Good moaning: my favourite zombie games

It’s Zombie Awareness Month so we’re talking all things undead. Following on from Monday’s look into why we find the living dead so fascinating, on Wednesday we shared the best survival advice to get us through the coming apocalypse.

But we haven’t even talked about video games properly yet! There are currently over 1,400 titles listed under the Zombies tag on Steam right now so there are plenty of them to discuss. Although the majority fall into the action or horror genres and these aren’t ones I’d usually go to myself, this doesn’t mean I haven’t played my fair share of games where the undead make an appearance. My final zombie-related post for this month’s celebration features a few of my favourite releases, some you may not expect.

Corpse Killer

I really enjoy full-motion video (FMV) games but I’d never heard of Corpse Killer until it was kindly gifted to me by Ellen from Ace Asunder in March. It definitely comes under the so-bad-it’s-good category that’s the standard for FMV releases from the 1990s: hammy acting, cheesy lines, an unconvincing female character thrown in as a love-interest and plenty of badly-dressed actors. It looks like a bunch of extras turned up on the day not knowing what they were going to get into, and it’s perfect.

Dead Rising

Dead Rising is great for several reasons. Not only does it take place in a shopping mall, a location which features in many an apocalypse fantasy, but it teaches us that any object can be used as a weapon during such dire times. Grab a baseball bat, bass guitar or a lawn mower – and make sure you’re wearing the Servbot Mask while you’re doing it. It might sound like a comedy, but the fact that the game must be completed in 72-hours (six hours in real time) adds to the pressure and keeps you on edge.

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge

LeChuck has been killed so many times during the Monkey Island series that it’s difficult to keep track of his deaths. But this doesn’t stop him and he just keeps on fighting: knock him down and he’ll get right back up again in the form of a ghost, zombie, demon or even god. He’s constantly getting blown up both mentally and physically, and yet he keeps coming back for more. This sign of resilience and determination is surely the mark of a true protagonist and shows us that real heroes never quit.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

I love the way Resident Evil 7 uses flashbacks to flesh out its story because it’s not as simple as sitting back and watching a cutscene. Ethan comes across VHS tapes that can be played using VCRs around the Baker family’s plantation; and ‘played’ is exactly what I mean, as you’re able to relive and control the events of the footage you witness. This mechanic not only offers insight into people other than the protagonist and reveal sinister secrets about the Bakers but also provides some excellent gameplay.

Strange Brigade

Sometimes a release is made even better thanks to a good narrator and this is the element which stands out for me is Strange Brigade. What more could you want when shooting the undead in a cursed tomb that someone saying things like ‘Tally-ho!’ in a posh English voice? Though he may come across as sarcastic and as if he’s not taking the situation too seriously, the narrator is shown to be concerned about his team’s wellbeing and offers the player hints and tips on how to progress.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

In The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, investigator Paul Prospero receives a letter from 16-year old Ethan and is inspired to visit his hometown of Red Creek Valley. He begins encountering some unsettling phenomena immediately after his arrival, along with evidence of recent violence in the deserted mining village; but does this really have anything to do with zombies? Getting attacked by the corpse in the mines scared the hell out of me because I totally wasn’t expecting it to appear in a narrative game.

To The Moon

To The Moon is an incredibly emotional title and so it may therefore seem strange to hear that zombies feature in a particular section. After the doctors have a disagreement about how to proceed with their patient, Eva creates several zombie versions of herself to stop Neil from progressing through the school and foiling her plan. It’s a scene which provides some comic relief before building up to a conclusion which never fails to make me cry, regardless of how many times I’ve seen it.

The Typing of the Dead: Overkill

Rather than blasting away at zombies with a gun using a controller, in Typing of the Dead: Overkill you use your keyboard to enter words and fire shots instead. I really shouldn’t like it for several reasons but somehow it manages to suck me in every time and that’s why it’s my guilty-pleasure game. I mean, come on: you’re fighting a boss called Meat Katie who’s a zombified cow-person while being confronted with phrases such as ‘udderly delightful’ and ‘sirloin surprise’. How can you not laugh at that?

