Hands-on with handhelds - Touch the Dead, Diner Dash, Zendoku

The very first thing you see when entering their lobby is a curvaceous statue of Lara Croft. The second thing? An intimidating life-size replica of Hitman's Agent 47. But gaming publisher Eidos is offering more than just testosterone and other hormone-driven action games this year. They've also got a surprising number of mainstream-friendly handheld titles in the lineup. The games are simple and straightforward... are they also addictive? We dropped by their offices earlier this week to find out.

Touch the Dead (DS)
Release Date: May 15, 2007

You've used your little white stylus to select stuff, to draw stuff and to move stuff. Why not use it to kill stuff? In Touch the Dead, you get to do exactly what the title promises - wipe out wave after wave of zombies by tapping them with the DS's plastic pen. Touch the flesh-eater in the chest and you'll bury a bullet in his heart; poke him in the leg and he'll hit the ground; or jab him in the head for the all-important undead head shot. Think of it as point-and-kill.

The enemies, weapons and environments in Touch the Dead are pretty standard zombie fare. Corpses in tattered clothing slowly shamble toward the first-person perspective of your DS's bottom screen as you frantically blast away at them with various guns and the occasional crowbar. The level we saw was a basic prison consisting of drab colors and monotonous textures. You play a convict who wakes up to discover that he's the only normal resident left.

We were disappointed to discover that Touch the Dead is a linear rail shooter, as the DS's ability to handle legitimate first person shooters has been proven with games like Metroid Prime Hunters. You do get to choose the rail's direction occasionally, and quick thinking can unlock hidden areas (ie, shooting a lock to get into a jail cell).

Touch the Dead has the potential to be frantic fun in short bursts. The immediate payoff of muzzle fire and spraying blood each and every time you tap the screen is undeniably satisfying. And having to drag a new clip across the screen to reload when a zombie is mere inches from your face definitely injects a nice degree of "oh crap" panic.

In the end, the game's lasting appeal will hinge on variety. Hopefully, later levels like rat-filled swamps and later monsters like disgustingly bloated nightwalkers will keep the experience from getting repetitive.

Charlie Barratt
I enjoy sunshine, the company of kittens and turning frowns upside down. I am also a fan of sarcasm. Let's be friends!