Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Controlling the zombie hoard and saving the day
Title: Ray’s the Dead
Modes: Single Player
Developer: Ragtag Studio
Publisher: Ragtag Studio
Reviewed on: PS4
Also on: PC
Release: October 22, 2020
Ray’s the Dead was originally announced on Kickstarter way back in 2014, six years later it has finally made its way to the Playstation 4 and PC. You play as Ray who has been brought back to life by a crazy old man who is working for “the boss”. After a few failed reincarnations, Ray is finally back and tracks down the group that resurrected him, eats part of the old man’s brain and discovers that he now has the ability to bring the dead back to life and control them.
As you progress further in the game you get the ability to control different types of zombies including dogs and assassins. Each of the different zombies has a unique attack ability and button to send them off to do your bidding. The regular zombies attack and can destroy barriers. The dogs charge and can stun opponents, sniff out secrets, and knock down ladders, enemies, and radios that give you batteries so you have more energy to use the zombies abilities. The new zombies that you control don’t unlock at a frantic pace and in order to get all of them you have to make it to the last chapter of the five chapter game. Your zombies do die if they get attacked too many times, but don’t fear that. As soon as you take down an enemy, you can resurrect them and they become part of your army.
As alluded to earlier, your usage of the zombies drains the battery (light bulb stuck in to your head), and you can collect batteries throughout most of the modern day levels to raise the amount of energy you have. All actions, including making your hoard form a shield, gathering your hoard together and running, and sending them out to do your bidding drain the battery. When your battery is depleted, it slowly recharges to give you the usage of abilities again. It does, however, charge faster if you aren’t moving.
There are also gravestones that are scattered throughout the levels with the names of the people that contributed via the Kickstarter campaign. Finding them nets you nothing except a trophy and a couple of different benchmarks, but they do have some decently witty things written on them.
Ray’s the Dead has some very uniquely styled graphics that look hand drawn. The animation isn’t overly well...animated, but the look and feel feed the narrative that Ragtag Studio was going for. The characters just kind of bob in place and most of the objects in the background, foreground, and cut scenes don’t have any animation at all. There are times that you can tell that they did things a certain way just so that they didn’t have to animate anything.
The storytelling is done really well with flashbacks to when Ray and his friends were alive every other level or so. These levels are fully playable and most of the time either have a link to what is going on in current time or shows Ray when he was younger his friends. The cutscenes are voice acted (although actual words aren’t used and it’s garbled noises), and you learn that there is a tie between Ray and the local news reporter that is covering the strange events happening. These scenes also feature the first dog that you get control over.
Music is very well done and has a very 1980’s vibe to it. It also fits the mood that is set and isn’t annoying or overly repetitive. It does change based on the level that you are on or the action on screen.
There are boss battles scattered throughout the five chapters. Most don’t produce much of a challenge, but they’re well done and progress the story nicely. Many of them see you taking on Kommander (who totally doesn’t look anything like Cobra Commander), in a large vehicle. You’ll have to use all the zombies at your disposal to take them down.
There are really only a couple of small issues that Ray’s the Dead has. First and probably most importantly is that sometimes the controls would just quit working. More than once the “x” button would just quit doing it’s thing causing me to have to reboot the game and start all over. Other times, the hoard wouldn’t group up around me as suddenly R2 would no longer work. It got to be a little frustrating.
Secondly, early on in the game, if there was too much going on on screen, the game would chug and lag pretty bad. This would make it difficult to aim zombies where you wanted them or to get the shield group up in time to stave off charging enemies.
The good news is that, as patches rolled out, these instances occurred less and less. It would seem as though Ragtag Studio was aware of the bugs and were rushing to patch them up.
There were times that the levels would get a little lengthy and repetitive, but as soon as you moved on to the next area, you were content to be playing again.
Sometimes the stealth sections were a little infuriating, but luckily enough there aren’t too many of them to detract from the overall enjoyment of Ray’s the Dead.
Final Grade: B
There is a lot to like in this charming little title and most of it works really well. While it does come off feeling like an undead Pikmin, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It scratches the itch of a couple of different genres in a refreshing way. Nothing that Ray’s the Dead does is new, but it does it all in a fun way.