So there you have it: a week of undead-related posts in celebration of Zombie Awareness Month. Hopefully you’re all now prepared for when the apocalypse hits – and have a range of zombie games to play while you wait.

Learning to code, one game at a time

Many see video games as a form of entertainment, but they can also be educational. Not only do they teach us to open our eyes and see new aspects to the world such as different ways of living; they can help us learn employable skills that can be used in our day-to-day lives.

Most of my career so far has been in an IT role where I’ve looked after best-practice and policy, so a move in July to a new job where I’m required to write code has been a little daunting. Although it’s fun there’s so much I need to learn – but I don’t need to worry because games may have the answers. A number of releases make use of mechanics that help teach various programming mechanics, so I’m adding the following onto my study-list. Bring on the revision.

2013: Typing of the Dead: Overkill

Although this title doesn’t teach any programming skills directly, what it does do is teach players how type faster – and that’s invaluable for getting the code out of your head and onto the screen as quickly as possible. Rather than blasting away at zombies with a gun using a controller, in Typing of the Dead: Overkill you instead use your keyboard to enter words and fire shots. Modern Dream’s release is my guilty pleasure: I really shouldn’t like it for several reasons, but somehow it manages to suck me in every time.

2015: Hacknet

I initially had to tell him know when a colleague asked me recently whether I’d ever used Unix. But after he showed me a few of the commands it hit me: I recognised them from playing Hacknet by Team Fractal Alligator. This title simulates computer hacking through a Unix-like operating system, and the core gameplay is to connect to other machines and run dedicated programs to break their security. Get in, take what you need, and get out again – but don’t be reckless, and don’t leave a trace.

2015: Human Resource Machine

Playing a game where you’re a corporate office worker who must complete mundane tasks like moving things from an inbox to an outbox doesn’t sound all that entertaining. But when it’s by Tomorrow Corporation and teaches you elements of assembly language, it’s kind of fun. Once a puzzle in Human Resource Machine is completed, you’re shown how many instructions were used and how long they took to process, giving you the opportunity to optimise your code.

2018: ERROR: Human Not Found

If you’re looking for a game that’s going to introduce you to programming without getting too heavy, ERROR: Human Not Found by CelleC Games is a good choice. This visual-novel is about a scientist who’s trying to clear her name after the death of an artificial intelligence (AI), and has portions of point-and-click adventure interspersed with four types of computer-science-based puzzles. It’s free on Steam so there’s nothing stopping you from giving it a go if you have a couple of hours to spare.

2019: Baba Is You

This one was recommended to me recently by quietschisto from RNG and, although I usually prefer my titles to have a storyline, it sounds like it’s good for helping you get to grips with programming. Baba Is You by Hempuli Oy teaches you how to code in a roundabout way: the rules you have to follow are present as physical blocks in the game world and you can manipulate them to cause surprising interactions. Turn yourself into a rock, patches of grass into hot obstacles, or even the goal of the puzzle into something entirely different.

2019: while True: learn()

while True: learn() isn’t only a game about machine learning, neural networks, big data and AI; it’s also one about understanding your cat. You’re a machine learning specialist who makes neural networks but it turns out your cat is better at it than you are, so build a kitty-to-human translation system to find out what else your pet is capable of. This title is used in schools and universities in countries all over the world and developer receives tons of pet photographs from players each week.

Have you played any other video games that have taught you something, programming or otherwise? Let me know about them in the comments below so I can add them to my study list.

Guilty pleasure: The Typing of the Dead: Overkill

Wikipedia defines a guilty pleasure as ‘something, such as a film, a television program or a piece of music, that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard, or is seen as unusual or weird.’

