Does anybody still remember arcades? These used to be the places you could go to insert cash into machines to play amazing looking games that were generally too advanced for the home consoles to handle graphically. As the home consoles have become more powerful and online play has become more prevalent, the need for arcades has dwindled, as have their numbers. Chances are, if you have ever walked around in an arcade, you have heard the groans of zombies, pangs of gunfire, and clicks from reloading supplied by the numerous House of the Dead series’ machines.
This series easily has some of the most popular and distinctive looking cabinets that could be found in arcades. For anyone who remembers the glory days of arcades or spent way more than they should have feeding one of these House of the Dead machines, House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return is ready to take you on a more cost effective trip down memory lane.
Light gun games being ported to home consoles is nothing new. There have been a ton of these ports throughout history that have graced virtually all of the consoles made in the last ten years. The thing that makes House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return different is that you don’t have to buy a light gun peripheral or make do with analog stick aiming to play it. Instead, you can just play it with your Wii-mote and Nunchuk or splurge an extra couple of dollars on the Wii Zapper peripheral, to make the experience feel more authentic. Unfortunately, this is a double-edged sword. While it does save you some money, the Wii-mote is clearly not optimal for this type of game. The Wii-mote does allow you to point and shoot at the screen, but it lacks the pixel-perfect aiming that is usually standard with a light gun peripheral.
House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return tries to compensate for this in a couple of ways with limited success. The first fix is that you can have on-screen crosshairs to help guide your aim. While this does help you aim more accurately, it is extremely cheap. Instead of being a game about precise aiming and quick reflexes, now all you have to do is make sure your pointer is over an enemy and pull the trigger. This really detracts from the game’s overall experience, although the game still remains challenging because of its quick movements and endless hordes of attacking zombies. The other attempt at fixing the controls comes in your ability to reload. If you choose not to use the super-cheap crosshairs, you will need to be able to fire more rounds to compensate for the less-than-perfect aiming. To help these players, the game allows you to reload your weapon by pulling the Wii-mote up and towards you. It isn’t much, but it will give you a slight edge, saving you fractions of a second over traditional reloading (aiming your Wii-mote off-screen and pulling the trigger).
While the controls may be a little different than you would expect, the games are exactly as you remember. Both House of the Dead 2 and 3 seem to be arcade perfect ports, if not slightly better than the originals. The fairly lame storylines and hilariously, and hopefully intentionally, awful dialogue are still present and will often make you laugh out loud while playing. The voice work in this game can’t be done justice in text form; it really needs to be heard to be believed. Still, there aren’t many things funnier than failing to save a male civilian, then turning to his girlfriend and simply saying “There was nothing we could do.” Well, you did have a gun; you could have stopped the zombies from eating him. Audible gems like this are littered throughout both of these games and really make them hilarious to play through.
House of the Dead 2 was obviously released before the third installment, and it shows. Even in comparison to the third title, the second game looks incredibly rough. I remember playing this title in the arcade and thinking, ‘wow, this game looks amazing.’ However, several years later, this game is almost painful to look at. House of the Dead 3 fairs much better, at least looking like a Dreamcast quality title. Since these are older games just being ported to the Wii, it is hard to be critical of their archaic visuals, but it would have been nice if they had been touched up a bit before they were released.
As with their arcade counterparts, these games really don’t offer a lot of gameplay. If you are fairly skilled, you can make your way through both of these games in less than three hours. Once you finish the story, there really isn’t a lot left to captivate your interest. You can play through the training mode or boss battle mode in House of the Dead 2 or the time attack mode in House of the Dead 3, but none of these will really keep you captivated. The training mode is fairly fun though, having you try to complete specific tasks such as destroying all barrels before a timer runs out or save all of the civilians in a walkthrough. Still, you are basically only going to get five to six hours out of this game. You do have the option of playing offline co-op with a friend, but it would have been nice if they had included an online co-op option as well.
With its fairly cheap price tag (only $30) and arcade perfect ports of these titles, House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return would seem to be a no-brainer (pun intended) purchase for fans of light gun shooters. Unfortunately, with the not-so-accurate Wii-mote aiming and lack of any real reason to play this game for more than five hours, the $30 price tag starts to look a little steep. If you have a Wii and are starving for some zombie shooting action, pick up Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles. If you’ve already played through that one, maybe this game could be worth your money. Just keep in mind that it is fairly short and more than a little painful on the eyes at times.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.6 Graphics
House of the Dead 3 manages to just look slightly dated while House of the Dead 2 looks so rough it may make your eyes cry bloody tears. 2.5 Control
The Wii-mote doesn’t function properly as a light gun supplement. Using the on-screen crosshairs helps this out, but it leaves you feeling cheap. 2.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
While being horribly cheesy and ridiculous, the quality is definitely there, and the horrible dialogue really adds enjoyment to these aged titles. 2.5
If you’ve ever played a light gun game before, you know what to expect from this title. It is fairly short and there really aren’t any reasons to play it again once you’ve completed both games.
2.6 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.