One of the guiltiest pleasures of this past console generation is The House of the Dead: Overkill. This Grindhouse-inspired update of the light-gun arcade classic series was trashy, disgusting, and absolutely hilarious. Apparently developer Modern Dream thought so as well, because they’ve taken the base game and revived the typing tutor…from Hell. Let me be clear, The Typing of the Dead: Overkill looks like crap, consists of one mechanic for about 95% of the entire game, and has voice acting that makes early Resident Evil titles good in comparison. It is also easily one of the finest games of this year.
The Typing of the Dead: Overkill‘s story picks up in medias res. In it, special agent ‘G’ and Detective Isaac Washington are hunting down Papa Caesar, a crime lord who is tied in with a zombie outbreak in the southern USA. These two bicker back and forth in the spirit of pretty much every cop buddy movie, and is the source of much of this game’s humor. Surprisingly, their relationship does develop and actually ends up being kind of sweet in its own way by the time the credits roll. Missions alternate between playing as those two and the second narrative pairing of Varla Guns, a stripper with a heart of napalm, and Candi Stryper, a girl who’s cute as a button and dumber than cotton. Both are also after Papa Caesar, although for more personal reasons.
This game is a straight-up rail shooter, in which your character moves along a predetermined path and mows down enemies as they appear. It’s simply designed, but that’s because it doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. The twist is that this game is at its core a typing tutor; letters, words, and phrases pop up in front of mutants as they appear, and your job is to correctly type them out before they get you first. You get extra points for accuracy and speed, as well as for successfully rescuing civilians and collecting items. One omission from the original Typing of the Dead on the Dreamcast is that the characters don’t have typewriters attached to them in cutscenes. It’s certainly not the end of the world, but I was kind of hoping to see it.
A regular occurrence while playing The Typing of the Dead: Overkill was having to deal with not only multiple mutants, projectiles, and civilians, but also controlling my urge to laugh out loud at some of the ridiculous things I needed to type out as if my life depended on it. Being rushed by two mutants; one with the kill word ‘Gestalt’ and the other with ‘Butterface’, may not be high art but I’m not afraid to admit it got me killed because I lost my concentration. There is some vocabulary repetition, but I was impressed by how varied this game’s dictionary is.
At the end of each stage is a boss fight featuring a particularly awful monstrosity. For the most part, The Typing of the Dead: Overkill‘s bosses are pretty decent…until you reach the final one. It needs to be experienced, but suffice to say it requires that you not only put your typing skills to the test, but that you’ve been paying attention up to this point. It is an absolutely brilliant mechanic, and it’s a shame it wasn’t used more often in the game.
I’m of two minds when talking about difficulty. On one hand, this is a very low-consequence game similar to the LEGO series; you have unlimited continues and the cost of dying is nothing more than half of your points. If you are shooting for a leaderboard, dying matters. Although, if you’re simply playing through the story, you have nothing to worry about. On the other hand, its relentless pace and truly inspired visual and sound design do an amazing job of keeping you focused on staying alive. For those seeking a greater challenge, Hardcore Mode (which changes a word if you make a mistake) is available after beating the game once.
One thing I will say to warn you is that if you can’t type more than, say, 30 words per minute, you’re going to die. A lot. I can do about 50, and I definitely ran into some hairy moments near the end. Like I said though, once you get into a groove you won’t want to stop playing. Along with the campaign, this package includes three mini-games as well as The House of the Dead: Overkill. At present, co-op is not available for either game but the developer does have plans to include it as free DLC so you’ve also got that to look forward to. Here’s the bottom line as only Isaac Washington himself could say: The Typing of the Dead: Overkill is an homage to both classic arcade shooters and gamified typing tutors, and it is nothing short of a motherfucking triumph.
[+Perfect homage to Grindhouse films] [+Excellent music] [+Hilarious] [+Challenging AND forgiving] [+Exceptional final boss] [-30 wpm or GTFO] [-Easy to make mistakes from laughing so hard]