By William Shelton
Release Date: October 6, 2014
Developer: Wall Thru Walls Studios
Metacrtic Score: 71
I may have mentioned this before, but I’m a huge Metalhead. I keep my hair long, dyed black and have aspirations to not own any shirts without a band logo on it. And while there may not be a lot of games, movies or tv shows dealing with metal or metalheads, I’ll give just about anything staring a metalhead a try. And that’s pretty much how I ended up buying Metal Dead. I don’t remember the exact circumstances that lead me to the games steam page, but the second I read the title I knew I was going to drop the $5 on it. So now the question has to be asked: was it any good? Lets find out.
The game opens with protagonist Malcolm sleeping while his best friend Ronnie drives down a zombie filled road. Ronnie soon wakes Malcolm in the most metal way possible: blasting some old school death metal at max volume. We learn that the two Metalhead buds had been holding up in their apartment for the last month, but dwindling resources forced them to leave their comfort and relative safety if they hoped to stay alive. We also learn that Ronnie’s idea of “Staying alive” means investigating the source of the zombie horde, and has been driving toward where the host has been gathering. Naturally this both scares and angers Malcolm, who’s attempts to get Ronnie to turn around causes a car crash as well as getting Ronnie killed.
But things aren’t too bad! Malcolm soon finds his way into what’s left of a medical/pharmaceutical office, where a mad German scientist, Doctor Fritz Von Fechenheim, uses some Frankenstein-esk procedure to bypass the zombie instincts in Ronnie’s undead head, and the two friends are reunited once more. From here the two go on a series of minor quest to find survivors in the office and gather supplies in order to escape via a helicopter on the roof. All the while Ronnie’s zombified head reminding you just how Metal the situation is. As you progress in the adventure you’ll encounter a man-eating pot plant, a seizure inducing anime, a zombie shark and Heavy Metal will save the day.
It’s made pretty clear from the beginning that you are not meant to take this game very seriously, and I think that works for the best. While zombies might not be as omnipresent as they were a few years ago that over saturation of undead drama’s have given us pretty much ever version of these kinds of characters we can take seriously, were as comedy still allows for some interesting avenues for exploration. I mean honestly, will you ever see someone use their ability to shred on a guitar used to blow up zombies heads in “The Walking Dead”? Hell No. This is very much a game made to make you smile, and I was grinning throughout my four hours with the game.
My only real complaint with the games story is that…well….it’s not quite metal enough for me. Sure you do use a death metal CD and a guitar solo to progress in the story, and Ronnie does keep excitedly spouting how metal this all is, but very little love is actually given to the metal subculture. I mean, one of the obstacles is a man eating weed strain, and not a single “cannabis corpse” reference? There’s a zombie chef at one point, but no “Butchered at Birth” imagery? While I’m still glad to see some love for metal being shown here, I can’t help but feel that all the metal love is superficial at best. I know the game was an indie title, so they probably couldn’t have afforded any licensed music, but I can’t help but feel some real metal tunes done in the games chip-tune style would have been a real nice treat.
Game play wise this is a strait point and click game. You use the right mouse button to cycle through interactions like “look at”, “talk too”, “move to” and “touch” and the left button to use said interaction on whatever you click on. You also have an inventory filled with items you can use on objects in the world as would be expected. What separates this game from that other zombie themed point and click game I reviewed a while ago is that this uses more of the classic “moon logic” found in older point and click games, but it still grounds most of the interactions as to not be too annoyingly difficult to figure out. For example, at one point early in the game you have to cook some beans for some one. There is a fully functioning kitchen in the game, but you can’t use it too cook. Instead you have to find another source of heat, which is pretty obvious if you’re paying attention in the early game. It’s a roundabout way of thinking, but no where near as off the wall as some adventure game solutions i’ve heard about before.
While none of the puzzles are hard per se, I do wish the game was a bit clearer as to what you can interact with in the game world. Sure the mouse icon changes, but only if you scroll over an object you can mess with. There were two puzzles I ended up looking up solutions for because I didn’t think to look at certain parts of the rooms I was in. And that leads me to the one huge caveat I have to make to anyone thinking of buying this: it’s a pretty short game. I beat the game in four hours, and it would probably have only taken half that if I wasn’t so very thick at times. For $5 this isn’t too bad and I had enough fun to justify the price, but as “play time” has become a bigger-than-it-should-be topic, I thought I’d bring it up just in case.
In the end, while playing this I was reminded a lot of “Todd and the Book of Pure Evil”, a little known Canadian tv show that used a metalhead protagonist mostly to establish tone than be a show for metalhead, but still created a worthwhile bit of entertainment. That’s pretty much the case here. This isn’t the “metal love letter” I was hoping for, but I still had a lot of fun with Metal Dead. It was a light bit of entertainment that kept me smiling and proud to be a metal fan. With a sequel being green-lit on steam green light, I’m hoping to see more of both this franchise and Walk Thru Walls Studios .