It's alive! It's aliiiiive! It's… a typing tutor?
The Japanese are never the type to let us down are they? Feeling a bit bored with first-person shooters? Growing tired of beardy RPG types jabbering on and on about elves and wizards and… stuff? Well, along come our far eastern chums with yet another oddball solution to our plain, dull little existences, this time in the form of a (Drrrrrrrrrrrrrr -Drumroll Ed) typing tutor! Hmm… that doesn't sound too promising does it? Perhaps simplifying it (admittedly for my own convenience) down to being a typing tutor isn't the correct thing to do, because it's not really such a thing. Don't fret, because this is no ordinary Mavis Beacon doldrums affair, this is a modified version of the arcade classic lightgun shooter The House of the Dead 2, but instead of wielding a zombie-pulping shotgun, you have to type your way through the rampaging hordes of the rabid undead. I know, it sounds absolutely crazy, but god damn, IT WORKS! Frankly, I don't quite know what got into Sega, but replacing characters guns with keyboards and Dreamcast's strapped to their backs and sending them into battle happens to be a master-stroke of innovation whilst even being a little self-improving. Play takes the form of the aforementioned shooter on rails whilst phrases and words appear on the screen over the appropriate bad guy. In the game's simplest form, you just have to type the words as quick as possible, with longer words for bigger enemies. All the while, a particularly hammy B-Movie plot is being played during short intermissions replete with dreadful voice acting and not an iota of depth.
Death by typing
But really, who cares about lack of storytelling prowess when a game can let you have this much fun by typing for goodness sake? Extended play even reveals a surprising level of depth, as the game style often shifts and skews as you progress through the stage and onto the enormous boss creatures. Aside from simply typing words to dispatch the beasties, you are required to type answers to multiple choice questions in order to score a direct hit whilst others require complex phrase repetition. Also included are tutorials hosted by the game characters who lend you a helping hand in getting to grips with the rigmarole of learning to touch type - even this scribe managed to pick up a few pointers. After you finish a stage you're presented with a wonderfully detailed assessment of your performance, and you can even go to a Drill mode, which lets you, practice typing with your weakest letters should you feel the need to work on them some more. It's surprising how many playing tactics there are to learn in TTOTD, as well. As you progress you'll begin to learn how best to deal with large groups of zombies, or how to tackle small and fast creatures. There's a myriad of ways to take on different types of enemy, and the fact that you're literally being rewarded with your determination only builds the incentive for sticking with the game. The game itself is actually huge, as well as the additional tutorial stages, and it would take even the fastest typist a good few hours to complete. Graphically it's pretty solid although the occasional glitch pops up here and there, but seeing as you're panicking for a good deal of the time looking to and from the keyboard you rarely get a chance to admire to scenery. It's surprising how much of a crowd-puller the title can be as well, as I often had an audience and people queuing for a go whenever I started it up. The laughs the experience creates are quite unlike anything else of recent times, which is a testament to how simply enjoyable and original the idea is.
The Typing of the Dead is a game practically anyone can have a go at without failing to have a good time. The frantic, shifting pace allows for a game that can be played at length without growing repetitive, but the serious skills building that lies underneath the brash surface offers any player the chance to brush up on their typing talent.