Reviews: Still less rigor mortis than a day at the Bingo hall.
This compilation of the second and third installments of Sega's classic zombie shooting series would seem to pack quite a value. While the two games definitely show their age, the fun factor of collapsing the craniums of the undead remains timeless. However this fun is short-lived given the lack of significant additions over earlier ports and the shallow nature of the gameplay.
The formula is simple: up to two players blast their way through hordes of the undead along a pre-determined track. The House of the Dead series epitomizes the phrase "on the rail shooter." The games sometimes give players a choice of what path to take, but it matters little since ultimately he or she will encounter the same boss at the level's end. The major difference between these versions and earlier ports is the inclusion of Wii remote support. This fortunately works like a breeze and is a significant improvement over the blister inducing light guns of earlier iterations. The trade-off is that the games are somewhat easier.
The controls aside, Sega has done virtually nothing to change the games from their initial console debuts. As expected part II most shows its age. Its unattractive graphics are decidedly from the post-Saturn/early Dreamcast era with its clunky 3D models, washed out colors, and the propensity for almost everything to appear in shades of brown or green. Its game play is extremely linear and features some of the more annoying aspects of the series such as bystanders who incessantly wander into your line of fire. The dreadful voice acting persists, but instead of subtracting from the experience it adds to the game's cheesy atmosphere. Sega got their money's worth out of these high school drama club rejects.
Part III fares better overall. It was originally released on the Xbox, so while the visuals are still dated they are a vast improvement over the second game. Nevertheless there is a perceptible bit of slowdown here and there. On a positive note, the designers eliminated those annoying bystanders. Instead the player must rescue his or her partner in certain instances to earn extra lives. This third game also features one of the greatest bosses in video game history? a giant zombie sloth. House of the Dead's designers are either freakishly creative or spend way too much time at the zoo on angel dust.
Ultimately it is easy to look past the games' shortcomings and simply enjoy injecting monsters with hot lead. However the Achilles' heel for both games is their short length and lack of depth. While they possess a degree of challenge, most players will master them fairly quickly. Simply put the games cease to be interesting or difficult once players have memorized the enemy placement and the bosses' patterns. There are some unlockables like alternate player models, boss run/time trial modes, and part III's Extreme Mode, but none of these additions are compelling enough to keep players coming back to re-live (no pun intended) the experience.