Two years ago, Polish studio Forever Entertainment released a new HD version of the Sega Saturn classic Panzer Dragoon. Our review at the time said the remake was fun but flawed, but ultimately concluded that while it wasn’t perfect, we were at least glad it existed so at least more people could get a chance to play it in some form.
Fast forward to today and Forever Entertainment is back with another new version of the Sega IP classic, this time the legendary shooter The House of the Dead. As fate would have it, our opinion of it turns out to be exactly the same as Forever’s Take on Panzer Dragoon: it’s welcome, but it’s not perfect.
For those who were unfortunate enough not to have The House of the Dead in their lives up to this point, the game takes place in and around Curien Mansion, as players attempt to put an end to the evil Dr Curien and his laboratory. . Corian did some pretty grim experiments which resulted in his mansion being overrun with a horde of zombies and other mutants, so it’s up to you to clear the house (of the dead), slap a few bullets in Corian’s buttock on the way out, as well as rescue your girlfriend who was in the house for reasons .
Despite their versatility as great as the Switch, light weapons games can be a little tricky because there’s really no perfect way to replicate the experience. The Wii provided one of the best and most accurate home light weapons experiences because its sensor strip provided constant tracking of the remote’s cursor, but without a sensor strip, the Switch would have to rely entirely on rotational controls which isn’t ideal.
Whether you play with the Joy-Con separately with either hand, using the Pro controller or in manual mode, there is an option to play with the rotation controls. This is the best way to do it on paper, and keeping it calibrated isn’t a big deal – pushing the cursor to the edge of the screen and back to the center generally gets the job done.
The main problem we have with gyroscope controls is that every time we fire (either with the “A” button or specifically with the “ZR” trigger), the cursor trembles and is thrown away from our target. We’re not sure if this is due to excessive sensitivity on the part of the controller, but it can make things really frustrating when you’re trying to hit targets at a distance or even at medium range.
It’s also a mess in boss fights, where you ideally want to keep your cursor focused on a weak spot but it jumps all over the place. We should note that we are not exactly John Woo stuntmen when playing light weapons games: we have consciously tried to keep our hands and fingers firing as steady as possible while playing the cursor still jumping.
We found that playing with the Pro controller handled the situation a bit. Not quite, keep in mind, but suffice that things weren’t too frustrating. Let’s face it, though, when you’re playing a light gun game, you want to feel like you’re holding a gun, and the Joy-Con looks more like a gun than a Pro console (even if it’s a small gun like the one in the Men in black).
There is also the option to use the Control Stick to move the cursor instead, which is obviously less intuitive but at least more accurate. The default settings for this mostly do the job (although it can be hard to respond and shoot quickly) but there are a bunch of sensitivity settings you can tinker with until you get something you’re happy enough. Obviously, the situation is still not perfect: one of the main benefits of this genre is that anyone, regardless of playing ability, is supposed to be able to pick up a “gun” and instantly know what they’re doing. This level of intuitive control is definitely not found here.
(By the way, while we’re at it, we’d love it if Forever Entertainment could correct the ability to use the touch screen to tap where we want to shoot. This would obviously make the game a lot easier, but at least it’d be quite accurate, and would be very useful in crowd mode, Which we’ll take up a second later.)
Assuming you can find a control method that you are happy enough for, the game itself is as entertaining as House of the Dead ever. Blowing zombie heads away is still brilliantly satisfying, as is saving helpless scientists from being attacked, all while enjoying a beautifully freaky soundtrack. There is also an option to blast through with a friend in local multiplayer.
Being an arcade game, it’s still pretty short. There are a few different endings to provide at least some replay value, but the control issues mean that trying to get some (which requires a high degree of precision and skill) can make you tear your face, ironically.
Once you’ve finished the main arcade mode, there’s also a new mode called Horde, which is basically the same thing but gives you a lot of zombies to deal with in each area instead of just a couple at a time. Meaning it’s a much more fun and action-packed version of the game, but in practice it also presents more control issues when you have more objectives to deal with quickly.
Visually, it’s okay. Since it’s a remake, this isn’t just an original arcade game with HD textures applied: all of the game’s characters, locations and enemies have been rebuilt from scratch. When you look at them in these still screenshots they may seem a bit bullshit, but it’s also important to note that they usually appear and attack so quickly that you don’t have time to sit there and study the quality of their character models. It’s detailed enough, and the improved lighting is nice and moody, if simple.
The game suffers a bit in performance. When it’s set to default, it can emit frame rate frequently, which isn’t ideal for a game that requires quick reactions like this. There’s an option to turn on Performance mode which brings everything a lot closer to a constant frame rate, but while this basically solves the problem without too many compromises while docked, it can make things look a bit more blurry when playing in manual mode.
Ultimately, The House of the Dead: Remake is clearly made with a love of the source material, and fans of the original will likely enjoy seeing how Forever Entertainment gave it a fresh touch of paint. However, how much fun you will have with it, will depend on how willing you are to fiddle with its settings until you are satisfied enough with its controls. It’s annoying every time you fail to save a world because you’re blasting away from zombies and not crashing into them through no fault of yours, and you shouldn’t spend time fiddling with sensitivity and dead zone options to mitigate them. Something should just “work”.
When everything works as it should, The House of the Dead: Remake is a fun update to a classic Sega arcade game. Performance can be tricky and the controls are at default settings, but if you’re willing to take the time to tweak them, you should get something you’re a lot happier with. You don’t have to do this with a light-hearted shooter, and the fact that you should go down as a failure on the part of the game.