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Game Profile
FINAL SCORES
6.2
Visuals
5.0
Audio
8.0
Gameplay
5.0
Features
7.0
Replay
6.0
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
DS
PUBLISHER:
Eidos Interactive
DEVELOPER:
GENRE: Shooter
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
May 16, 2007
 Written by David Taylor  on July 02, 2007

Review: Show me on the doll where the zombie touched you!


Light gun games are, pardon the pun, hit or miss. For every Time Crisis or House of the Dead there exists a derivative second-rate game like CarnEvil. The new DS shooter, Touch the Dead unfortunately falls closer to the latter. The game's selling point is its innovative use of the touch screen to blast zombies as opposed to the standard light gun peripheral. However the game suffers from numerous flaws that hold it back from being a truly worthwhile experience.

Touch the Dead's storyline is practically nonexistent. The player controls Rob Steiner, a convict who wakes up in a zombie infested prison. Through the course of the game, Steiner must navigate through the prison and nearby wilderness to escape the swarms of undead. That's basically the plotline. The cut scenes are short and merely serve as an outlet for Steiner to say some sort of unfunny one-liner. Clearly the developer was trying to make Steiner into a Serious Sam or Ash from Evil Dead style of hero. To say the results are bland would be an understatement. For example when Steiner sees a zombie nurse he states ?Guess I don't get a massage with this one.? Oh my sides!

Touch the Dead's gameplay closely mirrors that of House of the Dead. The computer pushes the player along a predetermined track while in a first-person view. As the player encounters zombies, he or she taps the touch screen to shoot the appropriate enemy. With humanoid enemies the player is able to damage specific body parts. For example the player can blow off a zombie's arms before delivering a fatal head shot. This is usually necessary in defeating the game's bosses as well.

Other than zombies the bestiary includes killer bats, cannibalistic leeches, alligators and robots. Granted this is a horror game, but how many times have players seen these enemies in video games? Couldn't the designers have been a bit more original? Even the bosses look like rejects from System Shock or Silent Hill. Additionally, some of the enemy's attacks are ridiculous. Some zombies will rip their heads off to throw at Steiner. How does this work? Even if they are undead, how would they be able to throw, let alone with such pinpoint accuracy, with their brains separated from their bodies?

Despite this unoriginality, the game is relatively fun at first. The touch screen is responsive and the weapon selection is a breeze with the D-pad. The game breaks up the on the rails feel by allowing the player to take multiple paths and search rooms through shooting switches and arrows. Also the game features varied scenarios such as riding in an airboat. While all this might make Touch the Dead sound decent enough, things start to quickly go downhill beginning with the guns' reloading mechanics.

To reload a weapon the player must drag spare ammo with the stylus from the bottom right hand side of the screen to your gun on the bottom left. This process is awkward and simply takes too long. By the time the player reloads his or her weapon more than likely they will have taken damage from an enemy. Why couldn't the designers have simply delegated reloading to a button? The L or R shoulder buttons would have been more convenient alternatives. Using a button would have also been closer to the ease of reloading in traditional light-gun shooters. In House of the Dead for instance all the player has to do is shoot off-screen.



The game features four weapons ? the pistol, crow bar, shotgun and machine gun. Unfortunately most of the weapons are underpowered and ineffective compared to the strength and numbers of zombies attacking Steiner. Although the pistol has infinite ammo, it is mostly worthless beyond the first few stages since the zombies inexplicably become more bullet resistant. The machine gun likewise isn't as devastating as it could be. The crowbar is effective only in one-on-one encounters and against smaller enemies like bats. Swinging it is really rough on the touch screen since the player must move the stylus back and forth frantically for it to be of any use.

Thus the shotgun is essential to win the game. Unfortunately both the shotgun and machine gun have limited ammo. Even though the player can get more ammo by blowing up crates, it never seems like there is enough since the zombies are so resilient and numerous. The player is simply dead if they run out of shotgun shells. In many games limiting ammo is an effective way to increase the difficulty. However, in games like Resident Evil the player usually has other effective weapons or can simply evade enemies and strategize. Touch the Dead forces the player to fight each enemy, so restricting ammo and forcing the player to use one weapon is unnecessarily frustrating.

This lack of resources also plays into the game's save system. The game automatically saves the player's progress at the beginning of each chapter/subchapter. At that point it will refill some of the player's health, but not completely. The same goes with ammunition. This often forces the player to repeat earlier portions of the game so they can conserve more ammo or health for use later. This is just another cheap element the designer's added to increase replay value.

Touch the Dead's graphics are downright ugly. The enemies are 3D rendered, but look like they belong in an early Sega Saturn title. Keep in mind the DS is the same system that replicated Super Mario 64. The zombie's movements are jerky and they often have a strange ?floaty? walk as they emerge on screen. This makes them look as if they aren't actually walking on the floor. Additionally none of the character's facial features are animated. The environments fair somewhat better as they are creepy, atmospheric, and feature many variations in setting.

Although the main menu's rock song is fairly cheesy, the in-game music is foreboding and fits the genre. The sounds effects are equally ominous from the beating of bat wings to the eerie swinging of doors. The only exception is the zombies, which all seem to possess the same grunts and screams regardless of type.

Bottom Line
While Touch the Dead is fun for a short while, it quickly becomes frustrating due to the cumbersome reloading controls and the designer's cheap attempts to make the game more difficult. Additionally the game simply isn't scary, either because the graphics are so bad, the player's familiarity with the genre, or a combination of both. Touch the Dead is maybe worth a rental, but I would strongly urge even horror fans to purchase a worthier title. We can hope that someday a developer will take Touch the Dead's shooter interface (minus the reloading) and implement it in a better way.


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