The Typing of The Dead: Overkill

8 12 2013

Obviously one look at this game and two things should be obvious. The first, is that this game does not take itself (or anything) too seriously. Second, that the game is based around a zombie killing grind-house type genre. So why am I writing a blog post about this game? Because it’s refreshingly fun, and also because it has the potential to do something amazing for education type game. Now before I talk about that, let me explain the basic mechanics and what you can do in this game.

The game actually does a great job at introducing you to new mechanics and events in the game. Obviously as the name implies, this is a typing game. I’m sure we all remember the old style “space invaders” typing games some of us played back in the MS-DOS days on an old 486. The crafty folks at Modern Dream have basically taken the same concept of educational typing challenges and slapped it into a cheesy zombie shoot em’ up type action game. You don’t actually control your avatar, which ends up being great later on because you are obviously typing! The camera movement is reminiscent of any arcade shooting game you would have played in the 90’s. If one doesn’t come to mind, just think of Time Crisis.

Kill it before it gets to you!

Your avatar will navigate various levels, where you will literally be presented with typing challenges. The basic mechanic is you shoot zombies by typing whatever the presented word is. Naturally, depending on the difficulty of the enemy, the typing challenges are often time sensitive. If you take too long, you’ll start getting hit or eaten by the enemy. Successfully typing the word results in shooting the enemy, target, or challenge. The overall concept of the mechanic might not sound engaging, but it’s actually very cleverly executed. Word of warning though, as I previously stated, the game does not take itself to seriously and is plainly meant to target adult audiences with the crass humor and violence.

Like I said, crass humor.

Like I said, crass humor.

While playing the first couple of chapters ( yes there is a story ) I found I was actually experiencing anxiety as hordes of zombies closed in on me and I struggled to blast away on the keyboard to execute them in time before they started chewing on me. Most of the time however, I found myself literally laughing out loud at the audacity and slapstick type humor the game possesses. Not only are the game events ridiculous and over the top, a lot of the humor is built into the words the game presents for you to type. Sometimes, it is just senseless random words, other times full sentences of the most ridiculous phrases you can imagine.

Example of ridiculous phrases

To keep the gameplay from getting stale, or giving you cramps in your wrists, they incorporate pickups and bonuses in the rooms your character clears. You activate these when you see them by simply hitting ‘tab’. Sometimes they are bullet time items, which can be strategically used to slow time down when killing multiple enemies. The game will also sometimes give you just single letters on a group of zombies or projectiles being thrown at you, which helps break up typing full words or phrases. A lot of them will also be bonus based twitch skills. The majority of the game is actually based around your ability to react and prioritize targets. You will often be approached by several obstacles or enemies and have to figure out which one to start typing first. You can even back out of a phrase you are typing in order to engage another target first. At first glance, this would sound kind of clumsy and an overall pain, but the game handles the transitions very smoothly. The game will also automatically pick the correct phrase you wish to start typing by the first letter you hit. So no two phrases that you are presented at the same time with will start with the same letter. Upon ¬†completing a level, challenge, or mini-game you will be presented with your stats, so the game even has leaderboards!

I’m good at typing!

As you’ll notice from that picture, the game even incorporates a multiplayer game mode. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m assuming it functions similar to Time Crisis which I mentioned earlier. You can play with random people on the internet through matchmaking, or you can invite your friends via Steam. The game does an interesting job at pacing, level design, and unique events throughout the levels to keep you excited and perhaps a little anxious. There are even boss fights, which are usually involved in managing multiple typing challenges with varying time sensitive twitch typing events. Overall, the gameplay is fun, surprisingly engaging, and actually refreshing.

This baddy likes to throw stuff at you.

This baddy likes to throw stuff at you.

So now that I’ve covered the basic mechanics and what you do in the game. I want to talk about why I was really impressed with this game, other than it being engaging to me. After the initial “sticker shock” hit me when I found I was enjoying something that I didn’t expect to like in the first place. The thought occurred to me, “I’m having A LOT of fun with a game that’s just making me type words….” So once you look through the over-the-top humor, classy grind-house action and art aesthetic, this game is doing something pretty amazing. You can literally have a lot of genuine fun playing this game, and all you are doing is practicing your typing skills.

