Back in 1996, while SEGA were revered royalty in the arcade machine world, they unleashed The House of the Dead. An on-rails gruesome creatures (hitherto referred to as “muties”, because that’s what we always called them) shooter that went headlong for the horror angle, the temptation to play was amplified by the machine’s shroud over the screen. Presumably to protect squishy young minds from the abject brain-busting gruesomeness that was housed within.
The game was a riot of mindless, jump-scare infused silliness, the fun aided by using a chunky plastic replica handgun that was attached to the machine. Now it’s been rebuilt pixel-by-pixel – as SEGA allegedly lost the source code in a massive feat of oops – for the Switch and, while we don’t get the plastic weapon, the Joy-Con or a Pro Controller make pretty good stand-ins physically.
“This is an arcade game, and proud of it, and you can complete the entire four levels of thing in under half an hour if you get good enough.”
The gameplay, well, all you need know is that there’s a relentless parade of muties, and you as either Agent Thomas Rogan or the mysterious Agent G are aided by a near-relentless cache of handgun (or other weaponry if you manage to unlock it – and that’s a major challenge in itself) bullets to fire at said muties however you see fit. You may take the strategic route and go for big points with perfect headshots, or the scattergun approach and just rapid fire/reload/rapid fire/reload repeatedly until you’re almost synchronised swimming in a sea of mutie gloop. Once you get the rhythm down you won’t have to put up with relentless shouts of “Reload!”. Trust us, that’s a good thing.
There’s not much else at all, save for mostly overpowered boss muties to get a tad more strategic with, as they each have particular weak spots. This is the beauty of The House of the Dead Remake for arcade fans, and the deviltry for those who feel that all games must have more depth than a Latin translation of Nietzsche scraped onto the Titanic’s sunken hull in a fit of pique by undersea urchins who usually just play dumb when humans are around – which isn’t very often when you’re six miles underwater. This is an arcade game, and proud of it, and you can complete the entire four levels of the thing in under half an hour if you get good enough.
As it’s all on rails, patient returning players will memorise what muties will pop out from where, although this is made slightly more difficult by there being a handful of different paths through the titular dwelling, depending upon certain actions you take – often unwittingly – on your way to taking down the evil Dr Curien. There are three endings to revel in, depending upon what score you end up accruing.
Two two-player modes have been included that introduce a new level of manic mayhem, although it’s local only. Go co-op to share ten credits – and scoring – with your partner, or opt for competitive vibes with ten goes each in which you’re aiming for the highest individual score. There’s also a full-on horde mode for the incredibly brave/mad, which increases the number of marauding muties onscreen to absolutely bonkers levels.
It’s not all beer and skittling muties though, for there are a handful of grievances jotted down on our notepad. If you use either a Joy-Con or Pro Controller in the gyroscope mode, which most resembles the original light gun approach, you may get a tad frustrated, as it tends to wobble about and need regular realignment – not at all ideal in the heat of battle. You may very well find, like us, that the ideal gameplay method is to use the left thumbstick to move the reticule about the screen, and it’s weighted quite well. There are also several spelling booboos and grammatical errors in the in-game text, which bugs people like us, but your mileage may vary. Also, while the soundtrack is reminiscent of the original, rights issues put the kybosh on including the original tunes from Tetsuya Kawauchi, which is a real disappointment.
Ahem. Anyway, the ‘Limidead Edition’ part of the release delivers some real-world mutie goodies, in the form of a cardboard slipcover with a cut-out section that reveals a lenticular card – those things you wiggle to see different points of view – assuming that you have it inserted in the right place. That’s because slipped inside the cover you’ll also find a sticker sheet, two little mutie standees and the most important thing, a standard Switch case with a game cart inside.
If you’re after a short, sharp arcade-like blast of mindless mutie shooty cartoon violence thrills that won’t keep you engrossed for days, then it doesn’t take too many brains to realise that The House of the Dead Remake may be well worth the coin.
The House of the Dead Remake: Limidead Edition is available now on Switch.