if you really want to enjoy a good typing game, then the previous installment in this spin-off series has a lot more meat to it, looks a lot better and does the B-movie vibe infinitely better.