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"Oh here we are again, how awkward. Beg pardon."
Man, I love light-gun games. And you know, zombies fit in to light gun games like pigs in a big buttery blanket. Which makes you wonder why they did the last one with dinosaurs (entry 67, "Dino Stalker" I mean) instead. Well here they're back on track in more ways than one.
Firstly let me say that I'm not into the whole "survival horror" "genre." In general it seems an excuse for lousy gameplay/storytelling/whatever. And I'll bet the story here is no prize--I wouldn't really know though because I've skipped over the story bits so far, except when the feisty young woman was proving she was Chinese by beating up the punky, slightly obnoxious white American male lead (you wonder if the Japanese designers are having a bit of fun with us...) using Kung Fu. But thankfully that's not the point at all.
The point, rather, is that you're on a cruise ship becalmed at sea and most everyone is dead--living dead, that is. The funny thing about zombies, if you think about it, is that they're pretty shoddy when it comes to fighting, except that sometimes they're hard to put down and just keep coming, like Rocky. The zombies here are supposed to have vital spots an' if you hit 'em there, they kind of flip backwards and die one last time right away. You'd think this spot would tend to be consistently in the forehead region but such does not seem to be the case. I've run out of ammo once so far shooting at thick zombie foreheads. Fortunately, although it's a little icky, you can just quickly nip around them and run off down the galley when any such inconvenience presents itself.
I wish saving was a bit easier--you gotta find a typewriter, and I guess there's just one per floor or something. Not what I call user-friendly. Then again it would sort of spoil suspense if you could quicksave every 0.1 seconds, but there's gotta be a nicer middle ground.
Where was I? Oh yes, running away from zombies. Fortunately you've got that handy dim flashlight of yours, which is good for suddenly illuminating a zombie who snuck up right in front of you (let's face it now--these are not ninja zombies, they're pretty big and clumsy) because your flashlight couldn't light up the floor five feet away. All well and good.
The game strikes a surprisingly pleasant balance between third-person exploration and stationary first-person light-gun shooting. You use the little d-pad on the back of the GunCon 2 (humorously named the "ThumbCon") to pad around the dark dankness of the distraught wessel. This works pretty well, even if those ThumbCons are a bit stiff. You can in theory hold the A or B buttons to do stuff like sidestep or pivot in place but fortunately I haven't found any such ballet necessary as yet.
Then when you wanna shoot at something, say, oh I don't know, a ZOMBIE perhaps, you pull the trigger. Here the screen zooms smoothly in to the first-person perspective and you pop some caps on his undead noggin, easy as you please. You can pan the view around to catch any other marauding corpses, then tap down on the ThumbCon to zoom back into third person to run around and find more zombies to play with.
Don't worry if you run out of zombies, because you can go back to places you've already been and sometimes the zombies will get up again for you, obliging fellows that they are.
Of course this might cost you some ammo. So far I've got a pistol and a silent pistol. Obviously I need a flaregun or shotgun or something, hopefully something like that comes along later. You can also find little healing herbs and other knicknacks and store these away, with everything else, in your backpack. There's a nice map to follow in case you get turned around (some bits of the boat *do* start to look like others) and... err, that's all I can remember right now.
It's probably fairly short, and also probably doesn't get as thumb-ricketing frenetic or difficult as, say, Time Crisis 3 (entry 344). But it has a nice pace to it. Nicer than Dino Crisis, for instance, where you're constantly being bothered by time limits and can't just wander around, and also where you had to shoot and move at the same time. Nuts to that, says I! Bring on the zombies and the dank and Chinese girls who kick my ass!
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"Fong Ling in the casino with the assault rifle."
As a play this more, more things start to impress me.
The pacing is brilliant. The game partitions off the big, mazelike cruise ship into manageable sections: various locks and barriers, as part of the story, prevent you from wandering too far away from the plot, and confine you to an area that's big enough to let you feel like an explorer yet small enough to prevent you from ever feeling really lost. When you complete a key action, like finding or using an item, or killing a boss, the story opens up the next section, you proceed onward, and generally the path closes behind you, leaving you in the next gameplay section.
Sound plays a big role too. In the old, adrift vessel, you're constantly hearing dull clangings, bangings and rumblings, as if from weights shifting in the hold, or an engine sputtering. Coupled with various metal and wooden creakings, the gentle sounds of waves slapping the sides of the ship, and the wind blowing off the dark sea, and you've got quite an aural landscape. The clever part is how the sounds of the enemies blend in with these environmental sounds, so that you're alway subconsciously on edge, thinking "was that a zombie? or just the generator?" On one memorable occassion I heard, while proceeding down a dim but apparently empty corridor, a faint but increasingly louder 'shhh shhhh shhh shhhhhh...' What th-? Nothing doing in the shadows ahead of me, could it just be the sputtering ship's engine? I turn the camera around and find a zombie sailor just barrelling down the corridor at me. I mean, this guy was really flying, and I got him just in the nick. Whew!