Bring Back Ambitious Mobile Horror Spin-Off Games

I’m no stranger to mobile horror games. In fact, a while back I did an article on some of the more fun ones I discovered when I had to take an extended trip home. However, there are a few games missing from this list that I couldn’t help but notice. One thing that stuck out to me? Despite being an established horror franchise in the time of mobile gaming, there’s no Resident Evil or Dead Space mobile games. Or, at least, there aren’t anymore. This wasn’t always true.

During my search for solid mobile games, there’s two I tried to find but couldn’t. The reason? The ability to purchase them had been removed and they were never put back onto the storefronts that sold them. These games are 2009’s Resident Evil: Degeneration and 2011’s Dead Space (which, to be absolutely clear, is a mobile game and not the original, despite sharing the same name.) Both games were available on iOS, with the former originally launching as an N-Gage exclusive while the latter also hitting Android phones and Blackberries.

Why do I want these two games specifically though? Well, the short answer is because they’re rad. In a time where a lot of mobile gaming was still experimental and trying to find its feet, these two games attempted to replicate the feel of their console counterparts. It may not always be as great, in the end, an entire touch screen can’t replicate a controller super well, but I love how ambitious these games were and what they attempted to do.

Let’s start with Resident Evil: Degeneration. Based on the 2008 animated movie of the same name, you’ll play as Leon Kennedy as he arrives at an airport that currently has a bit of a zombie problem. For the most part, there isn’t really much to the plot other than “zombies” and “Leon needs to save Claire and some government guy.” If you have ever seen the movie, I think the entire game happens in the span of the first 30 minutes. The two big selling points are that Degeneration plays like Resident Evil 4, but on your phone, and that it has zombies. This is a lot cooler than you would expect.

In fact, I’d go on to say it’s smart. Resident Evil 5 had come out earlier in the year and it was starting to look like zombies were on their way out of the franchise. 4 and 5 chose to drop them entirely, and the next game in the series, 2012’s Revelations, also lacked them. In fact, zombies returning would go on to be a major selling point for both Operation Raccoon City and Resident Evil 6. But here was Degeneration using them in 2009. The reason why? Because it wanted to play like Resident Evil 4, but trying to aim and shoot at the fast and ferocious Ganados with a touch screen isn’t a particularly great idea. So replacing them with slow, shambling, zombies both works as a callback to older games in the series, and is also a useful gameplay mechanic that keeps you from being overwhelmed.

I’m not going to lie and say Degeneration is fantastic, but it was an ambitious and exciting look at what could be done in the mobile space. It’s short, the entire game clocks in at a little over two hours, the plot is all filler no thriller, and again there are clear compromises made for touch screen controls. However, it shows that a third-person horror action game genuinely has a place on mobile phones, and some work can improve the formula drastically. Enter the mobile Dead Space game.

Much like how Dead Space would take Resident Evil 4, add sci-fi, and crank it up to 11, the mobile game would do the same to Degeneration. Set as a direct prequel to Dead Space 2, you play as a mysterious member of the Unitologist church known only as Vandal. They’re originally given the job to destroy some security stuff to prove their loyalty, but in the process, they’re duped into releasing the Necromorphs on Titan Station where Dead Space 2 takes place. From here Vandal needs to try and stop the Necromorphs and attempt to survive.

This wasn’t a visual novel or a puzzle game or something else. It’s a full third-person shooter with all the weapons, enemies, and moments you’d love. Also a laser chainsaw. Did I not mention that? The mobile Dead Space game had a laser chainsaw, something the other games in the series certainly didn’t have. It also has these fun chunky Ps1-styled graphics that almost make it feel like like a totally unique demake of the bigger games.

Additionally, Vandal is losing her mind. While it only takes about three or four hours to finish Dead Space, there’s plenty of super memorable stuff in the game. One of my favorite moments? It’s just a simple trip down a hallway. Yet the lights flicker, and suddenly Vandal has been replaced with a Necromorph. For the first time, you get to control the creature yourself, even if it’s only to move. The lights flicker again and Vandal is standing there, confused and distraught. Little things like this serve as memorable and fantastic twists on the formula that made this entry really stand out.

Sadly, you can’t buy either game anymore. Both of them stopped being compatible with current iOS versions and were delisted from mobile stores. It’s an absolute shame since both entries are a fantastic example of how mobile gaming has all the ability to be just as good as console/PC gaming, and that the right developers can take a franchise and bring it to you in ways you wouldn’t expect. Hopefully one day these two games will get the place in their series that they rightfully deserve.



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