Anyone attempting The House of the Dead: Remake review who grew up in the era of arcades will have some attachment towards the franchise. The original 1996 game wowed gamers with its schlocky B-movie violence and its signature light gun gameplay. Walking by the arcade cabinet was always guaranteed to catch anyone’s attention, due to all the high octane shooting.
Like most arcade light gun shooters, this was a quarter devouring machine; often demanding almost a dollar to play. Thankfully, The House of the Dead: Remake has a one-time cost and is packed with extras and bonus cheats to experience the big raid on Dr. Curien’s mansion.
Much like the Panzer Dragoon: Remake, this is a MegaPixel Studio joint that aims to deliver something as close as possible to the original experience but with the Unity engine. When Panzer Dragoon got remade, the devs had to update their game a few times before it was something that would satisfy fans. Does The House of the Dead: Remake need fixes too, or was it nailed in the first try? Find out in our The House of the Dead: Remake review!
The House of the Dead: Remake
Developer: MegaPixel Studio
Publisher: Forever Entertainment
Platforms: Stadia, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: April 7, 2022
Price: $24.99 USD
The House of the Dead: Remake is a shot for shot recreation of the original arcade game. The cutscenes and creature designs are very faithful but with the glossy veneer of the Unity engine. MegaPixel Studio has come a long way since their days on the Panzer Dragoon: Remake and their experience has paid off with a worthwhile remake of the arcade scene’s greatest guilty pleasure.
Tiny details like the way Agent G and Thomas Rogan appear in their car, skidding around on a muddy road and running over a massive horny toad, show the developer’s dedication. The goofy way that axe zombies cross their weapons to block incoming fire was something seared into gamer’s memories and it has been preserved in this remake.
The main draw found in our The House of the Dead: Remake review is that it is a light gun rail shooter with various endings and routes for replay value. On Nintendo Switch, this seemed like it would have been a novel idea since the joycons and pro controller have built in gyroscopes for aiming and shooting. Regretfully, this does not deliver on that promise and it has nothing to do with MegaPixel Studio’s skill as a developer.
The Nintendo Switch controllers have no IR pointer. This was technology that the Wii relied on for all pointing mechanics in its games. Titles like Sin & Punishment: Star Successor or The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return compilation were very tight and superb rail shooters that had incredibly tight and responsive aiming.
The House of the Dead: Remake has to fake the aiming with a gyroscope and this proves to be very unreliable. This is a game where players make snappy and quick gestures while holding the controller. This inevitably leads to the aiming mechanism to drift harder than Keiichi Tsuchiya at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Expect to be pressing in the analogue stick every few seconds to recalibrate.
Trying to play The House of the Dead: Remake like a light gun game is very rough. The drifting cursor is far too much to bear and having to constantly recalibrate is unenjoyable. Amusingly, gameplay fares so much better with playing with an analogue stick. It is basically a crime to play a light gun rail shooter with an standard controller, yet The House of the Dead: Remake offers no better solution.
It is almost as if MegaPixel Studios knew that the gyroscopic controls would be unreliable. There are a ton of options and sliders that allow players to tweak and adjust various parameters for both gyro aiming and analogue stick shooting.
The greatest irony is that the Wii remote was an incredibly low-tech and cheap controller, yet is still a far more accurate and stable option for rail shooters. The joycons are stuffed with HD rumble, have lithium batteries and an accelerometer- yet are the absolute worst choice for a game like The House of the Dead: Remake.
Despite that this remake is gimped by the console’s controller, it is still a lot of fun even when playing it like a heathen. Dragging a cursor across the screen is never going to have the same visceral feedback as pointing and shooting, but there is still satisfaction from manually aiming and landing head shots in such a crude manner.
The House of the Dead from 1996 had very early 3D graphics and its aesthetics have become a defining aspect of its charm. For The House of the Dead: Remake, the developers honor the designs as much as possible, but with the overly shiny specular sheen that Unity games tend to have.
The remake takes on an un-life of its own with its intense and lurid fun-house style lighting that look like something out of a Lucio Fulci movie. The high contrasting lighting makes every creature look extra juicy and moist- even in performance mode where there are almost no shadows.
In the performance mode, the frame rate really tries its hardest to stay at 60 frames per second. The vast quantities of undead and dismemberment prove to be too much for the Nintendo Switch to keep the action fluid. The sputtering is disappointing, but sometimes feel satisfying to make the game buckle from the utter bedlam happening on screen.
During The House of the Dead: Remake review process; co-op gameplay proved to be as exciting as it ever was in the original game. Like always, players automatically travel through stages set in Dr. Curien’s house of horrors and have to save as many scientists as possible while also shooting up monsters.
Sometimes there are different routes that lead to other encounters or hidden scientists to rescue who will reward players with a power-up. Accuracy is the main skill that players are tested with and being able to pick off distant zombies that pose no threat become more valuable than the ones lunging towards the screen.
Even with a control scheme that is not ideal, The House of the Dead: Remake is still as stimulating as ever. All of the rooting and tooting, pointing and shooting is bolstered by an achievement system that also rewards players with codes to input for cheats. Compounded with horde mode which adds way more enemies, The House of the Dead: Remake always feels like a wild party.
The House of the Dead: Remake review
The only drawback that is core to the foundation of The House of the Dead: Remake is that it is still The House of the Dead. The original game was a very fast paced, but brief light gun shooter and this is still the case for the remake which does not take more than around 30 minutes to complete.
With the various routes, endings and unlockable features, it still does not take long to see most of what The House of the Dead: Remake has to offer. This aspect can be understandably something that would discourage most gamers today. It would have been encouraging if there were minigames to add value. Sadly there is none.
Like always, the cutscenes are amusing to watch due to the hammy and overdramatic voice acting. For The House of the Dead: Remake, all dialogue was recorded with new actors and unless you are very familiar with the original, you won’t notice. The new voices are very faithful and deliver the same clunky and goofy dialogue with the same overly dramatic tone.
Closing out our The House of the Dead: Remake review, the game is held back by the limitations of the joy cons, but getting past that is still one of the cheesiest guilty pleasures to have. Anyone who enjoys having huge gibs of gore splatter across the wall like a Jackson Pollock painting will be pleased by the absurdity of The House of the Dead: Remake.
The House of the Dead: Remake was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a copy provided by Forever Entertainment. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. The House of the Dead: Remake is now available for Google Stadia and Nintendo Switch (via the eShop).