The Typing of the Dead (Windows)

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Written by  :  lasttoblame (429)
Written on  :  Jul 13, 2007
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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WASD is not most dangerous four letter word in gaming

The Good

Revisionism is a tricky thing. To claim what once happened never happened is a magic trick done in plain sight for everyone to see but with nothing to hide behind; it’s the equivalent of Penn and Teller doing their next magic show behind an x-ray machine. To pull off a trick so blatantly, so obviously, done without any semblance of guile… well, then everyone has no choice but to believe you. If you pull it off.

Staying firmly in the world of geek, George Lucas was an aspiring film maker who wanted to set an opera in outer space using cowboys. The result was Star Wars (1977) and nerds haven’t left their basements since. Lucas’ success was also one of total creative control over the Star Wars franchise; armed with 40% control over the marketing rights of Star Wars and the nuclear-powered Skywalker Ranch (with a Deathstar Deathray-proof bunker five miles below the surface—indeed, the ultimate basement), Lucas could do whatever he wanted.

Not satisfied with the visual look of his original trilogy, Lucas would continually make changes to these films while at the same time denying audiences access to the original work. Legally, Star Wars is his creative property to do with as he wished, much to the chagrin of fans everywhere. Lucas would add special effects that didn’t exist at the time, recut scenes, do anything he could to “preserve the original vision I had for the movie”. However, audiences are savvy, and sometimes unforgiving. While the second trilogy may have done very well in terms of sales, the three words that will follow Lucas to his grave is “Han shot first!”

This type of revisionism is common to games as well. Id released DOOM3 as a modern retelling of the classic tale; id would have us believe that this version of the DOOM story is the proper one and the original can all but be forgotten, as though they are embarrassed by the way the graphics look compared to today’s technology. As well, Team Ninja has released the Ninja Gaiden game several times over in different versions in recent years, touting tweaks and new features added to what is essentially the same game.

So it is with The Typing of the Dead. Released four years after the original and just a year after the sequel, this game is essentially the same game but with some very major differences. The original House of the Dead was a light gun game with which you would blast zombies; conversely, in the Typing of the Dead your lethal instrument of death is a keyboard attached to a Dreamcast with a giant “D” battery on top. At no time in the game is this literary BFG explained, nor is it explained why zombies are susceptible to simple phrases like “my foxy wife”.

This is a brilliant reworking of the “classic tale” for us post-modern cynics. The original House of the Dead was a campy gore fest of bad voice acting and nonsensical story. (Also, it had outright tasteless racism. The villain who is responsible for the zombies and all the deaths is none other than Goldman, the Jew!! It’s always the Jew, isn’t it? Does B‘nai Brith know about this?) The player is thrust into to role of the macho hero by wielding a powerful pink plastic light gun; this visceral experience of using in real life a gun replica to do away with your enemies can only be matched by the confirmation that everyone in the arcade must think you have a big penis to match the giant phallic symbol you hold in your hands.

While the original House of the Dead was a uber-hetero testosterone-filled macho experience, Typing of the Dead re-evaluates that experience for what it is: a campy shallow experience. But this is where Typing of the Dead transcends it’s limited origins to become the game it was meant to be. This game postulates that the game’s problem isn’t that it is campy, it’s not campy enough! The silliness of changing from a moody first person shooter to a typing tutor can be seen in the outlandish getup of the aforementioned Dreamcast backpack. Enemy weapons have been switched from knives and swords to spatulas and toilet plungers. This game never allows you to forget that you’re playing a parody, albeit one that you enjoy immensely.

Everyone loves zombies, because everyone enjoys killing zombies (says the preacher in Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive (1992) right before he opens the whoop-ass can: “I kick ass for the Lord!”). People do so because zombies by all rights have to be killed, as well as the fact they are so easy to be killed. That’s why it’s so natural to keep plugging away at the waves of undead, all the while fooled into thinking that touch typing is fun. This motivation to type is further encouraged by the very novel use of typing as weapon; every time a key is pressed correctly, a satisfying gunshot is thundered, while an incorrect press only enacts a limp high-pitched miss whistle.

The fact that most gamers are bad typists is very ironic. From reading other reviews I keep hearing how this game is tough; it’s not tough—you get “pwned” because you don’t have “teh mad skillz” required for this game. I’m not a great touch typist myself, but this game encourages me to further my skills. Typing of the Dead teaches a valuable life skill in a most amusing and enjoyable way.

Note: it was my house who Unicorn B Lynx came over to and to whom showed DOOM3 and Typing of the Dead. Typing of the Dead is a much better game. (it’s embarrassing to know I was once excited about DOOM3). It has a soul, a funny and frivolous one; DOOM3 has none; it’s that hot superstar blonde tennis player who never won a game and everyone has since forgotten her name: all style, no substance (well, as least for being a tennis player).

The Bad

Sega, if you’re going to go all the way, go all the way. The lumberjack zombie still sports the chainsaw as he did in the original game. Frightening, yes, but not the camp fun the rest of the game provides. What about arming him with a singing fish, or put an embroidered pillow in his mitts? You’re the geniuses, you figure it out (wait, what happened with that console you put out a while back?)

The Typing of the Dead is a highly creative game that has universal praise every time it is mentioned, yet for some reason seems to have disappeared off the game radar (the Planescape: Torment syndrome—the better you are, the worse you will suffer). There aren’t any sequels or successors of any kind. What ever happened to… Ab-Crunches of the Dead: every sit-up explodes a zombies cranium into goo. Deleting Junk Mail of the Dead: using your mouse you fire bullet after bullet as you empty your mail. Or how about a cross-over: DDR of the Dead: using your floor dance pad you cut the rug of the undead, their demented cries wailing over the unrelenting disco beat.

I’m not kidding here: if you want little Johnny to do something, you won’t have to ask twice if there is decapitation and green blood. Brushing the Teeth of the Dead! Homework of the Dead! Taking Out the Trash of the Dead! I’d buy stock in Sega now if this was true. So what’s the hold up? Or are you waiting again for a good thing to slip through your fingers to tell you that you that you have a winning formula in your hands?

The Bottom Line

Destined for obscurity, this game could have been the one to influence other games to be much more than just a way to pass the time. As such, we can only be content with this gem encased in rotten stinking decaying zombie matter.