Typing of the Dead: Overkill Takes It Over the Top
House of the Dead: Overkill was probably a game that should never have been made. A rail shooter light gun arcade-style game that plays out like a Tarantino/Rodriguez double feature, the game was made for the Wii and adopted for the PS3 as a Director's Cut with upgraded textures and shaders. It holds the current Guinness World Record for the number of times "fuck" is used in its script: 189.
Typing of the Dead: Overkill is the exact same game - but now words are your weapons of choice. In order to cut a swathe through the undead menace, your foul-mouthed, first-person self must type out letters, words, and occasionally full sentences in order to blow their brains out.
This is the game of choice if you can type hard, fast, and well. And it just works.
Suffice it to say, I love it.
Much of this is reflected glory, I'm sure. The game mechanics are neither new nor innovative. The first Typing of the Dead game was a remake of House of the Dead 2, and featured your characters armed with keyboards strapped to their chests rather than pistols. I was charmed. Overkill is a return to that wonderful formula of strange, silly, and downright hilarious gameplay that rises up beyond a cheesy storyline.
The difference is the original Typing of the Dead realized that the mediocre story was hardly the selling point of the game and so kept the storytelling to a minimum. Typing of the Dead: Overkill barrels on with cheesy dialogue, oddly glitchy-looking sections of soundless cutscenes when fighting certain monsters, and weird long awkward cinematics that get a little old the longer you keep playing.
The story and the graphics are not the reason this kind of game charms people, because both are frankly pretty bad - in a good way. They work because a more polished game and story that took itself seriously would not have worked with the bizarre hilarity of gameplay.
I could still have done with less story.
Gameplay-wise, not a great deal has changed. Zombies (sorry "mutants") rise up on your screen and amble towards with you, labeled with a randomized letter, word, phrase, or sentence that you need to finish typing - and fast - before it manages to attack you.
Sections where multiple monsters barrel at you and fling knives, bottles, and the occasional trash can at you must be triaged; quick-reflex decision-making forces you to occasionally abandon one word in order to fend off a more imminent attack.
Boss battles are trickier, forcing you to typing longer phrases or sentences or in quicker succession as they barrel towards you, ostensibly to rip your face off. It is in the boss fights, however, that Overkill is completely outshone by its 2000 predecessor.
Not until the Screamer in about the fourth or fifth stage did a boss fight (I lump bosses and mini-bosses together in this category) prompt any sort of real change in gameplay to separate it from the regular mobs. With a camera shutter switch from regular lights to darkroom red, the Screamer appears and disappears like a Japanese horror movie, edging closer and closer with every switch until suddenly four doppelgängers fly out at you - and you need to determine which is the real monster.
This is a much more forgiving style of gameplay compared to the original, which reacted to any mistype with a swinging axe to the face, or a swipe from the Magician's clawed fist. The fun is still there, but it lacks a great deal of immersive "it's game time" serious face the first one inspired when faced with an upcoming boss battle.&
Furthermore, for those fans who have played the original, the gameplay is simplified. Saving civilians earns you points only; there are no extra lives, or side passages they can open. The F1-F4 keys don't do anything in this game because there are no collectible weapons for this game (e.g. Molotovs).
Performance-wise, this game is bigger than you'd think (at just under 7.7GBs) but it won't take a lot out of your system. Even under the omnipresent grainy film filter, you'll still be able to spot jaggies and artefacts all over the place - but you'll only notice these if you choose to nitpick.
Would-be players should also be aware that this is not a big game. With nine levels available and a few minigames, it will probably only take you a few hours to complete - if that. The game bulks it up where it can, adding a port of the original House of the Dead: Overkill that can be played with mouse aim instead of the keyboard, and featuring plenty of unlockables found in regular gameplay. Two-player co-op has also been promised in an upcoming DLC which should add to replayability.
So, was all of that worth the $8 I paid on Green Man Gaming while it was on Halloween sale?
Yes. A million times, yes. While it falls short of the masterpiece of the original, it is still a very rowdy, hilariously grown-up successor to my childhood game, and I am super happy I bought it.
Now, to get started on earning all those Steam achievements...