Together Retro: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream & The Typing of the Dead

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Presented by Dsheinem
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It’s another October double-bill for Together Retro, and this year we are playing two games in very different genres: 1995’s I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream developed by The Dreamer’s Guild and 1999’s Sega spin-off classic The Typing of the Dead.

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I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream Overview

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream takes a Harlan Ellison sic-fi/horror story and transforms it into a point and click adventure game. The game was published on PC and Mac by Cyberdreams on Halloween Day in 1995; it is now also available on Linux.

Gameplay

In typical genre convention, the game tasks the player with unravelling a number of mysteries and moving through the narrative vis-à-vis the use of a robust item management interface. Specifically, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream implements a graphics-based command system that allows players to use, combine, talk to, or otherwise interact with the world.  Without giving too much away, it is safe to say that the story takes you through multiple stages with various horrors to confront and choices to make.  The game is known, in particular, for its use of a morality system; many of your actions affect a “Spiritual Barometer” that can influence the ending you get upon completion of the game.

Ports

For many years the tile was abandonware, but in 2013 the rights were picked up by Night Dive Studios, the same company that bought up the rights to the Tex Murphy games, The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour, and several other well-regarded 1990s PC titles. If you can’t hunt down a copy of the original disc, you can find the game on modern digital distribution platforms like Steam or Good Old Games. A PlayStation 1 port was planned but never completed.

Legacy

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is sometimes cited as an example from its era of “Video Games as Art” and has enjoyed something of an uptick in notoriety over the past few years as that discussion has intensified. While it has many advocates, the game wasn’t universally praised upon release and there’s no sense that it enjoyed remarkable sales (it isn’t part of a series, it is the only adaptation of an Ellison story into video game form, etc.), so it’s legacy is primarily in how it has inspired other games in its wake.

The Typing of the Dead Overview

The Typing of the Dead is a conversion of Sega’s light gun-classic The House of the Dead 2 that uses a keyboard to replace the light gun and asks players to type often nonsensical words as fast and accurately as possible to take out the zombie hordes. It was released for the arcades originally and then later ported to the Dreamcast, Windows, and (in Japan) the PlayStation 2.

Gameplay

The Typing of the Dead asks players to type words of various complexity and at various speeds depending on the selected level of difficulty.  Basically, the  keyboard “shoots” the enemies for every successfully typed word and the timing of the original The House of the Dead is tweaked to compensate for lengthier input times. The game is still the same on-rails shooter as the original, but must be played with a keyboard.  Various ports offer different modes and challenges (e.g. unlocking art or extra credits), but the game can be difficult even for strong typists.

Ports

The Typing of the Dead didn’t enjoy the same widespread arcade placement as its House progenitor and didn’t make it out of Japan, so for most people the best avenue for playing the game will be a console.  The Dreamcast version is probably the best known port, and is one of the few games for the system to make use of the system’s optional keyboard accessory. The PS2 import (The Typing of the Dead: Zombie Panic) is playable with a USB keyboard (it was sold with one on release) and the Windows version is readily available on eBay. No digital distribution version of the game exists.

Legacy

Keeping in line with The House of the Dead series, The Typing of the Dead has seen several spin-offs and sequels, most of which are related to the main series.  On the keyboard front, The House of the Dead III saw an arcade port in The Typing of the Dead 2, which remained exclusive to Japanese arcades and then was ported for the Japanese PC market. Similarly, last year The House of the Dead Overkill was ported as The Typing of the Dead Overkill to Steam and received a few pieces of specialized dictionary-based DLC packs to support it after release. There are also some handheld versions of the series: English of the Dead is a Japanese Nintendo DS port of Typing of the Dead 2 and Flick of the Dead is a Japanese iOS imagining of the series.

Discussion

There will be times shared, victories declared, and cheap defeats lamented. It will all be here in the Together Retro forums.


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