Sunday 6 September 2020

The House of the Dead - Digital Zombie Brains


If you have ever been to an arcade of any quality at all, you’ve probably seen The House of the Dead in one of the corners. There were two shiny red and blue guns and a whole bunch of zombies coming out of the woodworks to eat your face! So, from the arcade to the home console, you can tell that there are some differences among the similarities. It’s still the infectious undead package it was in the big box, it’s just taken a couple of hits. 

This game was given a lot of flak for how much quality it lost in the translation from cabinet to Saturn and somehow it lost a lot of face in the process. Yeah, the graphics weren’t as good and the frame rate was crawling at some points. Whatever happened to “Graphics don’t make the Game?” There are times when they can seriously get in the way and sometimes some of the more wobbly polygons can go a ways to make you sick. The House of the Dead had none of this. It’s just some of the textures became dulled and some of the features on character renders didn’t look quite as good. 

The gameplay and the game itself is still the same at its very core. There is still plenty of brain-sucking freaks coming at you as you take them all down in a blaze of glory. You can play two player and you have a lot more content than you did in the arcade (not to mention, you don’t need to keep churning coins into it) like different characters and gameplay. None of these graphical downgrades get in the way of putting bullets in dead people. 

Not only was it just the novelty of bringing a fully 3D game home after years of going to the arcade, but the fact that you could bring a friend to play with you as well. It’s something of a bonding experience, shooting at a screen next to a friend is very satisfying. Do I wish the graphics didn’t glitch so much? Yeah, maybe, but that goes away just as fast as it came. 

Now, bad things about this game that actually affect it are more of a problem with the enemy mechanics. Sometimes, there were these monkeys (yes, you heard me correctly) and it seemed like no matter how many times you shot them down, they kept getting back up. Armored and hard to kill enemies can get a little tedious sometimes, especially when there are sections of the entire level that seem to feature them exclusively. Then there’s the times when monsters immediately pop up in front of you and slash you. This is a common problem with many railshooters and it feels like a cheap way to  score a free hit on the players who don’t see it coming. Even when you saw it coming, there’s a chance you won’t react in time. 

The real love that is given to this game is not only in the therapeutic killing of zombie hordes, but also the many types of zombies and monsters that you encounter along the way. There are sludgy swamp zombies, zombie frogs, zombie worms, leatherhead chainsaw zombies and big huge brute zombies! There are monsters of all sorts gathered for the boss levels and some of them are still archetypes of the genre! The discovery of these creatures is only beaten by the sight of their heads exploding and their torsos being blown off! 

With cheesy dialogue and nonsensical mad scientist plots and schemes, this game is a campy corny masterpiece. It may not look as shiny or run quite as well as its arcade counterpart but there is still so much to love about this port of the game. I mean, it’s not like you’re going to find a PS1 version. (Oh, snap!)

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