The Typing of the Dead is an offbeat first-person puzzle-action game for the PC that lets you fight hordes of gruesome zombies by quickly typing out words that appear onscreen. This unusual game actually has a history: It originally debuted on Sega's Dreamcast console in 2000 and was itself a modified version of Sega's previously released light-gun arcade game, The House of the Dead 2. The Typing of the Dead certainly looks dated, considering its age and the number of times it's been ported onto different platforms, but it's also surprisingly fun.
The Typing of the Dead's "story," such as it is, concerns a mad scientist's attempt to create an army of zombies, led by a superzombie "emperor," to rule the world. Only your character--a special agent armed with a Dreamcast console and keyboard--can stop him. That's all you need to know about The Typing of the Dead's story, because once you start playing, you'll be too busy frantically typing away at zombies to care about anything else. Every time an enemy appears onscreen, it's accompanied by a word or phrase that you must type in quickly and accurately to defeat it. This might not sound too interesting, but things can get very exciting when three or four angry zombies--each bearing a long, challenging phrase--suddenly leap out at you from all sides.
As with most light-gun games, The Typing of the Dead is played "on rails"--that is, you can't actually move your character or choose where to go next; the game determines that. However, depending on how quickly you defeat your enemies, you may be able to rescue innocent bystanders, uncover bonus items, and choose alternate paths through a level, though you'll always finish each level by fighting a powerful boss monster. These boss monsters will actually challenge you in a few interesting ways. For instance, one will force you to figure out and type in the correct answer to a simple question, while another will come barreling at you with a giant chainsaw and will strike you if you can't type out a full sentence in time.
You can play through the game's six stages either in arcade mode or in an alternate, original mode, which lets you unlock a few handy options, like starting new games with extra lives or with more "continues." The game also features several other modes that let you square off against each of the boss monsters or sharpen your skills by testing your typing speed and accuracy, and you can unlock new modes as you complete each test.
The Typing of the Dead uses pretty much all the same monsters and levels from The House of the Dead 2, and unfortunately, it shows. The same graphics, environments, and special effects that may have seemed like the state of the art for an arcade game a few years ago now look flat, blocky, and pixelated by today's standards. The Typing of the Dead runs at a fixed (and unimpressive) resolution of 640x480, which doesn't do much to keep many of the game's textures from looking blurry. And, in keeping with its horror theme, the game isn't especially colorful: Most of the levels you'll fight through are drab, broken-down buildings and sewers. However, the game itself runs briskly, even on low-end to mid-range machines, with absolutely no slowdown, and the zombies (and the heroes who fight them) are animated well and look about as good as they can, considering how blocky the game's 3D models sometimes seem.
The game also features the same music and sound from House of the Dead 2 and the Dreamcast version of The Typing of the Dead. Its arcade-action soundtrack is repetitive, but you might expect it to be, considering The Typing of the Dead's arcade origins. At any rate, the music is largely inoffensive, and as you play, you'll probably find yourself so focused on typing zombies to death that you'll ignore the music entirely. However, the game's voice acting is a completely different matter. Sega's House of the Dead series is notorious for terrible voice acting, and The Typing of the Dead's voice work is just as bad. In fact, the game's voice acting is so bad as to be thoroughly ridiculous--but then again, so is the rest of the game. At worst, you might find The Typing of the Dead's voice acting to be disappointing. At best, you may actually enjoy how absurdly bad it is, since The Typing of the Dead's silly voice acting and equally silly premise of secret agents armed with keyboards seem as campy and as self-consciously funny as a cheesy, low-budget horror film.
The Typing of the Dead is an unusual game that might not have amazing graphics or sound, but its gameplay is unique and extremely fun. Despite its strange, silly premise, it does have a few explicitly gory sequences--some zombies turn into sloppy messes when shot down, which is why it's an M-rated game. But if you like action-packed games or horror movies, you'll probably enjoy The Typing of the Dead...and even if you don't, you might want to give it a try.