Insert Disk collects Typing Of The Dead for the PC.
Today’s retro game review is Typing Of The Dead for the PC. This retro gaming classic is a horror action typing adventure. Typing Of The Dead strips you of your lightgun and replaces it with a standard keyboard. The horror action comes think and fast in one of Sega’s most innovative horror games ever. Typing Of The Dead enjoys a cult following with retro gamers and horror fans alike. If you’re looking for a Halloween game with a twist this one is highly recommended.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. What do you get when you combine an arcade classic, zombies and a typing tutor? Well you get Sega’s answer to a question that nobody asked. On paper this game really shouldn’t work, in reality though its perhaps the best typing software ever made. Join me today as we take a look back at this cross genre horror masterpiece, as the tagline says its time to Type or Die as we revisit the Typing of the Dead.
The game is essentially a modified version of House of the Dead 2, Sega’s classic arcade light gun shooter. The key difference being well, the keyboard. The original light gun version of the game saw you blasting you way through the city streets in order to stop the zombie attack and ultimately defeat the evil corporation behind it. This time though you’ll be typing your way to victory. The game takes place after the events of the original House of the Dead game. In summary a mad scientist named Curian has created an army of zombies and various undead monsters in his lab which happens to be in a creepy isolated old mansion for good effect. The recap from the end of the game reveals that the threat was not totally removed and the research along with some key enemies such as the Magician would come back for a convenient sequel.
So, you’re all up to date with the backstory. All you need to know is that zombies are now running rampant through the city and its your job to stop them. You’re not alone though. “G” makes a short cameo as well as Harry and Amy who’ll you’ll be teaming up with and crossing paths throughout the adventure. All of the dire voice acting from the original release is here and if you’re a fan of the mainstream series using the gun you’ll be very happy that the feel of the game really hasn’t been changed too much. As mentioned earlier though, there is one huge change and that’s the attack mechanism. Now stripped of your light gun to control the action you’ve been issued with a Dreamcast backpack and keyboard. There’s no explanation for this, why it works or even an attempt to link this in to the story, just go with it and dive straight in.
To fire a bullet at the zombies you’ll have to type the text that you see on screen. This text appears next to the enemy in a coloured box that changes colour as the time for them to attack comes closer. You’re given a bit of a soft introduction to the game mechanic but it isn’t long before the action really starts hotting up. You’ll quickly be glancing at the screen for the text and then furiously pounding your keyboard to get out the word. It is possible to hit an incorrect key without being punished but you will lose your perfect running streak. There’s no time to hang around though as those zombies are still coming straight at you. After a while you’ll tend to get in to a bit of a rhythm but initially the game feels a little bit alien compared to games you may have played before. Let’s face it this isn’t exactly the same as a Mavis Beacon lesson.
Due to the nature of the game I found it becomes incredibly tense and there’s a real pressure not to become flustered. I have a typical office job so I’m familiar with my way around a keyboard. I’m not a fluent touch typist but I’d certainly consider myself a proficient keyboard user. The pressure really is on though and it’s a game that surprises you how well you do know your way around a keyboard at times. On other occasions it highlights your utter brain freeze when you can’t find a letter that you use every day. What’s interesting is that having to type your attacks actually makes the game far more frightening and tense than using a light gun. Any fool can use a gun but being thrown slightly out of your comfort zone with a keyboard makes you feel much more vulnerable and at risk. The concept in itself is fascinating and I’m pleased to say that the result is fantastic.
I’m playing the PC edition here which has several game modes, options and unlockables. Mid-level you’ll sometimes be presented with a mini challenge such as killing a certain amount of zombies in a set time for a bonus. During the levels you’ll also be presented not only with words but single letters to take down the smaller enemies or oncoming projectiles. As an added difficulty curve you’ll also need to swat up on your punctuation for some enemies that are deemed more difficult to kill. For example an exclamation mark or asterisk will be required to finish an enemy off.
This brings us on to the bosses. In the traditional House of the Dead 2 game they were already great set pieces. In typing of the dead they really have been elevated to a whole new level of tension. The bosses will usually require you to type an entire sentence in order to take them down. It’s often relentless and personally I find these episodes of action some of the most gripping in the entire game. One useful feature is the ability to practice on the bosses via a menu option. Here’s where you can really get your typing skills in order for when you play the arcade modes. These boss encounters can leave you absolutely exhausted. It’s all about the speed, skill and accuracy and that’s something that I can really get behind. The hydra boss is particularly interesting as you are presented with a question. You’ll then have to work out the correct response and type it. It sounds simple but again if your brain freezes you’ll certainly feel the pressure grow. If boss runs aren’t your thing then you might want to swat up on individual skills such as punctuation or reflex time with mini-training exercises designed to test different elements of your typing ability. Graphically the game holds up very well and the soundtrack has a suitably pumping quality to emphasise the action.
If you’re looking to collect this one there is an original PC big box edition to track down. Expect to pay £10 and upwards for this version. If you’re a collector willing to forego the 1st edition box you’ll also be able to easily find any number of budget versions for just a few dollars. Typing of the Dead has been referred to by some as a typing tutor. In my opinion this is not strictly true. If you’re looking for a piece of software that will teach you touch typing then this really isn’t the case. There are no traditional lessons as such and there’s no bonus for having any of the best practice typing styles. However, that isn’t to say Typing of the Dead won’t help your keyboard skills. In terms of speed and accuracy the gamification of typing in this way is a clear benefit to at least becoming more familiar with your keyboard.
For users looking for a slightly less intimidating route in to improving their typing skills than a traditional tutor then this game really adds some value. You may not be typing as a pro but you will certainly be picking up speed as you have a clear incentive to progress your skills. On top of all of this the game really does deliver a great experience through its fun nature and horror backdrop. Typing of the Dead may not provide pure horror scares by many standards but I believe that it delivers something even more valuable. It provides genuine tension unlike many other games. One of my gripes with modern game reviews is a misunderstanding of what is actually scary. Even though games such as System Shock regularly appear in top 10 lists of scary games I still don’t think that some of the more mainstream choices stack up against Typing of the Dead. When I play games like System Shock I’m in a mild state of readiness for a jump scare, for the most part its not as tension building as some might hope. Typing of the Dead on the other hand, I find myself tensing up in the shoulders trying to get my text out. The impending doom as the timer bars tick down. I’m not sure that you could call it fear but there’s certainly anxiety there and its only when you step away from the keyboard that you realise just how invested in the game you’ve been.
With a variety of game modes, settings and scenarios Typing of the Dead genuinely brings something different to the horror gaming table. Even if you aren’t a proficient typist I’d certainly recommend Typing of the Dead to anyone curious enough to try out something a bit different. The budget releases can be found at very reasonable prices, there’s also immense replay value in the game itself. Whether you’re throwing a Halloween party or just want to brush up on your typing skills with the undead this game really is a best in class. So, strap on your Dreamcast and take down those zombies for the good of the city.