Developer: Studio Nanafushi
Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Switch
Gene(s): Action, Indie
Publisher: Marvelous Europe
Dead or School is a fantastic side-scrolling shooter/beat ’em up. It’s a highly stylized Japanese cartoony adventure that is big on the zombie survival theme. You are Hisako who has been forced underground due to the zombie apocalypse. She must fight the zombies and return to her life above ground. If you have ever been to Tokyo you will recognize a whole host of subways you must battle out of. You are equipped with an array of guns to fight the horde.
I have to say the animation is stunning and there is real detail to every cut scene, level and conversation in the game. There is a real cinematic feel to the cut-scenes and in-game story too, The graphics and level design add to the sense of this apocalyptic world Hisako inhabits, there is a contrast from the character animation of main characters and gruesome zombies. The main characters are bright and have that amazing manga/anime style with a colourful design, as opposed to the zombies which are dark, creepy and scary. This dichotomy really permeates the whole game and gives a sense of foreboding. The level design is a mix of underground stations ruined by the zombies and other end of world events, you must navigate from subway station to subway station to fight zombies.
There is a solid and enjoyable levelling up system through the game, each level you progress through will allow you to gain sufficient points to level up, you can customise your loadout and improve and upgrade your guns too. The gameplay hits that sweet spot between 2.5D shooting while having enough puzzles and platform aspects to keep you going. While the zombies can get a bit tedious, mid-level and end-level bosses break up the gameplay superbly. I have enjoyed many 2.5D shooters and beat em ups, Dead or School with its fantastic visuals and stunning character design add for a satisfying and rewarding experience. The story is particularly bad in Dead or School, it’s a case of it’s so bad that is good. Lots of elements of horror present throughout.
It’s a really slick and beautifully presented game, the mechanics are straightforward and you will be flying along in no time. I would like/prefer an option where you could skip the cut scenes quicker and an entire audio narration would have been ideal. These are small gripes in an otherwise enjoyable experience.
I would recommend a venture into the underground world Dead or School with Hisako.