Retro Resolution Retro Review
System: Sega Dreamcast
Type or Die!
Whilst fast fingers have long been a prerequisite for video-gamers, keyboarding skills have enjoyed a relatively dim limelight, one shone mainly upon pre-PC home computer enthusiasts. Speed aside, typing accuracy is a skill generally only of marginal benefit to text adventurers.
Sega evidently noticed this travesty and produced a game the qwerty keyboard had waited 125 years for: The Typing of the Dead (TOTD). This title and its 2007 sequel must surely be the only coin-ops in the world equipped with twin keyboards; ported to the Dreamcast in 2000 this brilliantly unusual offering is best described as a mod, rather than a remake, of the on-rails lightgun zombie blaster The House of the Dead 2 (HOTD2).
There are few graphical differences to be found in this inspired keyboard-centric update; our heroes, AMS secret agents, now sport backpack-mounted Dreamcast consoles, closely resembling Ghostbusters proton colliders, alongside keyboards slung from neck harnesses. More subtle alterations include selected undead packing maracas and other absurdities in place of machetes and axes.
Bereft of a lightgun controller, responsibility for aiming and reloading is removed entirely from the player; instead, advancing foes are captioned with words and phrases which must be swiftly and accurately typed; every keystroke fires a shot, with only concurrent correct entries finding their mark. Mistakes are costly, requiring the entire word or expression to be entered from scratch.
It is in the content of the linguistic targets that the game’s true genius is found, providing a constant injection of quintessentially English humour. Shooting an enemy with a lightgun pales in comparison to besting a foe by hammering ‘finger of scorn’ or ‘bed-wetting’ into the keyboard; the development team apparently included Red Dwarf fans, and as such dropping a zombie by entering ‘smeg-head’ is now high upon my list of gaming delights.
Controls and minor graphical alterations aside, TOTD is a direct re-tread of HOTD2, and thus sees the player facing down undead hoards under direction of the mysterious Goldman, who thankfully still employs ‘so-bad-it’s good’ voice-acting as a weapon of mass destruction (including utterances which easily rank alongside Barry Burton’s all-time classic offerings in Resident Evil).
Certainly as intense and as difficult as the light-gun original, this edu-survival-horror mashup is surprisingly even more rewarding to play; whilst a level of touch-typing competency is a definite prerequisite, the game’s varied and entertaining tutorial modes should bring the player up to scratch in a way that ‘Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing’ could never hope to match (Ms. Beacon would no doubt be a world-class zombie slayer, however).
Note on game images: The Typing of the Dead screens shown are taken from the Windows PC version due to difficulties in obtaining quality screen grabs from the Dreamcast.
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