So from a design perspective, I’m immediately drawn to other possibilities… what if you could do this with math? Programming? World History? Can you imagine if portions of your high school experience taught you various subject matter via interactive methods like this that ACTUALLY engage you? If you actually look at how much information in the typical game a player is required to learn, memorize, and retain it is pretty amazing. I think this is the power that games can have, and it is an untapped potential. Our education system is long over-due for an overhaul. It hasn’t had a major overhaul since the industrial revolution, or thereabouts. I urge you to take the time and watch some of this gentleman’s lectures.¬†http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

So at the end of the day, this game is not only fun, engaging, but it is also making you practice and refine what would be considered a “hard skill” on your resume. ( My WPM is 150, or something crazy ) It also does a great job of showcasing how we can create games that are unique and refreshingly fun while being outside the “norm” of game genres. You can pick this game up for $20 on Steam right now, so if this looks like it would appeal to you, I urge you to take a look.

Thanks for reading!

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Personal Lollipop Chainsaw Review

24 06 2012

This will serve as my personal review of Lollipop Chainsaw, this will not be a play by play review but will be my opinions and impressions of the game. Let this serve as a partial spoiler alert.

I followed Lollipop Chainsaw with mild interest while it was in development, after it released and I started reading reviews I instantly knew that I would have to try this game and form my own opinion. I say that because generally speaking in the game industry, video game reviews are pretty streamlined. However for Lollipop Chainsaw consistently received a wide range of reviews across the entire spectrum, from awesome to terrible. What that says to me is the content is either controversial, or the game only speaks or appeals to a very specific audience.

Upon loading the game up I was greeted with this screen which almost immediately told me I was going to enjoy my experience.

The game presents you with an artistic comic style representation with rock music blasting. Obviously I knew this game was going to be something I would enjoy. Upon starting the game it doesn’t waste any time launching you into killing zombies, but you soon realize this game is not to be taken seriously. You play as the heroine Juliet Starling. The game immediately asks a complete suspension of disbelief when you do a cheerleader flip over a crashing bus and whip out pink and jeweled chainsaw and start engaging zombies at your high school.

While this isn’t a problem since the games theme is obviously a grind house and comic stylized zombie slayer it immediately finds a nice pace. However halfway through the game it starts to lose it’s focus and it almost feels like the game has clashing themes it’s pushing at you. Fortunately the game recovers from this and gets back to the original themes, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

First lets talk about the most important element other than the story and theme, and that’s the combat. The combat starts simple hack and slash, and well unfortunately ends simple. Your basic mechanics are stunning the zombies with pom pom strikes which weakens them and then you attempt to one shot them with a high or low chainsaw strike. Which if done correctly results in a cut scene of Juliet decapitating zombies with rainbows/stars/girlie colors blasting all over the place in a giant euphoric explosion, that somehow seems to work just fine.

While this is fun and instantly gratifying the combat I feel was a missed opportunity, you can unlock more moves but they are neither complicated or particularly fancy. You literally stick to the one-two-punch method the entire game. It almost feels as if they spent the majority of the time in developing the themes and everything else except for the combat, which almost feels like an afterthought. Don’t get me wrong, the game play is enjoyable, however I feel it could have been developed into a lot more.

Speaking of unlocking things, the game does a fair job of creating replay ability but having a good amount of content that can be purchased. Things like music/concept art/moves/outfits, however the price for a lot of them seem to be a bit steep, as if they were trying to create more longevity out of the game by making the player do at least more than a few plays through to purchase the majority of the content. This isn’t terribly bad however since the story is relatively short by comparison to hack and slash games.

As I said before this is mainly a review about my impressions and some comments on the game in general, so I won’t do a play by play on all of the bosses. I do however want to briefly comment on a few of them. My favorite boss fight was Zed, and this is mainly due to the fact that I think he was creatively designed. All of the boss fights pretty much conform to the predictable three phase fight, but during Zeds fight he will literally hurl words at you that you have to dodge. This is a creative and artistically refreshing concept of an engagement.

The downside to the boss fights is when your about half way through and the game seems to stumble with the general theme. You end up fighting a pimp boss in an arcade where the game switches to a retro 2D style presentation. While this is artistically pretty cool I feel it clashes with the games main grind house style theme. It’s almost as if the designers just tossed in every great idea they had… even if they didn’t play nice with each other. To solidify my point, you end up fighting this Pimp zombie boss on top of a UFO zooming through….. either the void or a bad acid trip.. wasn’t entirely sure.

