This game is so fuckin' dumb.

And I kinda love it.


Okay, so. I've got thoughts, but let's start with what the actual story is so you know the context of all this crazy bullshit I'm about to detail, right? Cool cool. 78 years ago, mutants attacked. A terrible plague turned much of humanity into horrifying monstrous abominations, and a war happened! A war that led to the un-mutated members of humanity being forced underground, by the great strength of these creatures!

The first generation fled, with only their wits and their dwindling memories of the sun as they survived.

The second generation grew up in the strict control of these hidden tunnels, knowing exactly how much sacrifice was made to be alive at all.

And now the third generation yearn to see the sky again.

Sounds cool, right? Here's where it gets batshit. So you see the girl on the cover, right? That's Hisako. Third generation underground dweller, granddaughter of her group's elder. Well when she gets it in her head to chase that dream, her grandmother gives her two things to make it possible.

The first, one of the old death trains that used to ride the subway tunnels, kitted out to be able to make the journey to the old stations that formed the basis of the various underground societies.

The second?

Her old school uniform.

Because Hisako is moved by the tales of school, of the idea of learning about all the world and laughing and playing with fellow youths, as her symbol of what the surface world can bring them again.

It's so fuckin' goofy and I love it.

So anyways that's why Hisako grabs a lead pipe, a rifle, and a fucking rocket launcher and boards granny's old death train to fight her way to the surface and gather a whole student body in the process!


Let's talk about how Hisako actually does that crazy-ass goal of hers. So, this is a 2D, single-plane hack and slash, a lot more loose and combo-free than a lot of them. You know I have a real soft spot for that subgenre, which helps here. The setup is a bit of a loot-n-shoot, in that Hisako levels up and has her core three slots: Melee, Gun, Launcher.

Dead or School is hitting a lot of the classic beats of these sorts of games. You have a central dodge mechanic, a stamina bar, enemies open up for strikes, etc. The main thing you lack is a proper combo system began just jamming on your attack button, which immediately simplifies things down, but there's still some decent fun to be had.

You even have that classic idea of a little boost when you're low on HP. ...It's just that here it's because your school uniform gets torn and Hisako flies into a rage at the damage to this precious symbol of the surface world. While her character icon shows a bunch of extra cleavage.

This is a horny-ass otaku game you gotta know that now. I absolutely had a sub quest turn into an excuse of a glamor shot of the helpful scientist woman in a skimpy, torn pre-war dress, which was just so absurdly set up that I burst out laughing.

Oh, speaking of the helpful scientist woman and subquests, that's the other thing, there's collectible comrades all over the maps. Mostly these just give you a little boost and now they're in your death train, but sometimes they'll have quests for you to do, or special gear to offer, or things like that. But time and time again, Hisako tells them of the legendary place that was school, and they join her team to chase the myth of formal education.

It's great.


So you know how I've talked about games having that 'good jank' before, right? I hope so. This has that in spades. From a technical level of strict polish, this thing's a god damned mess. 

Characters are (almost) all 2D assets, but the world is polygonal, non-cel-shaded 3D, for instance. So you've got anime-art Hisako running around finding baddies in the center line of a 3D environment viewed from the side, and when you rescue those friends, they'll just straight up be their character design art posed there in place.

This also leads to things like Hisako looking reeeaaaal weird if you're in an area with a tilted camera, because of course she's like god danged Paper Mario over here, all flat as a sheet.

There's also some jank with the physics. I've had Hisako get stuck on weird little hiccups in the terrain, or locked in her falling pose (it ain't an animation) until I forced her over onto a new patch of ground more than once.

Oh, and there's the translation, which is...Serviceable, but definitely has that feel where it's literally correct but has undergone absolutely zero effort to be localized into sounding like how people actually talk.

But here's the thing.

That good jank

I don't give a shit about those actual problem parts because it's goofy fun as hell.

The core beats of the game just fit together with enough slop to make the rough spots still click into place. There's a bunch of style to the enemy designs, and so much damn passionate effort that went into this that I kinda want to just keep playing.

It's like, I've talked before with that good jank taking me back to Newgrounds games in the mid-2000s. And I'm getting some of that here.

You know what else I'm getting?

Fuckin' anime fansubs from that same time. With their extra cursing and weird word choices and being right on the bleeding edge of catching shows just a couple days after they aired in Japan with a whole complicated system of enthusiastic youths in over their heads. It was good shit.

Between the wobbly gameplay, the awkward translation, some questionable choices, all resting on a bed of crazy slapdash passion...The whole thing just takes me back there. The pieces just click. Maybe they shouldn't. Maybe I'm being too generous.

But dammit, man, I had a good time with this. I laughed my ass off more than once, and I had a lot of fun figuring out how to beat some of these combat challenges. You might or might not have that same context to enjoy the wobbly parts as much as I do, but hell, give it a go. Let Hisako take you to school.