That statement doesn’t mention video games but all gamers have one: the title you love to bits but are too scared to admit in public. Maybe it’s that annual EA Sports release you’ve denounced as a blatant marketing ploy but then go home to play and win the World Cup. Or perhaps that new release you’ve joined in with the bashing of on an online forum before quietly collecting every hidden item throughout the remainder of the evening.

The House of the Dead: Overkill is a first-person rail-shooter developed by Headstrong Games and originally published by SEGA in 2009. The story takes place in 1991 when Special Agent G is sent to Louisiana to investigate a series of disappearances and hunt down crime lord Papa Cesar. Just when you think it can’t get any more clichéd, along comes partner Detective Isaac Washington who’s out to seek revenge for the murder of his father – and don’t forget about the infestation of mutants.

What if you kept the B-movie plot and zombies, but replaced the guns with a keyboard and bullets with random (and often crude) words? It sounds pretty bizarre but what you’ll end up with is Modern Dream’s 2013 release The Typing of the Dead: Overkill, and my very own gaming guilty pleasure.

Opinions of the game are somewhat mixed and it currently has a user score of 7.7. Some people praise it for its sense of innovation and comical wisecracks, but others criticise it for its juvenile humour, excessive use of the F-word and lack of gameplay. For example, take a look at some of the negative comments on the Metacritic page:

  • “There is no setting to alleviate the constant barrage of F-bombery. There are single sentences with three or four curses. It’s really just a lack of imagination.” – ebinary
  • “Having made it through the first two levels, I’ve already been exposed to tasteless cripple jokes, completely unnecessary levels of swearing, and a vomit-inducing fight against two zombified strippers. I’m no stranger to adult content in games, but I was quickly overwhelmed by the exploitative tone of this game.” – titlebreaker
  • Animations are poor, environments bland and uninspired and its just a whole bunch of horror clichés being thrown together. Meh.” – DFCZE

  • I really shouldn’t like The Typing of the Dead: Overkill as much as I do. It features Varla Guns and Candi Stryper as two of its protagonists, described as ‘the hottest stripper on the Bayou City club scene’ and portrayed as the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype respectively. Bosses such as mutant strippers Coco and Sindy bring the tone down even further – and I haven’t even mentioned the gratuitous boob shots yet.

    Considering all of this, I should be shouting ‘Sexism!’ from the roottops. But I love it because it’s just so damn camp. The B-movie grindhouse style and vintage soundtrack encourage players not to take the title too seriously and I can’t seem to stop myself from laughing at the parade of scantily-clad mutants and F-bombs. I know that’s possibly a little hypocritical of me considering my thoughts on females in gaming – and yes, I can laugh at some pretty immature stuff – but I just can’t help but get sucked into this game.

    The Typing of the Dead, Overkill, video game, boss, cow, Meat Katie, cleaver, food preparation

    I mean, come on. You’re fighting a boss called Meat Katie, a grotesquely-mutated butcher woman with a cow skull and udder attached to her body who uses a giant meat cleaver in battle. You’re confronted with phrases such as ‘udderly delightful’, ‘sirloin surprise’ and ‘food preparation’ until she’s forced backwards into a meat grinder and dies with a moo. How can you not laugh at that?

    Nintendo Power apparently once called The House of the Dead: Overkill ‘one of the Wii’s greatest guilty pleasures’, so The Typing of the Dead: Overkill is worthy of being mine. There may be a stream coming soon…

    Arm yourself: video game weapons

    Every gamer has their preferred weapon of choice. There are those who like to stand back and pick off their enemies with a bow; thos who prefer to get stuck into the action and go head-to-head with a sword; and others who’d rather have the protection of a giant gun. Then there are the people who’d choose Saints Row’s Dildo Bat over anything else.

    The gorgeous Shelby from Falcon Game Reviews very kindly nominated Later Levels for the Mystery Blogger award last month, and one of the questions put to his nominees stood out for me: what is your favourite video game weapon (realistic or ridiculous)? This post is dedicated to him and features some of the tools I’ve enjoyed wielding, in no particular order.

