The developer of this iOS spin-off from 2009 Wii lightgun shooter The House Of The Dead: Overkill clearly doesn’t remember the bombastic gory glory of the original, offering what purports to be “lost reels” – short stages that recycle the original’s environments – but delivering a bland, charmless concoction that would have been better left on the cutting room floor.
The irritation of the game’s bugs – from instability issues like forced, random quits to poor collision detection – is superseded only by exasperation at what a diabolical job has been done in translating Overkill’s personality to iOS. The lights have seemingly been turned on in Sega’s grindhouse and, though crisp, the squeaky clean visuals neuter any sense of dread or drama.
Gone is the kitschy narrative tying it all together (though the wonderful, guttural movie trailer tones are still here to announce crowning glories like “extreme violence”) and gone also is the game’s variety and vivacious pace, opting instead for a plodding trip through easily conquered rooms of repeating foes with the odd excruciatingly routine boss battle thrown in for good measure.
Bizarrely, the game offers no entry point for new players, recycling the original’s cast in a clear assumption that iOS users will have played the home console or arcade versions. It’s one of many oversights, including an aggressive approach to in-app purchases, that’s likely to deter potential converts to Overkill’s sadistic cause. It’s a shame because the control system – a directional pad for the crosshair, a few bold, easy to reach icons for shooting, items and reloading – is the right way to port the lightgun genre (you can opt for accelerometer controls but it removes a crucial sense of autonomy), offering an ease of navigation and sense of feedback, aided by solid sound design, that’ll make you yearn for genre milestones like Virtua Cop and Time Crisis on your retina-equipped iPad.
The original HOTD: Overkill is no holy grail of the genre, but it did spice up the ailing niche with some eccentricity and zany thrills. To see it massacred in this way is a shame both for the series and for iOS newcomers whose first taste of this most guilty of pleasures will be a sour one.
The House Of The Dead: Overkill – The Lost Reels is available now on the App Store for £2.99.