Dead Rising 2's Dark Comedy and Interactive VomitS

In presenting the latest look at Dead Rising 2 earlier this month, Capcom's Keiji Inafune made it a point to talk about the game's dark humor.

It is the blending of comedy and death, of gore and laughs that separates Dead Rising 2 from all of the zombie apocalypse titles that came before it, he says.

"There are loads of zombie games, western gamers love zombies," he said. "There are loads of shooter, loads of sandbox games, but there is only one that does comedy and action and zombies all in one.

"It really is truly unique."

Later, I sat down to play through a chunk of the title, both on my own and with another gamer, to see just how well it explores this concept of dark humor.

The most obvious blending of dark humor and gory action comes as a the by-product of one of the game's big new design elements. In Dead Rising 2, as in the original game, you can grab up just about anything you come across and use it, no matter how ineffectively, against the zombie horde.

That means you can pick up a deck of playing cards off an abandoned Blackjack table and try to take down a zombie by flicking card after card at the shambling creature. You'll find quite a few effective weapons, from guns and explosives to knives and axes. But the most interesting weapons are the ones you create.

Picking up any two items, you can take them into a backroom workshop and try to combine them. Not all items can be combined, but the ones that can create hellacious zombie killers. You can, for instance, put machetes on a the blades of a toy helicopter for obvious results or combine drills with buckets to make something that tears through a zombie head.

And there's plenty of humor to be found in this ad-hoc weapons as well. Take for instance the ability to combine jewelery and flashlights to make glowing swords of light.

The game also, naturally, features gambling and alcohol.

I found that all of the slots in the casino worked, subtracting cash from your character every time you play and paying out as irregularly as the real thing. Better still, one of the casinos includes a giant video poker machine that is big enough to allow you to play hands of poker amidst the crowds of zombies, with slightly better odds.

Most fascinating, though, is game developer Blue Castle Games' take on alcohol use in Dead Rising 2.

In the game, you can only recover from injury by eating food or drinking. But, if you drink too much alcohol or eat some of the spoiled food found in trashcans it can have both negative and positive side effects.

While doing both will partially heal some of your injuries, too much of either will cause you to vomit. This is portrayed quite graphically in the game.

The developers tell me that the vomit is randomly triggered. That means that you could be safely ensconced in a bathroom stall, where the game happens to have you save your game, or you could be in a battle for your life. Either way, when the urge hits, your character keels over, hands on knees, vomiting out a wave of grey liquid. Sometimes the spasm is so vigorous you actually drop whatever item your character is holding in his hand.

And there's one more thing. Zombies will, Blue Caste Games tells me, slip in your vomit if they walk through it. That makes your inability to hold down strong liquor a bit of an asset too, while playing with a buddy who can cover you while you empty your stomach.

The end result, the ability to make bizarre weapons, to gamble and drink until you're sick, is a game that doesn't so much thrive on your fear of zombies as it does your need to find more.

"One of the things you'll see in a lot of zombie games is that they try to emphasize the horror aspect," Inafune said. "So in those games you want to avoid them. In this one you want to jump into a pack of zombies and test our your weapons to the point that if you get into a room with only a few zombies, you're disappointed."