These days when a game arrives that promises a story about zombies, infected or any other kind of zombified enemies you could say “Oh, another one..” but sometimes developers can really be intuitive and show that, with a bit of effort, the game can be as fresh and fun in both gameplay and story.
Redhead Hisako has only one wish: she wants to go to school with her friends, learn, laugh and just have fun. Well, that may not sound very appealing to today’s youngsters, but in Hisako’s reality this is almost impossible. Why? Well, 78 years ago, mankind lost a war against nasty mutants and since then has been, let’s say, a rather dreary existence underground in Tokyo. Hisako belongs to the third generation of survivors and is fed up with it. Together with other like-minded people, she wants to leave the dark corridors of the underground and put her wish into practice. To do this, she slips on her grandma’s old school uniform, grabs her katana, machine gun and grenade launcher and sets off to the surface.
You explore the mostly dark corridors from a 2.5D side view and chop and shoot your way through hordes of opponents. In addition, you avoid enemy attacks by role and use a double jump to overcome abysses or reach higher places. All actions pull on Hisako’s endurance bar. If it is empty, you’ll have to wait things out. Fortunately, it quickly fills up again. It is a bit annoying anyway and the endurance bar would not have been really necessary, as it stops the flow of the game. For defeated opponents you get experience points and resources. If you level up, you can choose a new skill in one of three talent trees. With the raw materials you modify your weapons, which you can also equip with two perks. These grant you more attack power or life points. If you use your weapons, they lose their durability, which you can recharge at storage points. The same applies to Hisako’s school uniform. If you are hit too often, these will burst at “unfavorable” places.
You regularly meet new allies, who usually help you for a small favor. So they clear rocks out of the way or make it easier for you to navigate through the winding corridors. The world of Dead or School is divided into individual sections that you head for by train. In this you can also chat with your allies or look for secret items that are hidden in the game world. The admittedly somewhat bizarre story is told in pretty still images. The predominantly female characters are often depicted in delicate positions. Typical fan service that likes to focus on two of the most overused parts of the female body.
Apart from the story sequences, Dead or School isn’t really that up to snuff. The camera shows what is happening from far away, the character models are very simple. It flickers here and there and sometimes Hisako gets stuck in some part of the level. The background music is also not truly perfect to set the tone. None of this is really frustrating, but a little more fine-tuning would have done the title good. This also applies to the actual gameplay. Although this is loosened up again and again by small puzzles and side quests, your main task is to finish the enemies in the 15 hours that the game occupies you.
Dead or School has been available for Steam for a while and has mostly received positive reviews. We can also join in. The title, which is now also available for PS4 and Switch, does a good job and offers many entertaining hours for Metroidvania fans who like it a little more suggestive.
Dead or School is a good metroidvania title that will give you enough fun hours for your money with some revealing content to boot.