As the Nintendo DS's software library grows and developers get more comfortable with the portable system's touch screen, we're starting to see more games get adventurous. Eidos' upcoming first-person shooter, Touch the Dead, definitely falls into that category. The game is being developed by Dream On Studios and serves up an arcade-style dose of first-person zombie-shooting action. We had the chance to try a work-in-progress version of the game to see how stylus-powered shooting works out.
The game's story keeps things good and simple. You'll play as Rob Steiner, a prisoner who wakes up after a brief nap to see the door to his cell swing open. Good times, right? Well, could be, except for the fact that the jail you're in is now teeming with zombies. But from the look of things, old Rob didn't get locked up for speeding. The industrious convict grabs the first available weapon he can find and sets off to blast his way to freedom.
The levels we sampled offered a good idea of how the game is going to flow. The game features a first-person view of your run to escape. Your path through the jail is basically on rails, although you'll come to forks in your path where you'll be able to pick a direction by shooting signs. Your goal is as clear as day: blast the bits out of anything that stands between you and getting the hell out of the joint. In the levels we played, it appears as though your foes will be an assortment of zombified prisoners, guards, and rats. The rats don't appear to be undead, but they're clearly going along for the "kill Rob" ride. The zombies we've seen so far range from your standard skinny lumbering dudes to the now-expected fat zombie. Though their attacks lean mainly toward flailing, we came across some motivated zombies that took to ripping off their heads and throwing them at us.
The gameplay is basic and relies on the touch screen for action. You'll tap your targets with the stylus, allowing you to shoot at specific areas. When you're out of bullets, you'll simply drag a clip in the lower right-hand corner of the touch screen and drop it into your ammo counter in the lower left-hand corner of the screen. As you make your way through the prison, you'll collect new firearms, as well as melee weapons, which you'll use by sliding your stylus across the touch screen in a slashing motion to help deal with the hordes of undead. You'll use the D pad to switch between your available weapons once you've amassed an arsenal. In addition to weapons, you'll find power ups that speed up your reloading time.
The visuals in the game are modest in scope, with simple flat shaded corridors and a basic color palette. The character models are definitely on the blocky side, and the textures on them are fuzzy. Though the fuzzy textures don't do much to make Rob look great, they work well on the zombies. The characters and environment won't blow you away, but we do have to give props to the animation and game engine. While it's repetitive right now, the zombie animation is nice, and the game moves along at a speedy clip.
The audio in the game is also surprisingly good. The gunfire is solid, and the zombies sound convincingly angry or undead. The rats are probably the weakest link in the chain right now because their high-pitched cries didn't exactly inspire fear. The game's score, though still a work in progress, is a smart mix of spooky music and unsettling silence.
Based on what we played, Touch the Dead seems like it should offer up some mindless fun on the DS. The game looks OK and plays well. Besides the single-player game we tried, the game is slated to include multiplayer games that include co-op and competitive action via a local wireless connection. Though it doesn't look like it will wind up the prettiest game you've ever seen on the DS, you'll definitely have fun with it. Touch the Dead is currently slated to ship this May for the DS.