I touched the dead, and all I got was this lousy infection!
May 22, 2007 – Zombies sell. Plain and simple. Don’t know why, but it seems like there is a huge market out there (myself included) that has an uncanny obsession with the undead. So, as not to leave any part of this market untapped, a zombie shoot-em-up has finally been brought to the Nintendo DS in the form of Touch the Dead.
The game starts you off as inmate Rob Steiner. You’re just chillin’ on your cot when you realize that your cell door is open. You cautiously approach the door and notice that there’s a gun on the floor. You pick up the gun and go. This is where the story ends. The game has an arcade interface, so you don’t really decide where to go; the game leads you through different levels. Occasionally, you’ll encounter a split hallway where you can decide which way to go (by shooting in the desired direction), but that’s all you really get as far as movement autonomy. Your learning curve is very fast, and you’ll know pretty much everything you’ll need to know in about a minute and a half. Although I will warn you now, if you’re an average gamer, you’ll sail right though the first part of mission one, and then have extreme difficulty in the second part. The game gets extremely hard after the introductory level, so don’t be surprised if you feel a little frustrated after the first part.
Your controls are extremely simple: tap the screen to shoot, and drag ammo to your clip to reload. However simple these mechanics are, I have to say that I find the reload system a little inappropriate. You see the game guides you through these levels at a pretty rapid pace, and there is no option to slow down or duck behind something to reload. Which means, if you are running toward 10 zombies, who require at least 3 shots each, and you only have 8 shots in you clip, you simply do not have the time to reload. The game pushes you forward, and the second you start to drag your ammo into the clip you’ve got 1.5 seconds where you’re completely exposed. And in this game, that’s a lot of time. I would think that having a reload button, rather than the drag and drop would shave off about half this time, simply because you could hit the button while still tapping your enemies to death.
Another issue I had with this game was in the sound department. The voice acting was non-existent, and the tunes are repetitive and don’t match the gameplay. I don’t want to hear slow creepy music when I’m running through a hallway of zombies. I want to hear something upbeat that will match the fast pace of the game. And the zombie noises are just terrible. I understand that the undead don’t really make a large plethora of sounds, but these zombies must have learned something because they repeat the same “Hsss, Ohhh, Urrrr” sounds over and over. Maybe I ask too much, but I feel like zombies have something to say. And it’s just the same three noises looped over and over. There are also some undead rats who have voices, but they only make one squeak sound. But that’s permissible. I wasn’t expecting a virtuoso performance from the rats.
Graphics were okay. Not really good, because there’s a real problem when the game zooms in and all you can see are various blocks of color, but they don’t hinder the gameplay, and that’s what really counts in this type of game. The environment does a good job of looking dark and creepy. And the zombies, from afar that is, look pretty decent. Your character, however, looks terrible. Wherever a level begins and you see him standing there, he looks like he was put together using tetriminos. It’s a really good thing you don’t see your character a lot, because that would just be a travesty.
Controls, sound, and graphics aside, however, shooting zombies just makes for a fun experience. I have to say that aside from saying very foul things to my DS for that 1.5 seconds where I got creamed because of my reload time and my severe annoyance at the graphic and audio mishmash, I actually really had fun blowing the remaining guts out of zombies.
In addition to the “story” mode (I use the term very loosely here), there is also a mission mode and a multiplayer mode. The mission mode is basically a mode where you can play different parts of a chapter you’ve already completed. The best way to use this mode is to go in and complete a chapter in mission mode before you complete it in story mode. Why is this? Because mission mode gives you automatic full life, so you can go in, see what you’re up against, practice shooting, and then go in and beat it in story mode. Of course, this mode can still be used if you just want to replay your favorite part of the game again, but I find the previous way more useful. There is also a multiplayer mode where you can play one friend in a multi-card wireless zombie shoot-up competition. Not really all that exciting, but if you and a friend both have the game, you might as well, right?
Once you beat the game, there will be two extra modes of unlockable gameplay that you can now access. One will be furious mode, where you can fight extra-angry zombies, and one is god mode, where you can fight all the extra-angry zombies with unlimited weapons and ammo. I would strongly recommend the god mode, simply because furious mode is impossible. Well, maybe not impossible, but it sure made me want to throw my DS into something on quite a few occasions. God mode, on the other hand, made me chuckle with maniacal laughter. But ultimately, the decision is yours.
I think that this game makes for a great sequel. This one has some major problems that need to be fixed in the sound, graphics, and control departments, but the idea behind it all is pretty solid, and makes for a really fun gaming experience. I definitely wouldn’t mind picking up a massively revamped and reworked Touch the Dead 2 in the near future. It’s a strange thing, because by all accounts this game should be reviewed as being horrible. But I can’t honestly do that because games should be fun, and this one is. What I would hope for this title is for a sequel with improved graphics, sound, and control. If this one is just the first and spawns an entertaining series, then I can forgive the pilot’s mishaps. So, here’s hoping!