I grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, and I still remember going to the arcade and spending quarter after quarter on games in those darkly lit rooms. I was also an avid lover of horror movies and when I saw a machine where you could shoot zombies with a light gun, I was immediately sold. This was the first House of the Dead game. Three different House of the Dead games were released into arcades and I finished all of them. More recently, when the games came to home consoles (the Xbox and then the Wii), I bought both and played them to no end. I did the same when the game came to the DS. Sadly, as I’ve slowly lost most of the use of my right hand, I’ve been unable to play any of these versions of the game. I quietly and patiently waited to see the game come to iOS, knowing that it was only a matter of time since SEGA has been bringing so many of their classic games to this platform.
In the other versions of House of the Dead, you play characters trying to save someone or stop an evil scientist who is preparing to launch an army of the dead on the world. It’s a shooter on rails system, where you do not control where you move, you just shoot. On the arcade and consoles, you did this with a light gun. On the DS, you fired by tapping where you wanted to shoot on the touch screen (which is much harder than it sounds). The zombies would pop out of everywhere and attack in many different ways. Some would throw hatchets you’d have to shoot out of mid-air, some charged out of the wall suddenly with a chainsaw, the worst were zombie monkeys that bounced around erratically and were very hard to hit.
You could shoot the zombies anywhere and bring them down with enough damage, but as zombie lore almost always holds true, a headshot would bring them right down. This was my specialty. On top of regular enemies, the game featured epic boss fights (none more epic than the giant zombie sloth!). Also in the game, you could shoot scenery to find items, and you had to save random NPCs who would refill your health. I loved this game so much.
On iOS, I’m less than happy with The House of the Dead: Overkill™- The Lost Reels. In fact, SEGA, I am disappointed.
The game launched for $4.99. That’s a fairly steep price for the App Store, but still something I feel is fair for a great game.
I expected the controls to be similar to the DS title, since both utilize a touch screen. Sadly, this is not the case. On iOS, you control a crosshair for aiming by either using a virtual D-pad or by tilt controls. The crosshair will not stay where you leave it with the D-pad, and returns to the left corner if you let go. I was unable to test the tilt control due to my disability.
You press an icon of your gun in the lower right to fire, and tap a clip above that to reload. The movement is still on rails, so at least that hasn’t changed. While the controls feel obtuse, I was able to get used to them after a while and start scoring frequent headshots, but I never was able to get them to feel natural.
The zombies are another issue. I only saw three different types of zombies, but they all just shamble toward you, some at slightly different speeds (not based on type). Also missing were the epic boss fights I’d come to be familiar with. So sadly, the game gets really stale, really fast. There might be more in the two different stories included, but I never tried those. One requires you to beat the first to unlock it (I never got past the boredom long enough to finish it), and the other requires you to PAY MONEY to unlock it ($1.99). That’s right, a $5 game asks you for more money to unlock everything it should include from the start.
On top of paying for one of the stories, the game wants more money from you for additional weapons. You start out with a hand gun and a shotgun. Both are pretty basic and fairly weak. As you play the game, you’ll earn an in-game currency (called “kash”). You can spend it on items, upgrading current weapons, or to buying new weapons.
Sadly, the new weapons are priced at insanely high prices that would take weeks of constant grinding to get the currency to purchase. Fear not, SEGA allows you to purchase “kash” with real world money and unlock the weapons faster. Doing a quick conversion, the cheapest one will cost you $2, the most expensive $8. Alternately, you are given the option to purchase all the weapons in one pack for $14.99. The prices for the in-app purchases are not listed until you try to buy them (only Apple will show them to you).
So for $5, you’re going to get a game with poor controls, repetitive gameplay, and you’ll have to spend more money to unlock anything more than what you start with. It hurts me so much to say this, after loving this series for so many years, but The House of the Dead: Overkill™ – The Lost Reels is a horrible game. Part of me wishes I never knew it existed and I’d still have an unspoiled version of this franchise to remember.
It appears there IS a third touch screen control scheme called ‘Tap Frenzy’, but it does not get unlocked until you complete the story mode. It makes no sense why SEGA would lock down the control scheme that many players would prefer. Why not just have it unlocked from the start?