Ghouls on the Go
Ask gamers of a certain age about Resident Evil, and a vivid memory springs to mind: They're inching down a long, quiet hallway. Suddenly, a zombie dog crashes through a window. A ghostly howl. Insatiable jaws. Mommy, can you tuck me in tonight?
The original Resident Evil pretty much single-handedly invented the genre of survival horror, spawning several sequels and movies in the process. But perhaps its greatest accomplishment was making young gamers soil themselves in fear. Ah, such sweet memories . . .
A decade later, the title that scared legions of fans during the early PlayStation years is back as Resident Evil: Deadly Silence for the Nintendo DS. The portable panic-inducer is a much-needed addition to a game library that so far has mostly served up wacky fare and cute stuff for kiddies.
Granted, playing in a bright supermarket isn't quite as visceral or disquieting as enjoying the game alone in a dark basement, but the game still packs chills aplenty. Even in miniaturized form, the clackety-clack of offscreen claws sets the pulse racing. Just don't let the checkout clerk hear you squeal in terror.
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Essentially a shrinky-dink clone of its predecessor, the DS version follows the now-familiar story: The elite S.T.A.R.S. police squad investigates a sprawling research facility, where a virus has turned people into corpse-munching zombies.
Playing as Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield, you blast through labyrinthine levels, solving puzzles and unlocking secret areas, all the while conserving all-too-scarce ammo. In a nod to the campy original, the famously cheesy dialogue -- zombies hankering for "a Jill sandwich" -- has been left untouched.
Since you can only carry so many items at once, you'll have to strategize carefully. The bazooka with acid rounds? It may be an encumbrance, but it'll save your ass from the 50-foot python in the attic.
Along the way, hidden books and letters unravel the mystery of the mad mansion in which you're trapped. Turns out, the zombie virus that got loose wasn't an accident at all.
While Resident Evil purists will appreciate the integrity of the remake in "classic mode," newcomers should enjoy the tweaks of "rebirth mode," which make good use of the DS's unique features. All the puzzles -- from key-code math problems to balancing weights on a scale -- are now handled via the DS's touch screen.
So too are the new first-person action sequences, in which you fend off attackers by stabbing and slashing with a knife controlled by the stylus. Eventually, you can unlock an entire minigame ominously dubbed "Master of Knifing." Now, there's a Boy Scout merit badge from hell.
Resident Evil also gives the DS microphone a workout. At one point, you breathe into it to perform CPR on an injured S.T.A.R.S. member. You can also use the mic to propel zombie barf back at an enemy, giving new meaning to the phrase "blowing chunks."
In the end, Resident Evil stands the test of time. If its graphics seem crude compared to today's games, it's still a ripper of a romp -- one that the DS lets you take anywhere. And this time, Mommy won't be there to save you, big boy. Now, go change your drawers.
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