Fortunately the game recovers from this break in immersion and gets back to the original themes pretty quickly. The last boss encounter I will comment on is the end game sequence fight. I won’t go into specifics but the fight felt incredibly buggy at certain points, nothing game breaking but definitely noticeable. This might have only bugged me, (see what I did there?), because professionally I work in Q/A game testing and these things tend to stand out to me, needless to say the last fight feels somewhat rushed and unfinished at points, but I digress.

On to my final portion that I’ll comment on and that’s the character dialogue between Juliet her boyfriend nick (who ends up a magical head on your belt) and Juliet’s family.

One of the saving graces is that the voice acting and dialogue between Juliet and Nick are pretty well crafted. Nick will comment on things going on in your surroundings, usually resulting in a lot of comedy relief. Nick also plays an integral roll to the story from start to finish. About halfway through the story Juliet’s family makes a sudden appearance (being fellow zombie slayers). This feels awkward at first because the majority of the game you have been flying solo, with only vague references to your two sisters an father. It almost feels like a different game when they start showing up and are actively engaged in the narrative and game play. Perhaps later I will go into detail on Juliet’s family and the specific boss fights after a couple more plays through.

For now I will sum this up since it’s just an initial impressions review. I feel that Lollipop Chainsaw is well worth the $60 and will provide you with a fun and unique experience. That being said I feel there were a lot of missed opportunities and some much needed polishing that could have been done. Though overall the thing Lollipop Chainsaw does best is breaks from traditional thinking and creates an experience that doesn’t particularly conform to any mold. Which in a day and age of cookie cutter games being made for the most part, it’s a refreshing take on a traditional hack and slash type title. (Yes I’m classifying this game by a mechanic and I know some of you will rage about that)

As I perform a few more plays through I will re-approach this review with fresh commentary, but for now suffice to say Lollipop Chainsaw will leave you somewhat bewildered, thrilled, and sitting on your couch saying wtf just happened?

Review Continued…..

So as I promised, I would be performing more plays through the game. I still stand by my general review of the story and gameplay. However, after starting a second play through the game seems to start to shine a lot more. Significant differences are in unlocking a few new moves that have exponentially increased the combat enjoyment, and capability. Also if your not intimidated by the female figure, some of the costumes the player can unlock are rather….. how shall we say, interesting?

Before I comment fully on the clothing additions, first let me start off by saying, to fend off any possible hardcore ‘feminist movement’ attackers, that I fully enjoy a strong female character in a video game without being blatantly a stereo typical sex symbol and an object of the so called “male gaze”. However, as I’ve already previously stated in this review, this is NOT a game to be taken seriously, above all else this is just a game pure and simple, not an attempt at an art piece. I’m not a 15 yr old sex craved pubescent teenager and I don’t need pandering too, as some might argue against this game. I can however, enjoy depictions of the female body and I can take this game for exactly what it is, nothing more. As the old sayings go, if you don’t like it just turn the channel. Also if you don’t like this kind of thing in our game industry, DON’T buy it because the only way for change is to speak with your dollar. That’s all I’m going to say on that because I’m getting into another topic, which I’ll attempt to address later in a different post.

Disclaimer out of the way, the costumes do add a nice flare to the gameplay. While some of them are somewhat outrageously ridiculous, the fact that every costume is fully caste in every cut scene helps add to the enjoyment. Using a different outfit almost feels like your playing a different character, obviously your still playing Juliet with Nicks head attached to your belt but it definitely adds to the replay ability.

I’ll close this update with adding that the levels do alternate slightly on the varying difficulty modes. The player will experience a somewhat different mix up of zombies and sequences, also the collector lollipops are moved to different locations. So in recap my second play through on hard mode is turning out to be much more enjoyable than my initial play through. I will keep you updated with further updates as I have time! For additional descriptions of what each costume means (there are way more than in the pictures above) check the website below. As always, feel free to comment.

References:

Zeidler, B. (2012, May 10th). Juliet’s extra costumes. Retrieved from http://www.destructoid.com/juliet-s-extra-costumes-unlockable-in-lollipop-chainsaw-227252.phtml