    Root beer from The Secret of Monkey Island

    The Secret of Monkey Island, video game, ghost, pirates, LeChuck, Guybrush Threepwood, root beer, grog machine, Stan's Previously Owned Vessels, boatyard

    I know some of you are thinking this is a predictable choice given that Monkey Island has featured in several of my posts recently, but come on: root beer as a weapon is awesome! It’s known among voodoo practitioners to be a powerful tool against ghosts – but perhaps the real reason LeChuck exploded into a firework display when sprayed with the stuff is because it tastes simply awful. Who knows?

    Tearblast arrows from Horizon Zero Dawn

    Horizon Zero Dawn, video game, Aloy, female, warrior, bow, arrows, machine, beast, Grazer, flames

    I’ve been playing a lot of Horizon Zero Dawn lately and my favourite weapon from the game has to be the tearblast arrows. Grazers are hardly a formidable nemesis, but let me document how a typical battle goes:

    – Me: “Oh look, a herd of Grazers.”
    – Aloy: *lines up a tearblast arrow and aims for a blaze canister*
    – Tearblast arrow: “Bwaaaaaahp!”
    – Grazer: “What the hell was that?”
    – Tearblast arrow: “BOOM!”
    – Aloy: *runs*
    – Me: *giggles*

    Keyboard from The Typing of the Dead: Overkill

    The Typing of the Dead, Overkill, video game, boss, cow, Meat Katie, cleaver, food preparation

    My gaming guilty pleasure has got to be The Typing of the Dead: Overkill by Modern Dream. There’s something surreal and perversely satisfying about frantically typing phrases such as ‘udderly delightful’ and ‘sirloin surprise’ in order to fire your gun at a mutated cow with a cleaver called Meat Katie. If only the same weapon would work against my boss when I’m in the office and he won’t leave me alone.

    Your child in Dad Quest

    Dad Quest, video game, pigeons, squawk, scientist, Dad, Son

    If you’re a fan of platformers and retro graphics but haven’t yet checked out Dad Quest by Sundae Month, head over to Steam Early Access right now. This game features one of the most unique yet obvious weapons: your own child! Level up to equip them with devastating attacks such as piercing throw and shank, and those pesky pigeons and purple hedgehogs won’t be able to stand in your way.

    Calculator from The Longest Journey

    The Longest Journey, video game, Roper Klacks, alchemist, wizard, calculator, blue light

    When April O’Ryan finds herself up against the evil alchemist Roper Klacks in his floating castle, she uses the only weapon able to stop him: that’s right, a calculator. A device of logic in a magical realm holds more power than any of us can imagine and Klacks is sucked into the screen after playing with the buttons. If that’s punishment for using it to spell rude words using numbers, then school children everywhere had better watch out.

    Wrench from BioShock

    BioShock, video games, hands, wrench, weapon, tattoo

    The wrench the only melee weapon in BioShock and has the highest damage per second of any weapon in the game. That’s not the only reason it’s awesome though: I love the fact it’s completely fitting for its environment. Maybe this symbol of the working class was left behind by a fleeing worker who was disillusioned with Andrew Ryan’s oppressive rule, before the Rapture erupted with civil conflict and the place descended into a state of anarchy.

    Trico from The Last Guardian

    The Last Guardian, video game, boy, Trico, griffin, knights

    The fluffiest – and definitely largest – weapon on my list, Trico is a giant griffin-like creature who joins you on your journey through The Last Guardian. He may behave like a domesticated animal and therefore not always do as he’s told, but he defends you every step of the way: every time the armoured knights come to drag you through their misted doors, he’s there to stomp and crush them to pieces. I’d really like a Trico… although I’m not sure where I’d keep him or if I could afford the food bill.

    A big thank you to Shelby for the Mystery Blogger nomination – receiving an award from a site like Falcon Game Reviews is extremely humbling! What’s your favourite weapon from a video game?