Originally released on PC in 2018 and on Switch/PS4 in Japan in 2019, Marvelous has ported this side scrolling Metroidvania to the American Switch eShop. With a ridiculous plot and explosive combat, anime fans might get a kick out of this digital download if they can tolerate the wordy dialog.
Dead or School is little more than grindhouse satire with an anime presentation. The world has been destroyed by a zombie apocalypse and forced everyone underground. Born in the sewers and tired of this dark life, the playable character yearns to go school. So what does she do? She does what any young teen would do to escape a zombie plague and aim for a normal life above ground – she puts on her grandma’s original school girl uniform, leaves the safe haven, and searches for survivors on her way to the surface using melee attacks, a machine gun, and rocket launcher to defeat zombies along the way, of course.
The premise is purposely ridiculous and provides an excuse for the exploratory gameplay. When a new survivor is found, they often act as the key to unlock a new path. Combat also takes a unique approach by activating when entering certain areas then getting walled off until all undead are defeated. This arena fighting system forces the player into combat and can get tedious if you just want to bypass through the group of lesser enemies to advance the narrative. The RPG upgrading feature helps soften this blow, allowing the player to grow stronger with enhanced abilities over time. There is some depth to the combat as there are moments melee attacks will be more advantageous than using that rocket launcher.
There are a few issues with Dead or School that stutter the experience. Since the game takes place in underground tunnels beneath Japan, the dark environments are often too dark. Further, the 2.5D perspective makes it difficult to distinguish what is interactive and what is a part of the background. This also makes judging depth a little more difficult than it should be. The camera also has issues as it doesn’t always follow the player properly, making it hard to tell where you are going and where to jump. Fans of visual novels might appreciate the unnecessarily wordy dialog but it seems like for every five minutes of dialog, there is one minute of actual gameplay. It is also worth mentioning dialog is spoken in Japanese but the long text bubbles are in English. The drum heavy soundtrack isn’t bad but eventually starts to grow annoying. There are also plenty of moments that just don’t make sense, like having drug addicted NPCs just sitting the background while you take out a squad of zombie two feet away, or how trapped people made it to where they got stuck.
Dead or School is nowhere near a perfect game but is still playable and has moments of entertainment. Absurd by design, this is a way to get your zombie and cliché anime fix in one package if you are into that. For everyone else, there are much better exploratory RPGs out there.
Also available on PS4 and PC.
Not As Good As: the Metro games
Also Try: Onechanbara
Wait For It: Lollipop Chainsaw 2