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Nintendo DS Review: Touch the Dead

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With no relation to the popular Sega franchise House of the Dead, the development studio that handled Winnie the Pooh’s Rumbly Tumbly Adventure on the Game Boy Advance shifts gears (drastically) to Touch the Dead. Dream On Studio brings this shooter to the DS with some unique ideas that unfortunately fails to translate into an enjoyable or very playable experience.

While the box lists the main character’s name as Rob Steiner and his situation as a prisoner for a murder he didn’t commit, the player would be lost as to what’s occurring in terms of the story by jumping into the game. The brief cinematics are filled with barely discernable graphics (Steiner’s face bears no resemblance to a human form), and cheap action movie dialogue that would be out of place in an ‘80s action movie.

Game play takes place in a first person perspective, and the character is on-rails as with any title in the familiar light gun shooter genre. The difference here is that there is no light gun, only a stylus of death. Touching the screen fires the players chosen weapon, while keeping it on the screen can unleash a stream of bullets once certain power-ups are obtained.

It’s hard to be inaccurate when you’re basically firing point blank, so hitting one of the ridiculous number of undead roaming the hallways (how many people worked in this prison exactly?) isn’t particularly difficult. To make up for this, the developer has crippled the player, giving them extremely underpowered weapons, zombies that do not want to end their afterlife any time soon, and a reload system that is more frustrating than unique.

The system itself is simple. Bullets from the left of the screen need to be dragged over to the right (or vice versa if the settings are flipped), resulting in a reload animation. The process is quick, yet the small ammo clips barely hold enough ammunition to take down a single foe. Headshots are rarely enough, and even going so far as to put a bullet in each spot on the incoming undead may not kill them off.

This leads to a constant need to reload, making it nearly impossible to counter the numbers of the enemy. In the worst cases, the DS registers the reload as a pull of the trigger, further sapping the precious ammo source. Later stages obscure enemies in the low-resolution graphics engine, particularly sets of small gray zombie bats that are lost to foliage.

Weapon upgrades can be found throughout the levels, along with additional health that carries over from level to level. If you come to the final stage with a limited number of health points, indicated by hearts on the top screen, you’ll find yourself in a situation that may require replaying a previous level in its entirety to even stand a chance.

While weapon power-ups can’t be missed, the branching levels can either be a success or failure when seeking ammo or health. In wireless local co-op, the second player does allow slightly more leeway, However, finding a friend to stick with you, not to mention requiring them to own a copy of the game, could cause a serious relationship strain.

Four boss battles are the only true variety. Though they come in different forms, there’s no difference in actually shooting the generic mass of zombies from one encounter to the next. The repetitious reload audio clip is also quickly unnerving as it’s the same sound for each of the three guns. The only relief is a difficult to use crowbar that is completely ineffective on foes coming from the sides of the screen.

Touch the Dead is notable for its concept, but ends up leaving the player hoping for Sega to see this as a wake up call to release a true House of the Dead for the console, instead of letting Eidos publish more of this. This is the right idea, destroyed in actual execution.

Touch the Dead is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore and Violence.


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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • Siege

    You made some valid points, such as how easy it is to be accurate with the stylus as opposed to an actual light gun, which I suppose is made up for by requiring so many shots to take out each enemy; but problems like having trouble reloading never seemed to occur when I played. That “cheap action movie dialogue” is the kind of cheesy, quirky humor that certain B movie fans are into, and with a proper appriciation for that sort of thing, the game is pretty funny. I enjoyed the entirety of the game, which was a little short, and think their is an audience to which Touch the Dead appeals to, possibly turning this into a cult classic.

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