Reviewed By Carl Lyon
Touch The Dead is perhaps one of the most conceptually sound game ideas to come around in quite a while: a House of the Dead-style rail-shooter on Nintendo?s hyper-intuitive DS system, using the touch screen to paint digital walls with zombie brains. It?s an idea that seems idiot-proof, the sort of thing that practically creates itself with a modicum of effort. However, it seems that the team at Dream On Studios have done the unthinkable, and turned this brilliant idea into a colossal disappointment.
The controls, for one, are an incredibly mixed bag. While shooting the zombies comes easily enough, with a quick tap of the stylus sending lead slugs into their rotting bodies, it?s when your clip is empty that the game goes from decent brainless fun unto an exercise in frustration. In House of the Dead and practically every other light gun shooter ever made, a squeeze of the trigger away from the arcade machine would reload your clip. Unable to emulate this action on the DS, the developers opted to use the touch screen for reloading as well, forcing the player to drag from an ammo box in the lower left of the screen to the clip in the lower right. While intuitive in practice, the flaw in this system becomes apparent when dealing with one of the many enemy swarms the game sends your way, as not only do you have to reload the gun, but you also have to sit through a reloading animation before you can begin firing again. When there are three or more zombies taking a chunk out of you, it comes across as cheap and frustrating, and not the ?challenge? that I?m sure the developers thought that this would be. Why couldn?t they have used the sorely underused shoulder buttons for reloading, which would have worked infinitely better, and spared my poor DS from being flung across the room in a fit of rage several times?
Graphics are the other mixed bag. Limitations in the DS hardware itself (the two ARM processors aren?t capable of smoothly rendering large quantities of 3D models simultaneously) resulted in a very limited bestiary, consisting of a handful of models with a few different textures to flesh them out. While the omnipresent ?skinny zombies? look quite good in virtually all of their iterations, as the limited texture sizes are compensated for with smaller surface areas, the ?fat zombies? look completely horrible, with blocky, high-contrast textures stretched across their ample frames. The same problem arises in the environments, as the halls of the prison that you start in, as well as the following hospital and airport look pleasant enough, episode three sends the player through a swamp, where the game becomes almost unbearably ugly, and the zombie hordes are lost against a swimming sea of muddy textures.
Worst of all, the game just doesn?t have any style. After the fairly slick opening cinematic, rendered in a black-and-white comic fashion, everything else is done in the most clichéd fashion possible. You play a man in prison (for a crime he didn?t commit, no less) who has to fight his way through zombies and face-humping rats, spouting some of the weakest one-liners imaginable. Duke Nukem, he isn?t?hell, he?s not even Col. John Blade. ?I?ll call you if I have a fence that needs fixing,? he quips at a giant zombie wrapped in barbwire. ?Guess I don?t get a massage with this one,? he comments at a zombie nurse (Huh?). While the development team is from Europe (where the game has the less-creepy but still lame title of Dead ?n? Furious), I found myself completely befuddled as to what they were trying to achieve with these inexplicable one-liners.
But it?s really not worth thinking about. Touch the Dead simply isn?t worth your time or money. Feel free to look at the awesome cover art by Arthur Suydam (Marvel Zombies) in the store, but leave it there. If you?re truly horror-starved in your DS library, pick up Capcom?s great Resident Evil: Deadly Silence or any of the vast number of Castlevania games available for the DS or the Game Boy Advance.