There is perhaps no period of gaming I hated more than the full-motion video movement of the mid-’90s. These games looked ridiculous, and they played terribly, and they’re mostly responsible for putting me off gaming until I stumbled across those Nintendo GameCube kiosks.
Looking back, though, I think part of the reason I hated FMV games was the fear that this was the direction the industry was heading. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. And now that we’re safe in the knowledge that it never will happen, it can be fun to go back to that period to revel in our mistakes. It’s not too different from catching an episode of Captain Planet or listening to an Ace of Base song; they’re easier to get through because a definitive ending is always in sight.
All of this serves as my condescending way of admitting that Corpse Killer – 25th Anniversary Edition can be a pretty fun game if you’re willing to accept it for what it is. Originally released for 3DO, PCs, and various Sega systems, Corpse Killer is an on-the-rails shooter that unsuccessfully blends filmed backdrops with separately filmed enemies who pop out from behind objects to throw things at you. No attempt was made to blend these elements, creating a disconnected appearance that is simultaneously humorous and unsettling. It’s all tied together by cutscenes with visual effects and acting on par with made-for-SyFy movies (provided SyFy hasn’t changed since I last watched it a decade ago).
The story is that you, a lone Marine (because of course), are dropped on a tropical island to prevent Dr. Hellman from unleashing his zombie army on the world. You’d think a mission of such importance would require the services of more than just a single Marine, a Rastafarian tour guide, and a snarky photo-journalist, but there you have it. It’s the kind of thing you expect from a game with a villain named Hellman (although, considering my strong distaste for mayonnaise, I can appreciate the gravity of the situation).
Between the goofy dialogue and effects are gameplay areas that have you slowly scrolling to the right as the zombie hordes pop up and either hurl themselves or sharp/explosive objects at you. It’s your job to shoot them all while not taking too much damage yourself.
These segments are insanely paced, and they’re overwhelming at first. I imagine the game was pretty difficult even with a light gun, and the difficulty is exacerbated by Joy-Con controls. The enemy patterns remain the same, however, so memorization becomes a key component to progress.
That’s really all there is to the game. Whether you’re on a rescue mission or infiltrating some kind of whatever, the action is the same throughout. It just gets harder. Corpse Killer allows you to take a lot of hits before dying, and you will get access to better weapons as you progress. Still, that’s your pattern. Movie, rails shooter action, movie, rails shooter action.
Is that fun? Surprisingly, it can be. If, like me, you’re the kind of person who can stumble across a show on Shout Factory! TV and spend more than 15 minutes there, then Corpse Killer – 25th Anniversary is very much in that vein. It’s better if you can share the absurdity with others, but, unfortunately, there’s no multiplayer option. Lone Marine, remember. You think U.S. military budget is large enough to pay two soldiers? What is this…communist Russia?!
Corpse Killer is also fun as a curiosity at this point. Even if the gameplay doesn’t really move you, there are a bunch of bonus features—including behind-the-scenes videos and stills—that are interesting from a historical perspective. And if you’re seriously looking for a weird night, you have the option of viewing the cutscenes straight through once you’ve unlocked them. You can even read the original script. Can you provide a better performance? Without having any knowledge of your thespian talents, I will say yes. With some characters, you certainly can.
So, if you approach Corpse Killer – 25th Anniversary Edition as you would a late-night UHF movie, it can be entertaining. You’ll be disappointed if you expect anything more than that, but you can rest easy knowing this is gaming’s past, not its future.
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