Game Review: Metal Dead
Genre: Adventure (Point and Click)
Developer: Walk Thru Walls
Available Platforms: PC
ESRB Rating: N/A (I’d rate it M)
In the early days of graphical computer games, adventure games reigned supreme. Led by companies like Sierra, gamers were allowed to explore worlds using their keyboard to type commands like Open Door, Push Rock, or Ifnkovhgroghprm. These graphical adventure games eventually started utilizing a new device called a mouse (yes, there was a time when computers were mouseless), and doing away with the keyboard entirely. Metal Dead picks up the genre at this time, and is a mouse-driven graphical adventure game that would be right at home in the mid to late 1980s. Metal Dead is not afraid to pay homage to their predecessors either, and many of the best jokes in the game are derived from material from other games and movies.
There’s not much I can say about the story that won’t take away from why you’d buy the game, so I’ll keep it simple. Zombies are attacking, and you need to find out why. Most of the story takes place in a medical facility, and you and your heavy metal rock buddy tackle the mystery one floor at a time. Literally; the progression is broken up by restricting access to the various floors until you’ve performed various tasks via the point and click interface. Fortunately, the icon you move around highlights when hovering over an item that can be interacted with (though most are merely for substance, very few actually progress the story). Descriptive and often witty feedback is given, depending on what you try to do to these various objects, and was one of the charming things about these types of games that I’m glad was captured in Metal Dead.
Your character can carry a bit of inventory (that is often used with objects in the environment to progress, and sometimes can be combined with other inventory items), but most of your interaction will be via the hand or mouth icon to do or speak to things respectively. You’ll have access to an in-game hint system as well, which is very well done. There is also the option to save and load your game, but if you’ve got 3 hours to kill, you won’t need it (I never died while playing, and only saved once when I had to leave the game). Information is delivered solely through on-screen text, and there is a decent (but oft repeating) MIDI soundtrack that plays throughout.
One of the most charming aspects of graphical adventure games was the subtle ways that the developers injected humor into the game, and Metal Dead does a great job of leveraging that humor in often ridiculous ways. The humor stays pretty consistent (read: good) throughout the game (you’ll probably need a diverse gaming background to pick up all the references). As I mentioned earlier, the hint system is well done, and is also rather witty. The interface feels spot-on with the classics, and never gets in your way of enjoying the game. The graphics, while simplistic, are effective in delivering the content in a particular style, and there are some advanced effects utilized occasionally. The dialog is very well written for the most part (a little lengthy at times), and is very entertaining.
Of course, the limitations of these types of games are present as well. For one, there is a fair amount of backtracking done in the game. While the various floors of the building aren’t exactly robust (there’s usually 2-3 rooms per floor), it can be a mental chore when you realize that the item you just got needs to be used in a place near the beginning, and then brought back to where you currently are. The dialog, while excellently written, is painfully delivered in an all-text format with a font that is just non-standard enough to frustrate the reader a bit (and some of the colors are difficult to read). The game is very wordy with everything from minor interactions to major dialog, and the limitations of the visual text mean that you’ll be sitting through extensive text reading sessions (or clicking a ton to advance the story along). Classic games of this genre got around this limitation by using text boxes that could display entire paragraphs at once; such a feature would have been useful in this game. The game is pretty short if you’ve played these types of games before; I completed it in a little under 3 hours, but I did miss 4 achievements (there are 13 total) in my playthrough, so I clearly didn’t see everything there was in the game. Finally, there wasn’t enough variety in what you did; there were very few actual puzzles in the game. Most of the time is spent trying to figure out what item in your inventory is going to advance you to the next part of the game. There are no consequences for dialog choices, and as a result you find yourself just floating along with the story, rather than being actively engaged with it. Let me click into a horde of zombies and die. Don’t worry, I’ll keep playing!
Tym’s take: Metal Dead does a lot of things right with delivering a classic graphical adventure game. For those with an itch to relive the glory days of gaming (albeit on a smaller scale), you’d be wise to pick this up. The funny, well written story is worth going through; I just wish the way it was presented was different. At $5, I have a hard time saying you won’t get a decent return on investment, as long as you understand the limitations that this type of game brings with it. It’s missing just enough features to prevent me from recommending it to everyone, but seeing as this is the first of a series of these types of games from Walk Thru Walls, I think they’re on the right track.
+ Funny dialog and interactive elements that pay homage to the genre
+ Efficient interface
- Excessive dialog is difficult to follow due to the way it is presented
- Short game that is somewhat artificially extended with backtracking
- Lack of puzzle variety
Final Score: 5/10