In true grindhouse fashion, The House of the Dead: Overkill drops a semi-sequel based on its original storyline and characters. The House of the Dead: Overkill – The Lost Reels is a supplemental game for the original Wii and PS3 title. Unlike the movie culture revolving around sequels and reboots, this game is a welcome addition to the franchise. Oh, one more thing —its an universal iOS game! (iPhone, iPod, iPad).
Agent G and Isaac Washington are running the same mutant (zombie) killing, villain hunting storyline, but in a watered down way with more emphasis on gameplay (this is a good thing, I promise). The franchise itself has paved its way into the gaming culture via arcade light guns and (most recently) motion sensors with the Wii and PS3. Ironically the shooter genre hasn’t done so well in the mobile touchscreen environment. As an on-rails shooter, The Lost Reels is the first to really nail the controls. Holding the platform horizontally the player can use their right thumb to shoot, reload, and toss grenades —the rest of the screen is available to drag a crosshair around to aim at the never ending mutants. Rather than tapping to fire, or using a virtual joystick, the controls feel fluid and allow for the game to take center stage and not be obstructed by interface elements.
The graphics are on par with, if not better than, it’s Wii and PS3 predecessor. The choppy grindhouse style feels intentional and an aesthetic choice rather than the lazy coding feel of the original. One sorely missed feature is the character voice-overs. Gone are the cheeky one liners, insert comic book cells and screen shots. While it is a letdown to not hear Isaac Washington’s F-bombs, the comic style is still done well —I can’t help but feel like half of the reason why this game is fun is missing though.
The game is played around 3 majors levels; Papa’s Palace of Pain, Ballistic Trauma, and Naked Terror. Unfortunately the $4.99 price tag only includes the first 2 levels, Naked Terror is a $1.99 in-app purchase (the nature of iOS games). More game economics come into play when its time to upgrade your arsenal. Players can play levels over and over to wrack up “Ka$h” (in-game currency) and purchase faster reload times, larger clips, increased damage, etc.. You can also buy different guns and consumables to use during gameplay. One of the more interesting additions to the game is the “Gadgets” shop. Players can buy increased health, gimmicky skins for existing guns like the “Love Gun” that shoots hearts and “Ninja Star” that lets you throw ninja stars, and some classic shooting styles from retro Sega game Vectorman. Like any other game with in-app purchases, Lost Reels also allows gamers to exchange real money for Ka$h and skip all the fun in playing the game and just buy all the upgrades they want (I’ll never understand why people do this, what’s the point of playing the game?).
The House of the Dead: Overkill – The Lost Reels stays true to its foul mouthed, gory ways and brings a new medium for fans of the genre to enjoy the game. Looking ahead I’d welcome more in-app purchases for additional levels. I know most of us are not fans of this money grabbing method of pushing content but I think if there was a way to do it, an on rails shooter with a purchase for additional levels would be the way to go. I’d feel less annoyed by the whole thing if the game was a little cheaper to get into. 3 Levels for $7 ($4.99 app + $1.99 for the Naked Terror level) doesn’t sit well with me. If Sega would’ve put this game out for free, or even $1 with just one level and then asked me to pay $1.99 per additional level I’d feel 100% better. We are treading on newer grounds with the pay to play, in-app purchase games. Companies are still trying to figure out the best way to deliver this content to the gaming culture, Sega is getting close.