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Key to Winning 'Typing of the Dead'? Don't Be a Zombie

February 22, 2001|AARON CURTISS | aaron.curtiss@latimes.com

Anyone who doubts that Sega Dreamcast hosts the coolest, most innovative games of any console on the market should check out "The Typing of the Dead," a quirky and addictive shooter that drops "Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing" into a zombie-infested nightmare.

Using the same basic code as "The House of the Dead 2," a blood- and pus-filled blastfest, "Typing" requires players to escape the clutches of the undead by using the Dreamcast keyboard to type key words and phrases as fast as they can.

That's right. So when an ax-wielding zombie comes running toward you, the speed and accuracy with which you type "Snot bubbles" could make the difference between life and death. Who says video games aren't educational? This sure beats typing about the "quick brown fox" all day.

Each zombie in the game comes with his own sort of "Pop-Up Video" bubble with a word or phrase in it. Killing that zombie requires typing that word or phrase with all the capitalization and punctuation in the right places.

Since the game runs off "The House of the Dead 2" engine, it moves swiftly and without glitches. The zombies and other monsters look fantastic and explode in flowers of green goo as players scramble through medieval streets toward the final showdown.

Retailers are shedding Dreamcasts for less than $100, so now's the time to buy one with a couple of titles--including "The Typing of the Dead"--and enjoy some of the finest gaming ever on a home machine.

'Oni'

The world of "Oni" suffers under a single tyrannical government set up to keep the rich rich and the rest of us enslaved.

Oh, heard that one before? Sadly, "Oni" doesn't offer game players much new or much to get too excited about. It may rank among the top tier of PlayStation 2 titles, but that's not saying much. And PC players can find much more joy in other games.

"Oni" follows the exploits of Konoko, a purple-haired agent for the Technology Crime Task Force, which provides the muscle of the World Coalition Government. Her mission: Infiltrate the Syndicate, a crime ring that threatens to mess up the WCG's utopia.

Players control Konoko as she jumps, kicks, punches and shoots her way through room after room of levels that seem to go on forever. Normally, that's a good thing. But in "Oni" the levels are repetitive and uninspired, meaning it feels more like a chore than an accomplishment to clear them.

Despite a unique--and tough-to-master--control scheme that enables Konoko to fight several enemies at once, most of the action in "Oni" changes very little from the first to the last of the 17 levels. Most of the bad guys have very similar fighting styles.

The controls provide elegant manipulation during a fight sequence, but they make running from place to place overly difficult. And players spend plenty of time on the run. What respite the game provides from fighting is often spent dashing from spot to spot flipping switches to open doors.

Visually, the game falls flat. "Oni" serves up tired scenery that most game players have seen a dozen times before--warehouses, secret headquarters, office buildings.

For fans of mission-based fighting games, "Oni" may be worth a look. Its refined control offers the delightful ability to slide across a room during a melee, snatch an automatic rifle and start firing--all in a single fluid motion. This gives some of the sequences a cinematic feel that serve as the only bright spots in an otherwise workmanlike game.

*

Aaron Curtiss is editor of Tech Times.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The Skinny

"The Typing of the Dead"

Genre: Zombified typing tutorial

Price: $33

Platform: Sega Dreamcast

Publisher: Sega

The good: Frenzied creativity

The bad: Same as "House of the Dead 2"

Bottom line: Addictive

"Oni"

Genre: Third-person action adventure

Price: $35 for PC and Mac, $50 for Sony PlayStation 2

Platform: PC, Mac and Sony PlayStation 2

Publisher: Gathering of Developers, Rockstar Games

The good: Sophisticated controls

The bad: Dull levels

Bottom line: Not up to snuff

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