The House of the Dead Remake
(Available for Nintendo Switch only)
The House of the Dead remake was announced during an indie showcasing that Nintendo place online, and is yet another example of SEGA handing over one of their classic franchises to outside studios in order to create further entities in their series- this has happened before with titles such as Shenmue 3 and Streets of Rage 4.
This time, the remake has been handled by a small Polish studio, Megapixel Studios, who handled the remake of Panzer Dragoon. While I wasn’t that favourable towards the Panzer Dragoon remake when it came out, I heard that it got better down the line with free updates but I’ve not actually gone back to that so I can’t personally confirm or deny that.
The remake has been kicked around the release schedule quite a bit, it was meant to come out in late 2021, but obviously has only now been released in April 2022 and is intended to be a complete remake of the arcade gun shooter. But because there is no gun shooter for the switch, it is taking advantage of Switch’s out-the-box multiplayer by having each player use the gyro controls in each individual joycons. Though, the game is still pro controller friendly.
I will point out that although the game is Nintendo Switch friendly now, there supposedly has been leaks that the game with also be ported to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and hopefully a PC version down the line. Though, you might want to hold off on that after you read this review.
House of the Dead was an arcade game, though it did receive a couple of console ports as well as a PC version of two of the first games. The console port being on the Dreamcast. The remake is a complete one-for-one remake, it has the exact same layout, exact same enemies, pretty much the exact same everything. The big difference being an extra mode and how it handles lives- in the original game, it was designed to be topped up with coins. In this game, it starts you with about 9 ‘continues’ on normal difficulty, though you can buy extra credit to use for extra continues through the scores you make in the game. You lower your overall score, but you add extra time to potentially beat a level.
The game actually will let you choose what your starting level will be. Though, given the nature of these games I would argue that you should start from the first level. It almost felt like cheating when you started from extra levels!
The gameplay itself works really well, there’s a reason why The House of the Dead is a very addictive game. It’s a very ‘try this now’ type of game, and you get better as you learn each of the levels, something which you can now do without draining your wallet- you can now have almost unlimited redo’s.
The new mode this time is ‘horde mode’ which adds a ton of zombies to screen, and I would really recommend only doing this in multiplayer, single player makes it damn near impossible. The main mode, however, works very well, and I say overall it’s a pretty well put-together game. It’s obviously built off the back of something that’s already been successful, but it’s still commendable that they managed to get the thing running almost exactly like the arcade game.
The game also comes with a gallery option which lets you look into weaknesses of enemies that you’ve already encountered, something I would recommend if you’re struggling with certain areas.
Other than that, there’s not really much change, it’s pretty much The House of the Dead as you would expect it.
It controls fine for the most part. I tried playing this both portably and when the Switch was docked into the television.
When playing this game portably, I would not recommend using the gyro controls. It really doesn’t work that well and if you’ve got a table, it’s not improved by the fact that you’re trying to aim on a small screen. I played this on a Switch OLED and even with the wider screen it was quite difficult to aim. Though that being said, you should gyro aim pretty much at all times.
I did play this game with the pro controller, using the analogue sticks to aim and the A and B buttons to fire and load respectively. It does work and it’s good for if you don’t want your arms to get tired, but you will not gain the level of aim that you really need in order to be precise in this game. For example, one of the mini games is to save as many scientists as possible and I definitely missed out on more of those when I didn’t have the gyro aiming options.
The gyro aiming is fine in this one, though you do have to select it from the menu as it’s not the default option annoyingly. You also have to take both joycons out of the Switch before it would recognise it which I found rather annoying. Now when I got it working it was fine, it aimed precisely and was enjoyable, but my arm did get quite tired from constantly pointing it at the screen. You can adjust it by pressing the Y button to change the gyroscopic aim, very similar to that to Legends of Zelda: Skyward Sword as well as the port of Super Mario Galaxy that we got in Super Mario 3D All Stars.
I complained a ton that in Mario 3D All Stars that I had to recalibrate the gyro quite a bit, but I didn’t have to do it as much as in this game. I feel like I had to recalibrate it almost every 2 minutes- it was definitely a lot more temperamental than I would like, especially for a game like this one. If your aiming falls off at the wrong time, it could be the difference between getting a successful hit in or dying. Given the fact that this game is on rails, there’s not a lot of time to recalibrate. When it does work, it works very well, but it did annoy me how often I had to essentially relearn how to aim my gun.
- Graphical hiccups
The graphics in The House of the Dead remake look alright, there’s nothing amazing overall, but I can forgive it considering it’s a small studio working on this one. Even though its a remake, I wasn’t expecting a massive improvement on the original.
The frame rate also runs relatively fine, I didn’t notice many framerate hiccups. I did notice a fair few graphical hiccups though. There was an excessive amount of popping in several scenes that was very visible, and the game often would struggle with rendering multiple enemies. I didn’t really suffer from much slow down fortunately, but the graphics on this game don’t look amazing.
The biggest thing for me wrong with this game is the textures- they just look really off to me. It doesn’t feel like they were taking full advantage of the hardware. Now, that being said, I don’t think the lower level of graphics will affect the gameplay too much; I definitely noticed it more here than I did on a game like Cruising Blast, for example- which was also aiming to replicate old arcade games but does a really good job overall that you kind of don’t notice it’s mistakes.
The House of the Dead I think has a fair few issues in it that means that you notice the graphical issues a little bit more.
- Setting up multiplayer gameplay
Multiplayer is the best way to play House of the Dead. I had a ton of fun whenever I got to play co-op or multiplayer, however getting a game set up is really annoying. It’s not hard to get two joycons to work, that’s fine. Where it does fall down is the fact that you had to go into the pause menu almost as soon as you start the game… and once again, even if you turned on gyro aim in the options menu before the start of the game, it does not turn on automatically if you select multiplayer for the friend you’re playing with. You have to go into the pause menu at the start of the game when you turn it on.
This really annoyed me, because it threw our gameplay off on multiple occasions. There were times where we started new games and as a result, it meant that the game had a really stop and start nature. We didn’t exactly have a hard time but it was just really a drag! I think that the team could have done better in creating a better set up option in the beginning menus so you don’t have to press the start menu at the beginning of the game and select the gyro menu if you want it.
House of the Dead remake is a valiant attempt to make an arcade classic and it’s gameplay is good fun, especially if you have a friend to join you. By yourself, however, I think you notice way more of the issues within this game particularly on the controls and graphics front. Not to mention that in some of the boss fights their weaknesses only work when they feel like it. I’m referring particularly to the boss of the second level. I swear, their weaknesses only works half of the time!
I actually think that this game would have worked well if it had come with a simultaneous PC release, I feel like a mouse controller would have done well for this game, though the Switch was sort of perfect for this game, with the instant multiplayer with the consoles purchase as well as the gyro aiming. Though, as I mentioned, the gyro aiming is a little more temperamental that I would have liked.
If you enjoyed the original game, you should pick this game up at least for a nostalgia boost. Maybe wait for a sale on this one, since the content isn’t amazing. I actually wish that they had waited longer to release this game and they had done a double pack with a remake of the sequel attached since that game is actually a bit better. Though I would actually be kind of excited if Megapixel were working on a remake of House of the Dead 2, I certainly have no idea how this game is going to function on Xbox and PS4 if the data leak is to be believed.
My verdict really is that you should wait for a sale on this one. It’s not a bad game but it’s not exactly a good game either.
Final score 6.3/10
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