Review: The House of the Dead Overkill: The Lost Reels

House of the Dead: Overkill proved that the Nintendo Wii could be just a bloodthirsty, crass and mature as any other console.  Sega brought a “grindhouse zombie” on-rails light gun shooter filled with buckets of blood, over the top profanity and heaps of adult situations to the “kiddie” Nintendo console – with plenty of positive press and gamer appreciation.    The game was then taken HD to various other platforms – and now has arrived in a “smaller” version dubbed “The Lost Reels”.

We're BACK!

We’re BACK!

For the mobile version of The House of the Dead Overkill: The Lost Reels (just HOTD from now on), they stripped off the heavy story line (shifting it into basic comic book format) and overhauled the mechanics a bit to support a touch screen; stuffing this new incarnation into a 120MB experience.

HOTD represents an entry into a brand new market of mobile games – taking a console or PC big brother and reducing it to a mobile experience (and pricing model) – banking on name recognition to boost sales while hoping no one realizes how much this game is NOT like it’s older brother.  But I digress …

The Light Gun Shooter

You need fast fingers ...

You need fast fingers …

The Nintendo Wii (and even the Playstation Move) made ideal platforms for a light gun shooter.  After all, you could point at the screen and pull the trigger, causing onscreen mayhem and carnage.  Unfortunately, light gun games often prove problematic on other platforms – even touch screens.  You would think touch screens would be perfect; but they tend to drastically lower the challenge level – plus you spend half your time looking at the back of your hand, dealing with the lag between seeing the enemy and getting your finger to him.  A mouse works pretty good, but that’s off the table.  A good accelerometer/gyro might work (like on the Nintendo 3DS’ Resident Evil: Revelations game) but that takes a lot of work when dealing with the disparate hardware the Android platform provides.

What is left?  The ugly D-Pad controlled reticle (you know, like Lethal Enforcers on Sega Genesis).  Nobody wants that.

Fortunately there is still another method; touchpad style.  Oddly enough – it works pretty well for HOTD.  You’ll be controlling your reticle via a sort of touch screen style track pad while your other hand handles the duties of shooting, reloading, throwing grenades and changing weapons.

The Basics

Comic book stories ...

Comic book stories …

HOTD is yours for $4.99 from Sega via the Google Play store.  The initial download is about 25MB with just over 100MB subsequent download to complete the purchase.  It requires no special hardware or chipset to play.

The game features two modes; story mode and survival mode.  Achievements are also part of the experience; available for perusing from the main menu.  There is a store to buy weapon upgrades, gadgets and more – you can go in before playing each level – using the in-game currency Koins (shocked that Netherealms, the developer of Mortal Kombat doesn’t have an issue with that).  Koins can be earned in-game or purchased with real money via an in app purchase.

There are some basic options for controls, audio – but otherwise it’s pretty straight forward.

The Story Mode

You know, I could sit here and discuss the story with you – but as it is nothing like it’s console brother (rendered in comic book form; there is plenty of profanity, though) – I might just skip it.  It is all about getting you to the next area/level of the game.

Let’s talk about how it plays instead.  I put over an hour of play into the game before starting this review.

Let the bloodbath begin!

Let the bloodbath begin!

Just like the original Overkill, the game is on rails; that means you won’t be controlling your trek directly.  The game will take you through the level while you just have to worry about aiming and taking down the zombies.

There are two characters to play; Agent G and Isaac Washington.  There isn’t a ton different between them, but I may not have played long enough to figure out their particulars.

On the first story, Papa’s Palace of Pain you’ll be playing through five different levels that mostly take place within a large mansion.  As you pass each level, you’ll get a score and ranking as well as get awarded Koins for a job well done.  Once completed, you can play the levels again out of order to try to get a higher score.

As with all light gun games, you will be dispatching a horde of enemies.  Sometimes they come in droves, sometimes they pop up from nowhere.  Some throw weapons at you.  Some require more bullets to dispatch. Some of them crawl at you.  No matter how they get to you, they will attack and drain your life a notch at a time until you are dead.

Survival Mode or Room 237?

Survival Mode or Room 237?

Your weapons have various characteristics; from pistol to shotgun to uzi, each weapon offers a different experience (you can have any two with you at a time; even two of the same kind).  Weapons can be upgraded with Koins – lowering their recoil, adding power, increasing the magazine/ammo and more.  You’ll also be able to carry a single grenade to blow up a big stack of the undead at one time.

A tutorial will take you through the basics as you move through the first couple of rounds.  You can skip it anytime.

The entire game runs like you’re watching a filmstrip from the 1970s.  The gore is turned up.  The music is appropriate.

Story Mode features three full levels; the first one is unlocked.  You’ll need to unlock the second one (presumably after you finish the first one), but the third one appears to be IAP only ($1.99).  It is uncertain if there is some other way to open it.  My guess is that once Sega makes enough money, they will give that level away for free at some point.

The Survival Mode

Survival mode features you stationary in a mass-hoard attack.  Wave after wave comes at you, with more and more diverse and challenging opponents.

It feels slightly tacked on and not nearly as well thought out as say, Call of Duty Zombies.  I played about 5 waves for this review.

The Graphics / Engine

Overall, the graphics are nice enough.  There is enough gore and carnage, with large pools of blood appearing under your victims.  Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of bad guy graphics – so you’re going to see the same 5 or 6 types for a long time.  I mean, should we care?  They are zombies.  But still, you’ll notice right away that it’s the same few “actors” on the screen most of the time.

The resolution of graphics on my Nexus 10 was fine – but the environments are very plain jane – featuring more along the lines of what you might see in a Dreamcast game.  I couldn’t find anything destructible in the environment making the furniture et al really just placeholders in the game.  There is no satisfaction of blowing a TV up behind a zombie you just blasted with a shotgun.

