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by MARTY DEMAREST & r & & r & House of the Dead 2 & amp; 3 Return & r & Rated Mature; Wii & r & 3 Stars & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & hey're baaaack. Shambling forward, half-decayed and groping, The House of the Dead games have returned. This time, the 1998 and 2002 arcade originals have been adapted to Nintendo's Wii, which turns out to be a perfect fit. Not only does the Wii tend to deliver decade-old-looking graphics, but it's the first home videogame console with a built-in light gun. Derived from the shooting galleries of yore, light gun games like The House of the Dead series ask me simply to stand still, aim and fire as targets cross the crosshairs of my toy firearm.





In The House of the Dead 2 & amp; 3 Return, those targets are zombies. As videogame enemies, zombies are blessed with an implacable shuffle that expresses the mindless relentlessness that lies at the foundation of all computer-controlled opponents. And since zombies resemble people who want to eat our brains, we know they're evil. Good people don't want to eat other peoples' brains. Killing zombies, then, is more than self-defense. Killing zombies is righteous.





The problem with most zombie videogames is that they try to sexify the experience, usually by making quick, dodgy zombies. For the most part, the House of the Dead series has accurately slow zombies, though the third installment features a few that cling to walls like manic tree frogs. Zombie games also attempt to create roller coasters of action, requiring me to rescue unzombified people while jumping, ducking and behaving heroically. Fortunately, killing zombies in The House of the Dead games is a steady, horrific assault, much like the monsters themselves.





The House of the Dead games glide me from one shoot-'em-up to another, avoiding repetition with subtly branching pathways. In The House of the Dead 2, my actions determine my path: If I save the driver of a car, I stay outside on the street. If I let the zombies clinging to his sedan destroy him, I follow his car as it crashes into a building. The House of the Dead III lets me choose my pathway from offered choices, and while this is less immersive, it nevertheless keeps the short game from becoming completely predictable.





The biggest difference between the two games is their difficulty. The House of the Dead 2 gives me a pistol, which requires precise, multiple shots to the zombies. The game is also set in a city, and I'm often forced to target zombies that are lurching about in the distance or attacking innocent civilians. The House of the Dead III, in contrast, could more appropriately be named The Industrial Complex of the Dead, since nearly all of the battles take place in tight, lifeless corridors filled with nobody who could become collateral damage. And instead of a pistol, III gives me a shotgun, letting me blast the zombies approximately. It's a bit more impressive, but eliminates the panic that comes from furiously popping away at a group of slooooowly advancing monsters.





THE GOOD: The House of the Dead 2





THE BAD: The House of the Dead III





THE BOTTOM LINE: A double-header zombie blaster made up of both a classic and a cash-in.

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