Published on May 12th, 2013 | by Andy Astruc1
Money Shots: Ray’s The Dead
Not enough people played Stubbs the Zombie. This is true in a very literal and commercial sense, of course — the game wasn’t a big seller, and the only place you can find it now is buried deep in the bowels of Xbox Live’s Games on Demand section — but also in the sense that it is a game very much worthy of attention. Stubbs cast you as a freshly risen zombie participating in your very own undead apocalypse. Not only was it a chance to play as the other side of the equation, it also offered a nifty and twisted tale of the old world clashing violently with the tehnologically-powered and uncaring future. Not only that, but you could rip off your own hand and use it to possess police officers.
Alas, due to Stubbs’ unusual nature and many other boring business factors there never was a sequel to that brief but magical foray into the life of a 1950s corpse. Wideload Games went on to make little else of note and were acquired by Disney Interactive in 2009, who reassigned them to mobile games development. They were in charge of Avengers Initiative, which you probably haven’t heard of because nobody cares about licensed mobile games.
This all seemed like some very solid nails in the coffin of zombie role-playing, with the concept destined to die off as shooting, questing and punching games thrived. Enter Ragtag Studio and their new project: Ray’s The Dead. The developer is run by three enterprising young lads, two of whom used to work at Wideload. Which is about as spiritual as a successor can get. Here it is in the words of their Kickstarter:
Ray’s the Dead is a game where YOU are the leader of the zombie army. It’s story driven gameplay will challenge you with a satisfying blend of action, tactics, puzzle, stealth, and adventure, all rolled into one fresh gaming experience.
Controlling a zombie army sounds like the exact reason video games were created in the first place. Ray will begin the game alone, but slowly recruit more and more able bodies to his cause. Ray’s is drawing deep from the vast well of zombie inspiration, incorporating features like the ability to set up ambushes (a la every zombie game that ever had the undead leap from cupboards and alleys unexpectedly) and the ability to create different types of zombies depending on what type of person they were pre-death. Ragtag is also putting a heavy focus on storytelling, with plenty of mysteries to uncover about the world, the whole zombie thing and why Ray has a light bulb sticking out of his brain.
With an absolutely adorable 2D art style — which brings to mind a Muppet Babies version of Stubbs — and a heavy dose of humour, Ray’s The Dead is looking loads more charming than a lot of games that aren’t about rotting dead people. I’m certainly looking forward to the writing, which is being crafted by the minds behind much of Twisted Pixel’s effotless genius. A very 1980s soundtrack and setting rounds out the package, with a solid team of audio talent working to make the game as fun to listen to as it is to play. It’s nice to see games placing such importance on sound of late, and if you’re really into that sort of thing the Kickstarter offers a lot of official soundtrack goodness.
Ray’s The Dead had my attention the moment it mentioned Pikmin and Stubbs The Zombie in the same breath. Hopefully it can deliver an experience that lives up to those two inspirations, but they’re well on the way just by having a concept that stands so far out from the crowd. At time of posting they have $15,453 of their $75,000 goal and seem to be in good shape. Hopefully people have the brains to actually give a dead guy a chance this time. Itchy. Tasty.