There is nothing VISUALLY about this game that will win any awards; but you’re not going to be embarrassed by the graphics either.  There are MANY better looking games than this one on Android.

Smurfberry Factor

Spend spend spend ....

Spend spend spend ….

Yes, despite the fact that this game costs $4.99 AND has a $1.99 unlocked level; it still has IAP in the way of Koins.

Koins are earned during play (sometimes if you pull off a great move, you’ll get some extra Koins awarded) but can also be purchased.  K6500 for $1, K18,500 for $2, K67,000 for $5, K195,000 for $20.

Interestingly enough, you can fully upgrade a weapon using IAP too.  $2 will fully upgrade your Magnum pistol or shotgun.  $3 for most other weapons.  The MiniGun will cost you $6.

Finally, you can buy every weapon, gadget and all fully upgraded for $20; meaning essentially you could own the whole game for $5 + $2 + $20 = $27.

Even after you buy it all for $27, there are still “consumables”, that is one time use items you can buy with the subsequent Koins you earn.

Unlike many games, Koins don’t seem hard to come by.  I was earning about 2500 each pass through a level – meaning I was almost immediately able to update my pistol and gun with a couple of useful perks to vastly increase my score.

Now, this could easily be a bait and switch; where you’ll start earning less and less Koin the longer you play – forcing you into IAP to keep the game level.  I didn’t see any of that going on for the hour+ I played, but I can’t promise you that this won’t change over time.

I have ZERO desire to spend ANY real cash yet, so I’m going to give this a lower Smurfberry Annoyance factor (I withhold the right to change this at any time based on future play).  Unfortunately, this crap about paying a rather large price ($5 in mobile money is like $40 in retail) PLUS having to BUY a level with cash (you should be able to Koin out on that)  AND rather obfuscated IAP – I am going to up it a notch from 1 to 2.

Final result: Smurfberry Annoyance factor of 2.

Advanced Play

So far, what we have here is a mediocre-to-fair game.  Graphically it isn’t kicking any asses.  It is missing all the grindhouse, over-the-top cutscenes and story breaks.  The controls WORK, but an actual point and shoot gun would be TONS better.  The IAP isn’t atrocious, but I’ve seen better.



But this game has an ace in the hole.


I have always had a romance with games filled with “greed factor”.  That is, huge rewards that require huge risks.  Games that you can play “safely” but really only excel at if you start getting … greedy.  You don’t see many of these anymore because of the demands of “casual players”.  Classic arcade games like Robotron, Zookeeper … great games of great greed.

HOTD is about chaining kills.  They call these “combos”.  Every kill you make stays on the screen; well, the score under your total score does.  If you can make another kill before that disappears, it adds to a multiplier AND increases the kill value.  Sometimes, this isn’t possible because the rail system moves you where there are no bad guys to kill.  However, you can use your Koins to buy “slow downs” for the combo system – meaning you have LONGER before you lose the combo.

Man, totally different game once you realize how this system works.  Changes how you shoot, how you reload – what upgrades you’ll buy.  This changed the “fair” game into a “good” game.

Greed … is … good.

There are also some goodies for you to pick up on the levels.  They call them “collectibles”.  Some will grant health, some give you a grenade, etc.  One is cool;  puts you in “bullet time”, giving you a chance to really combo-out with super slow motion zombies.  Fun!

Trust me.  Sega knows what they are doing with this greed combo system.  If you aren’t interested in doing it – fine, but your score and rating will reflect it.  Embrace it?  And your $5 is far better spent.

The Dark Side

Achievements are Good

Achievements are Good

As always, there has to be an evil side to every game.  HOTD, as usual, is no exception.

First, the price model is confusing.  If you skipped Smurfberry Annoyance above, go back and check it out.  This game, in full, can easily run you $25+; which is CRAZY because you can own this game on disc for the Nintendo Wii for under $10 and actually get the FULL Overkill experience.  If you’re cool grinding (no pun intended) properly through the game, you’re looking at $7 for the full experience.

The graphics/engine are serviceable but nothing special.  The Wii version is actually better overall, but this DOES have higher resolution.  The repetitive enemy models and passive environment bother me the most.

I’ve had the game just shut down twice.  No crash, no notice; just BANG – you were playing and now you’re not.  I lost Koins in the process.  Now, the Nexus 10 gets a little bitchy at times – especially if you’re been running Chrome anytime recently.  It’s probably me, not the game – but any journalist would be negligent if they didn’t mention this.

The game is probably fairly short.  I burned through 3/4 of the first story in about an hour.  I’m guessing you’re going to get 3-4 solid hours with this game based on that.

Finally, the point-specific shot damage we’ve grown accustomed to is pretty gimped down here.  You can’t really blow off arms and legs systematically here.  It’s too bad, because that makes this sort of game even more fun.


This is a fun game.  It’s brutal, bloody and definitely “mature material” – always fun to have on your tablet.  If you’re looking to pinch pennies?  This game will be “on sale” for $.99 before summer is over – meaning you can get the game AND the locked level for under today’s asking price.  Plan on grinding unless you’re willing to fork over some real world cash.

I’ve seen far worse, unbalanced arcade style shooting games than this.  If you’re itching for a light gun rails shooter experience on your Android – and you like buckets of blood – you can’t go wrong here.  The IAP isn’t obnoxious (like Dead Trigger and its ilk) and I think you can have a good experience without paying another dime.

The good news is; even though there is no demo – it honors the 15 minute refund window of Google Play and unless you’re on dial up, it’s a fast enough download to give you a good 10 minutes with the game before deciding.

If greed is your game, this game delivers.

Get It  Google Play
Developer  Sega of America
Price  $4.99
Smurfberry Annoyance Factor 2 (of 5)


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