The dead walk on the Wii in this collection of two phenomenal light gun games.
House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return is, as the name suggests, a collection of House of the Dead 2 and House of the Dead 3, which previously got home console releases on the Dreamcast and the original Xbox respectively. Now, ignoring the obvious omission of the original House of the Dead (seriously, what's up with that?), this is actually a damned good collection, and a wonderful experience for light gun game enthusiasts.
First off, we have House of the Dead 2, which contains all the goodies that were present in the Dreamcast release. In addition to the arcade mode, Original mode allows players to go into battle with their choice of two power-up items. Items can be collected through repeated playthroughs and include increased clip size, extra continues, increased bullet strength and the like. Items are consumed with each use and must be found again in the game to be used in a subsequent playthrough. For those wishing to brush up on their lightgun skills, the game features a robust training mode which guides the player through various objectives to better their skills for the main game. Lastly, gamers just wishing to practice on the various bosses the game offers can play Boss Mode, which lets players select bosses to fight, in order to increase effectiveness for the main game.
Speaking of the main game, in both arcade and original modes, players take on the roles of AMS agents out to stop an undead invasion being led by Goldman, the financial backer of Dr. Curien's 1998 experiment (Which was HotD1). The game features plenty of different types of dead things to shoot at, with quite a few of them sporting either armor or blades that can block bullets, forcing more precise aiming. Players start with three hit points, but can earn more by finding health kits in destructable pots and cans, or by saving certain civilians. Of course, life can be lost by shooting civilians, so care is required with shots. At the end of each stage, players are graded on their accuracy and how many civilians are saved, and may earn extra life with high ranking.
House of the Dead 3 isn't as feature-rich as House of the Dead 2, only boasting an arcade and time attack mode, with an extreme difficulty mode that can be unlocked which requies that enemies be shot in specific weak points to kill them. Gone is the civilian-saving nonsense of 2, replaced with minigames where one partner must save the other in order to gain extra life. The game's other gimmick is a branching path system which allows players to choose the order at which they'll take on the game's various stages. Like House of the Dead 2, the game boasts an amazing variety of enemies to shoot at, including enemies that have some protection and must be shot at carefully in order to take down. The lack of a boss mode is a shame, as this game has bosses that are every bit as crazy and interesting as in House of the Dead 2. At the end of each stage, players are graded based on time and accuracy, and may be able to win life with high enough rank.
Now since this is a Wii title, the game uses a cursor to represent where the player is aiming. This may be turned off in the options mode for Zapper users (who must then calibrate their Zapper), but the game doesn't really punish users of Wii remotes, as aiming is just as fast with the Wii Remote as it is with the light guns we all remember. The games are, however, extremely fast, making it a strain of reflexes in solo play. This is a game meant to be played with a buddy, which is a shame since both players share the same pool of credits. Also, while the story takes itself alarmingly seriously in House of the Dead 2, the voice acting is absolutely atrocious. House of the Dead 3 isn't going to win any academy awards either, but it seems at least as though the voice actors were having at least some fun with the decidedly more campy tone of the story.
In short, the game is quite a fun little romp, and a great addition to the library of any fan of light gun games. It's just a crying shame that the Wii can't handle House of the Dead 4: the Wii remote would be a great fit for that game. Oh well, we can always dream.