Don’t go in the house.
I remember a time I was in the cinema watching some clichéd horror film: some young couple drives to a spooky old mansion. Eeeeeeek! There’s something in the bushes. It might have just been a rabbit, but it looked an awful lot more like an axe-wielding maniac. When they reach the door, Dracula has just snuck back inside. There’s blood everywhere, and the wolfman is peering out the window. A ghostly voice cries “Beware! Beware!”
“Awwww, it’s just the wind,” says the young man.
It was at this point that someone in the audience shouted “Don’t go in the house!”. Brilliant, I thought. Sage advice. It is patently obvious that all kinds of fiendish evil lurks inside. The only thing missing, really, was a big yellow sign – Danger: Fiendish Evil. So don’t be an idiot. Get back in the car. Go call the police or the National Guard. Don’t go in the house.
The House of the Dead, from Sega, is another such house. It is positively crawling with flesh eating zombies. The mad scientist Dr. Curien has had the foresight to set up his laboratory in a big, spooky mansion. So when his experiments go awry, we don’t have to waste any time shipping all the undead out of a more conventional lab in the Silicon Valley, for example, to someplace more mood setting.
You are the hero, so you are going to blatantly go in the house anyway, no matter what the audience says. You have your trusty 6-shooter to blast the hordes of zombies, but you also have very tasty flesh, thirst quenching blood, and mouth watering brains they crave. Unfortunately, there is also one more reason not to go in the house: the graphics are terrible.
Those of you familiar with the quarter-sucking arcade version of the game know that it has beautiful 3D graphics. The Saturn graphics, on the other hand, are bad enough to make a zombie shudder. Instead of using a crisp clean 3D engine like Virtua Cop 2, the developers quickly stuffed this game into a pre-made choppy, blocky, pixely mess of a 3D engine.
Other than that, the game is almost exactly like the arcade, with all the same beasties in the same places. This isn’t such a bad thing, because House of the Dead is a good game. Advanced hit detection lets you blast zombies in the limbs, head and chest, with the appropriate accompanying gore and flying rotted body parts. If you shoot (or don’t shoot) certain monsters or background objects, you will be sent on a bunch of different multiple paths through the deadly house.
The only thing added to the Saturn version is the ability to choose between 4 different characters. The game is the same, but each character has different weapon characteristics and toughness. For me, this was a disappointingly small addition. Time Crisis added a whole new, full length scenario to its home version.
The Saturn version comes with greed blood as the (boring) standard. However, with a secret code, you can change that to red, blue, purple and a whole rainbow of fruit flavors.
House of the Dead is also very difficult. With only a few credits to try and complete the game (and no way to get more without cheating), it is almost impossible to win. There seem to be some gameplay glitches with one of the boss monsters, and the sudden appearance of certain other monsters make it even harder.
While it is always nice to see a new game with my zombie friends in it (even if they are portrayed as stereotypical flesh-eating monsters), it is a shame that it has to be such a mediocre game as this one. House of the Dead is just a quick, sloppy port from the arcade. Sega obviously didn’t spend much time on this one and it shows. While the gameplay is still pretty good in most parts, the lousy graphics and minor gameplay glitches drag this one down.