By Marty Mulrooney
Metal Dead is an indie PC game created by Walk Thru Walls Studios, a two-man independent game developer based in Brisbane, Australia. It is the first in a planned series of comedic, heavy metal influenced, apocalyptic point-and-click adventure games. The game follows the adventures of two metal-heads, Malcolm and Ronnie, as they battle to survive in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.
Metal Dead begins with Malcolm and Ronnie crashing their car in front of a medical research facility that seems to be attracting all of the zombies in the city. Ronnie is immediately killed, leaving Malcolm to initially fend for himself. However, the bickering double act are are soon reunited: Ronnie’s zombie head (death in this world results in zombification even if the victim hasn’t been bitten) undergoes an experimental surgical procedure conducted by a conveniently located mad scientist. With a speaker now installed in his disembodied cranium, Ronnie regains his old personality and is stuffed into Malcolm’s pants to join him on his adventure.
The game clearly models itself on the classic adventure games of the late 80s and early 90s released by companies such as Sierra and LucasArts. As a result, the gameplay is familiar yet manages to remain fun due to the exciting zombie scenario, certainly over-explored within the shooter and survival horror genres, yet never properly visited in a pure point-and-click adventure game. Progression is also inspired, with Malcolm slowly accumulating key cards that allow him to visit higher and higher floors within the medical research facility, which takes the form of a towering skyscraper above the city. The player’s ultimate goal is to reach the roof of the building, where a helicopter and escape lie in wait.
Right clicking the mouse cycles through the Boot (walk), Hand (interact) and Mouth (speak) icons. Left clicking executes the selected command. You can also bring up the last item that was selected in Malcolm’s inventory. The inventory is illustrated as a backpack, clickable from a dropdown menu at the top of the screen.
Also available from this dropdown menu is Ronnie’s head, which can be conversed with and will even offer clues if the player becomes stuck – an inspired hint system and a great source of amusement throughout. The gameplay itself will be extremely familiar – not in a bad way I might add – to fans of the adventure genre: Malcolm must speak to his fellow survivors, solve puzzles and use inventory items to progress.
Malcolm will meet many of his fellow survivors throughout the building and soon makes it his mission to gather them all together for a big escape. Although there is no voice acting in Metal Dead, the writing is hilarious and the comedic script is more than capable of bringing the oddball cast to life. It’s always a lot of fun to interact with the other characters, such as a newsagent who is totally ignoring the zombie outbreak taking place around him, and a delusional nurse who is completely in love with herself – as well as a married doctor (who happens to be locked in a cupboard awaiting rescue whilst defecating in a bucket).
The graphics are wonderful, cartoony and gory all at once. Metal Dead is built using the Adventure Game Studio (recently used in games such as Gemini Rue and The Journey Down) yet manages to stand apart from other projects created with the same engine. The slightly larger than usual sprites and bright colour palette lend the experience a high quality that is only amplified when certain special effects kick in, such as an activated sprinkler system, an explosion or a plummeting elevator. The zombies are also strangely unnerving and creepy for a game that is otherwise light-hearted and comedic in tone – which, let’s be honest, is how it always should be when it comes to zombies.
By now, most of AMO’s readers will have realised just how enjoyable this adventure game really is – and how truly impressive it is for an indie endeavour. However, there are still a few sticking points that must be addressed. The ‘fully orchestrated midi soundtrack’ can become a little bit annoying at times, especially since it seems to loop fairly often. It isn’t that the music is bad, rather, it doesn’t vary enough and the lack of voicework only draws your attention to this issue more and more frequently as you play. Furthermore, for a game that frequently references heavy metal – the zombies are seemingly repulsed by it – there are few puzzles based around music, which can seem like a missed opportunity at times.
Also, the ending offers a firm explanation for the zombie outbreak that will no doubt split opinion – it’s so crazy and outlandish that it will either make you smile like a madman at the sheer insanity of it all, or baulk at the ridiculousness of the final moments. I fell somewhere in the middle – it didn’t ruin the game for me, although other zombie stories such as The Walking Dead seemed to do just fine without offering any explanation for their zombies at all.
Ultimately, Metal Dead offers a hilarious indie adventure game that successfully embraces the recently oversaturated zombie genre without ever seeming redundant. The relatively short completion time is heavily counteracted by the low price (£3.19, a bargain!) and there is never a dull moment to be found. Walk Thru Walls Studios have launched with an inspired debut effort that promises great things to come in the future – this is a game that deserves to do well. Stuffing a zombie head down your pants has never been so much fun!
8.5 OUT OF 10