Released in Japan after Sega's popular light gun game, House of the Dead 2, hit shelves, Typing of the Dead took the House of the Dead 2 engine and replaced the light gun peripheral with a keyboard. Instead of shooting enemies, you now have to type a certain word or phrase within the allotted time limit to defeat the particular baddie. Considered a game that would never leave the realm of crazy Japanese games, Sega surprised everyone by announcing that a US version of Typing of the Dead would indeed be coming to the states sometime in 2001. We got a chance to play an early version of the game and found that the House of the Dead is actually better with a keyboard than a gun.
The premise hasn't changed at all from the Japanese version - the game progresses exactly like it does in the House of the Dead 2 version, except that now each enemy has a small box with a certain word or phrase written in it. Each character in the word is similar to a bullet - it slows the enemy's slow stagger towards you, eventually falling the enemy when the word is completed. More powerful enemies have more complex words, and the later stages actually contain complex phrases and stories. Boss characters each have their own particular quirk - some bosses restrict the periods of time you can type, while others make you answer trivia questions by typing out the correct answer from a list of several possible answers. While this may seem a little odd, the gameplay is actually quite addicting and very fun to play. Most of the phrases and words are quirky and there are plenty of pop-culture references thrown in. It's not uncommon to take down an enemy with a phrase like "Vanilla Ice" or "Hello Neuman." However, Sega reminded us that this is still an early version of the game, and some of the references might be pulled due to licensing or judgment issues. The game will also feature several mini-games that are designed to improve your accuracy, quickness, and alertness, and features tests designed to rate you in those areas.
The graphics haven't changed at all over the Japanese version, or over the US version of House of the Dead 2 for that matter. The environments look clean and detailed, and the animations are all very smooth. Zombies still shoot blood and gore from their wounds as you attack them with your typing skills, and all the familiar characters are still there. The sound effects are still very nice, and the voice acting is still as hokey as ever.
With the Dreamcast keyboard gaining popularity due to plenty of online games like Quake III Arena and NFL 2K1, it's good to see a game like this coming to US shores. Though the gameplay may not seem as cool as it was with a lightgun, the experience of typing your way through hordes of angry undead with only your keyboard skills to save you is nothing short of intense.