February 14, 2012

The Zombie Apocalypse Is Metal

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , , — TJ "Kyatt" Cordes @ 11:45 am

Metal Dead
Making short work of explaining its title, Metal Dead begins with two friends in a car cranking heavy metal music while trying to escape an outbreak of zombies.

The way these two characters talk about the zombie apocalypse being a heavy metal dream come true, I was fully expecting this point and click adventure game to contrarily be a sobering tale of how such an incident is not cool at all, and is the last situation that anybody would realistically want to endure.

In a way, Metal Dead does defy romanticizing the idea of being one of the few human survivors among hordes of the living dead, but in a much zanier way than expected.

Metal Dead
Metal Dead’s graphics are a notch or two above MS Paint quality, but that being said, there is still a strong sense of composition and variety put into the game’s building full of zombie-ravaged rooms, each of which is meticulously decorated with debris or half-fallen apart zombies. The whole game gives off the feeling that this was a deliberate, albeit low-tech aesthetic choice, one which pays off in the long run.

The soundtrack matches the low-tech visual design, composed of a variety of MIDI tunes that should resonate with anybody who owned a computer during the mid-90s. There is no audio to accompany the game’s dialogue, but the characters, free of obligation to have all of their lines spoken aloud, have a lot more to say. Considering the wildly exaggerated accents that some of the characters have, it might have gotten a bit off-putting if the player could actually hear these characters talking all of the time.

Another sign of this game’s robust quantity of dialogue is that Malcom, the game’s protagonist, seems to have something clever (or at the very least, different) to say whenever the player attempts to use a command when it is not appropriate. Admittedly this is almost always necessary in adventure games, especially to someone such as yours truly, who kind of sucks at them.

The dialogue is amusing in its own overly graphic manner – bear in mind that the rooms are caked in varying degrees of dead body parts, something that our hero is always quick to give some verbal notice to. If there was one complaint that I could hold against Metal Dead’s dialogue however, it would be that the text that appears over characters has a nasty tendency to blend into the background at times.

Metal Dead
Gameplay is handled in a traditional way for point and click adventure games. Players have five basic commands that can be triggered by a click of the mouse: looking at an object, walking to a point, talking to a person, interacting with an object, or using a selected item from your inventory. Each of these five commands, oblivious to context, must be selected either by a menu that slides out from the top of the screen or by right clicking to cycle through the commands, which gets somewhat cumbersome.

Call me lazy, but I think that giving the clicks the gift of context would do wonders for Metal Dead’s occasional clunkiness; for example, when I walk to a door, it should be implied that I want to open said door and go into the room behind it. Having two different “go to” cursors depending on whether or not the passageway has a door in front of it is rather counterintuitive. This is by no means a game-breaker, but in these reviews, I usually have some trivial aspect that I have to harp on, and this is the one that stuck out the most.

Metal Dead
With minimal exception, Metal Dead’s puzzles are moderately challenging, but if stuck, Malcom can seek counsel from his friend-turned-disembodied zombie head that he keeps in his pocket. I want to say it reminds me of Nick, the head from the upcoming zombie-themed action game Lollipop Chainsaw, but it seems a bit unfair to compare aspects of this game to one that isn’t even out yet just because I heard of the latter game first.

However, not unlike the already existing Blackwell series of adventure games, advice can only be given by the protagonist’s dead partner when nobody else is around, either because people will freak out if they see somebody talking to a dead guy, or because getting hints is a shameful act that should be done in privacy; you can’t just whip it out in front of everybody, after all.

Once you shake the notion of this being a survival horror game, something which should be obvious to you by the time you get a couple of hours in and realize that none of the zombies ever attack you, what you get in Metal Dead is a well-crafted comedic adventure. Despite the title, Metal Dead isn’t so much about the zombies and music as much as it is about the puzzles and laughs, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

*Metal Dead was created by Walk Thru Walls Studios, a two-man independent developer based in Brisbane. You can find more information about the game via their website by clicking here.

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