When someone mentions a “typing game,” what’s the first image that pops into your head? Most young adults recall a dark computer lab in middle school, furiously tapping a mechanical keyboard as some Learning Company program assessed your speed and accuracy. They’re the reason we can type quickly without looking down at the keyboard, but these evaluation programs were no Oregon Trail; they were dull, lifeless contraptions designed to hone our Words per Minute for the workforce.
While we were fighting for the top spot on a class roster, those fortunate enough to own a Dreamcast with a keyboard attachment or a capable PC were fighting for their lives in The Typing of The Dead. Instead of building a teaching tool, SEGA and Smilebit decided to take their ever-popular House of The Dead 2 and replace the arcade light guns with keyboards. To sweeten the pot, the words and phrases that must be typed are borderline insane; where else will you find yourself ending a zombie’s life by belting out “Big seller” or “Used police car”?
By combining The House of The Dead 2’s charmingly wooden acting with an assortment of random English phrases, The Typing of The Dead soon found its way to a cult-like status, worshipped as an odd rarity. And as with most cult classics, it was only a matter of time before SEGA brought it back for another chance in the spotlight with The Typing of The Dead: Overkill. First released as a Wii light gun game in 2009, Overkill trades the C-movie self-seriousness for full frontal grindhouse action, and the resulting send-up delivers three hours of pitch-perfect, faux exploitation.
We haven’t exactly seen hordes of games where zombies are dispatched by typing “lube,” so the combat feels as novel as its decade-old predecessor. The game’s dictionary is the only substantial change to the formula, with randomized phrases for every level and obscure pulp culture references that seem tailored for the sort of people who would go looking for this game. Lines like “Better call Saul” and other winks and nods aren’t quite as magical as “Granddad vacation,” but enough of the randomized madness is there to spit out decent fridge-magnet haikus and screams into the wilderness.
The Typing of The Dead: Overkill is exactly what I wanted from a modern revival of a ludicrous game, offering improvements that accommodate everything that made the first game great without ruining the magic. The only regretful inclusion is a leaderboard for each level; by the time I manage to break my friends’ records, I’ll have written a novel’s worth of nonsense phrases whose permanence fades a soon as a zombie’s last letter is typed.