Edutainment is often indicative of a simple, boring game. When I think of edutainment, my mind is cast back to those terrible learning games I had when I was a youngster in school, where you had to select the right mathematical symbol to fit the equation or add in the correct form of a verb. I was always excited to be able to play them, mainly because it meant I was able to shirk my schoolwork, rather than the games being fun or challenging, just a very simple distraction from the day. When I was around twelve, I found a different breed of edutainment – and definitely not something that could be found in a school! What I came across was an interesting variation on the House of the Dead series, one where you don’t need to point a gun at the screen, but to type letters and words quickly to kill zombies. The faster you are at typing, the quicker you’ll dispatch the oncoming hordes. I’d mostly forgotten about the game, but when I saw that the most recent game in the House of the Dead series getting the Typing treatment, I couldn’t resist.
It didn’t take long for me to become entirely enthralled with what Sega and Modern Dream have produced. It uses the same story mode and plays almost identically to the House of the Dead: Overkill except for the obvious change in weaponry. The zombies will come at you thick and fast and it takes a sharp mind and some quick fingers to emerge from each level triumphant and without succumbing to the mutant mobs. It can make for some terrific gameplay as you’re constantly battering your keyboard in an attempt to clear the screen. It can also make you want to tear your hair out, because as soon as you start making typos, it’s incredibly hard to stop yourself from finishing off the word. It doesn’t sound quite so bad, but as you type, the characters start to grey out to denote they’ve been typed, and when they don’t grey out even though you’re hitting the correct keys, your composure will certainly be tested with the enemies closing in.
For those that aren’t confident at touch typing, it won’t take long to become confident while playing this game. Even though I started playing as someone who is a fast typist, I noticed that I was typing even quicker than normal. As a learning tool, to start yourself off learning touch typing, or improving your skills as a typist, it’s fantastic. It’s almost a necessity to be a touch typist to make your way through the game, and it does help you get there in a short space of time. There are also different difficulty settings so if you’re playing on an easier setting you can tone it down a little and increase the difficulty as and when you feel confident.
There are a few nice, extra features to the game which made me enjoy it even more than the original House of the Dead: Overkill game. Firstly, the words and phrases you have to enter will have you in stitches as you type them. Some of them relate to the story, some of them are hilarious comments on your current situation, and some are just random words. It’s amazing how the developer has managed to crowbar so much more humour into an already funny game. Even after you think you’ve seen every word they can throw at you, you’ll then come across the downloadable content. There are several different dictionaries to download, ranging from Shakespeare to terrible innuendo, it even has a dictionary for my favourite game – Football Manager. It’s only a small adjustment to the game, but each time you play through it feels like a new and hysterical game. Another feature I enjoyed was the fact that if I was bored of typing and fancied some good ol’ shooting, I had that option. House of the Dead: Overkill was included in the game so I could play the game as it was originally intended.
The final nice touch is also my one and only criticism for this game – the multiplayer mode. This lets you play with a friend anywhere in the world, which, when it works, is great fun. Making sure you co-ordinate correctly to prevent both of you going for the same mutant and beating the game with a friend is a very enjoyable experience, as it would be in any game. However, the bad side is that it doesn’t always work as expected. I was playing with a friend while we were chatting on Skype, and we had gotten to the end of the level and had been fighting for about ten minutes before we casually accused each other of not typing to beat the boss. What really happened was that the game had become so desynchronised that it wasn’t picking up either of our typing and wasn’t advancing the level at all, meaning we would have been stuck in that level forever, had we not realised.
That is a slight downer on an otherwise great game and if you want to learn how to type faster, you won’t find a better tool than Typing of the Dead. It’s also a fantastic on the rails shooter and even if you have mastered touch typing, it’s still a lot of fun and well worth picking up.