It’s a bit strange sitting here, writing a review of a game that one half of I first tried and tested back in the late 90s. House Of The Dead 2 was the token light gun game on the Sega Dreamcast (and only a few would follow), and back then, a decade ago, it was a hoot. Zombies, fast action and some token (read: laughable) attempt at narrative gelled quite sublimely in a difficult, but very entertaining game.
House Of The Dead III was the token light gun game on the original Xbox (although again, there were a couple of others to help justify the cost of buying the gun in the first place), and it was even better. Slightly more forgiving in the early stages but no less challenging, that too I remember writing about many years ago.
But is the Nintendo Wii now becoming the spiritual home of such games? Even with the clunky Wii Zapper peripheral (I’m perfectly happy to simply wave my Wiimote around than battle with that contraption), the control mechanism of the console fits the genre perfectly. And what’s more, House Of The Dead 2 & 3 Return marks the fourth light gun-style game release in the last five months, after the tepid Link’s Crossbow Training, the great-but-short Ghost Squad, and the long-but-strangely-slow Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles.
The deal here is that Sega has raided its back catalogue and bundled the pair of old releases together, accessible via a main menu. You simply pick your game, and get shooting.
It should be pointed out too that out of all the games of this ilk released on the Wii of late, House Of The Dead 2 & 3 Return is the hardest. There’s no pandering to you with unlimited continues or any of that rubbish here: you have a finite number of lives and continues, and when they’re up, you die. Granted, the game starts topping up the number of each you can have, but there’s something by turns frustrating-and-satisfying about making you go back for one more go, without being given carte blanche to blast your way through on the first go.
What’s more, both games are tremendously good fun, even if they are a bit short. They don’t quite match the frenetic, over-the-top nature of Ghost Squad (still the most entertaining, yet worst value of the Wii’s blasting portfolio), but they still work in a surprisingly timeless way. It mattered not that I’d played them both through before: as soon as two of us sat in front of the telly with a pair of Wiimotes, blasting away, it was just like the old times.
The Wii version of both games does feature some slightly tuned graphics, but otherwise the pack gives you both games pretty much as you remember them, with nothing extra to taunt you back. That said, treated as a budget re-release or an old-style compilation pack, the £30 Sega is asking – while perhaps a tenner too much – proves to be not too brutal a price to pay for a pair of titles that stand the test of time really quite well. Blasting zombies is clearly a timeless art.
If they could only do a deal with Sony to port the Time Crisis games across next, I’d be a very, very happy man.