One thing you have to give the Nintendo DS:  it has made for some interesting games and ports.  Case in point is Touch The Dead from Eidos Interactive, and developed by Dream On Studios.  Originally titled Dead ‘n Furious for its European release, it was renamed for American buyers, probably to cash in on fans of Sega’s House of the Dead series.  And, to be honest, to cash in on the zombie fever that’s been brewing in the past few years, from movies (Land of the Living Dead) to games (Dead Rising) to comics (Marvel Zombies). 

Of course, the question still remains, will Touch The Dead be one of the fast zombies from 28 Days Later and feast on gamers, or will it be a slow zombie like Resident Evil, which will only leave you hungry for more?

Calling the graphics in Touch The Dead dated is an understatement to say the least.  Calling them first-generation Playstation One graphics is an insult to the PS1.  This being said, there’s almost an old-school charm in the graphics. 

While the graphics engine is capable of showing a surprising amount of enemies on-screen at one time, this is accomplished by having the models for just about everything be rather low-resolution, to the point where everything is blocky and jagged.  There’s not a lot of detail on the backgrounds either, making the game look almost bland in places.  Granted, at least the game runs rather smoothly, which is a bonus, and especially important when keeping you alive through the swarms of zombies.  Also, the game does a very good job of damage modelling, letting you see exactly where you’ve hit your target.

The sound in Touch The Dead is a mixed bag, to be honest.  The sound is quite well-done, with the guys at Dream On Studios going out of their way to get some really good samples for the different guns and the reloading sounds.  Also, the zombies and other assorted sound effects are all quite good.

The music however, is another story.  First off, there isn’t much to it, and it sounds very generic.  Second, what little there is of it loops endlessly, making one wish for a way to turn the music off while retaining the solid soundwork. 

Also, there’s a complete lack of any voice work, which takes a bit away from the immersion, but then again, when your game boils down to ‘Kill the Zombies.  Stay Alive’, there’s not much need for a large amount of voices, to be honest.

The controls in Touch The Dead are very simple.  You touch the screen to fire your gun, and you drag your ammo across the screen to reload.  Melee weapons are used by slashing at the touchscreen as well, and it’s all very simple to pick up and play.

The nice thing about the controls is that the touchscreen is very good at determining exactly where you shoot, which means if you get frantic with your tapping, your aim will be off, but if you can keep your cool and take precise shots, you can get some very nice results from the zombie population of the game.

While the reloading animation is very well done in the game, actually taking time to both reload as an action and for it to hapepn with the character on-screen, the actual action that you take to accomplish this feels a bit awkward, especially when you’re in the middle of a frantic firefight.  It’s not a crippling issue, but it is a definite annoyance, especially later in the game.

In Touch The Dead, you play Prisoner #1809, also known as Rob Steiner.  Imprisoned for a crime you didn’t commit (naturally), you wake up to find yourself the last surviving human in a prison overrun by zombies.  Your goal?  Simply to stay alive.  To do this you will use a number of weapons at your disposal, from a simple pistol and a crowbar to a shotgun and machine gun.  Some weapons have unlimited ammo, while others will require you to scavenge and hoard your ammunition. 

As with the House of the Dead games before it that inspired this title, the game is run on rails.  There’s no exploration, you merely are moved throughout the game’s levels, pausing long enough to shoot all the hordes of zombies that relentlessly attack you.  Of course, there are hidden items strewn throughout the levels, and shooting various things in the background will reveal these. 

Each level generally ends with a boss fight, after which the game will show you your stats on the level as well as a number of stat goals.  The more goals you complete (head shots, body shots, et al), the more health you’re rewarded with.  This is important, because the game only saves at checkpoints, and when you resume play, you only have the amount of health you saved with.  This can be problematic, if you end an area with minimal health.

For those who need the extra boost, the game also offers competitive wifi play for two players to tackle the zombie hordes together. 

To be honest, Touch The Dead is really only aimed at zombie enthusiasts, or fans of the House of the Dead series of games.  With that said, it’s really a lot of cheesy tongue-in-cheek fun to plow through the zombies, while ignoring the lackluster graphics and the really unintentionally funny localization of the game.

However, once you’re through the game, you’ve pretty much seen everything else.  All locations of monsters and items are set, so once you’ve memorized it, it’s always going to stay the same.  There’s no real reason to play through the game more than once unless you’re merely trying to better your previous effort.

But, as it’s a DS title, the price isn’t too stiff, and hopefully the folks at Dream On Studios can take this title and beef it up for a sequel.