Blasting through the past at the speed of light guns

I was a total light gun game whore back in the early 2000s, but because there were so few horror-themed light gun games, I would also have to resort to crap like Time Crisis and Die Hard, where you go around riddling other humans with bullets, which was just never my thing. Even so, I decided to revisit the late 90s/early 2000s console light gun games I have that I hadn’t covered yet, including 3 Dreamcast games and 2 Playstation One games.


In Confidential Mission, you play an agent trying to stop a terrorist plot. It’s a very short game with only three missions, but it does have a cool branching concept that offers some replay value. However, branching is based on how well you handle the pressure of being faced with sudden timed challenges, like shooting a specific target in a matter of seconds to throw a rope across a courtyard. If you succeed you get sent through an easier route. If you fail, you go a longer way with more enemies.

Kind of sucks for me. I was playing the game on an old tube television with an officially licensed third party MadCatz gun, and it worked fine with the other two Dreamcast games I cover here, yet with Confidential Mission it had awful aim and response time, even after calibration. As a result, I never succeeded in completing the challenges, so I always had to go the harder route. Even worse, one of the challenges involved quickly and repeatedly hitting “B”, which is a tiny button on the side of the gun, a place I couldn’t conveniently or comfortably hit rapidly with my big bear paw. The basic control configuration of shooting off screen to reload was also a disaster. It would relentlessly fail to reload no matter how far away I pointed the gun, so I was constantly in a state of being out of bullets while getting my ass shot.

As with games like Virtua Cop, you go through various locations shooting enemies that pop out from behind corners. They shoot at you, they toss grenades you have to block with your gun shots, they slice you with knives, and eventually they target you in a variety of vehicles. There’s a sort of color-coded countdown system on each guy that limits how long you have to actually take him down.

As is typical with light gun arcade games, there are also helpful items you can shoot, like power ups, better guns that only last briefly (and never seemed to activate for me), body armor that is good for one hit, bonus lives, and items worth points. Meanwhile, you have to avoid hitting innocent people that pop up to distract you—shooting them will chip away at your life.

The first mission takes place in a museum, the second takes place on a train (which was my favorite), and the third takes place in a lab facility and totally ups the difficulty level. Endless enemies pop out at you, as do innocent people, so you’re much more likely to kill them, killing yourself in the process.

The bosses are mostly easy, have life bars, and hurl distractions your way—shoot them down to avoid being hit. The first boss is a dude that runs around and unleashes turrets on you occasionally. The second boss rides alongside the train in an army tank and also sends a helicopter after you. The final boss is another guy on foot who goes mostly invisible for the second part of the battle.

And then…then…what the fuck??? The boss hops in a submarine, and you get quick text instructions informing you that you have to use the D-pad to line up a target on screen to hit the submarine…and you only get ONE shot. WTF! It all happened so fast, and all I had in my hand was my crappy, off-caliber light gun! Needless to say, I failed the final challenge, in turn failing the whole game. I had no intention of playing again to try to beat it.


Although a more dated looking game, having come out in arcades five years before Confidential Mission, Virtua Cop 2 (available on the Sega Smash Pack disc) is more fun thanks to much smoother gameplay. It’s another good guys with guns vs. bad guys with guns game, and there isn’t much variation in the looks of the bad guys—the same graphic models are used over and over.

The biggest relief for me was that there’s an auto reload option, so I didn’t have to concern myself with shooting off screen to reload. Also, when you shoot different guns along the route, it automatically switches to that gun until it’s out of bullets. And finally, each of the three levels has a branching opportunity. Taking a branch is presented as a choice of shooting a sign for the branch you want to follow, which allows for systematic replay value—shoot the left path the first time through each mission, and on the second playthrough shoot the right paths.

The 1st stage takes place out on city streets and includes driving sequences in which you can shoot out tires to make enemies’ cars crash. The boss is funny—he’s a muscle dude who just stands on a scaffolding throwing lots of stuff at you, including a whole damn van.

The 2nd stage takes place on a boat. Careful not to shoot innocent people!

The third 3rd stage takes place in a subway, and there’s more than one boss at the end. Fighting them involves a lot of taking down of rockets they shoot at you.


Trashed as a bad House of the Dead clone, Death Crimson OX is simply a more sci-fi/hi-tech version, throwing a bunch of robotic enemies into the mix of monsters, and giving the settings a more sterile rather than scary vibe. Tight in terms of both graphics and gameplay mechanics, this is another smooth shooting experience compared to the mess that was Confidential Mission.

The longest game of the Dreamcast bunch, Death Crimson OX consists of 6 levels, and I was in my element because I was shooting at monsters instead of men. There are also what appear to be sudden challenges in which a particular symbol will appear in a grid format on the screen, and you’re goal is to hit as many of them as you can in a short period of time.

The 1st stage consists mostly of robots and skeletons. The boss has a weak sword, but actually hitting it is tough so he slices you with it a lot while you’re trying to take him down.

The 2nd stage has some zombies but they appear in an odd carnival shooting range style, with the same zombie popping up like three times in a row in the same exact position each time you shoot him. There are also big rolling bug bosses, along with floating spheres that meant something…I’m just not sure what.

In the 3rd stage, survivors really get in the way, and it’s absolutely infuriating. They seriously put you at risk of getting hit by cheap monster shots because you can’t shoot around them to hit the monsters. Argh. The boss is a jumpy bouncy woman, and I took her down by repeatedly shooting her in the head.

The 4th stage consists of robots and large caterpillar enemies.

The 5th stage is mostly a repetitive boss stage where you shoot small spinning spheres to weaken a large sphere in order to get in a few shots at it before going through the process all over again.

The 6th stage gives off the best horror vibes. It’s set in underground caverns, and you fight flying bat enemies plus previous enemies and bosses before taking on a series of big insect bosses.


Now on to the PlayStation One. I was excited to get to this one, because I remembered it as a pure silly arcade monster shooter. Pre-dating House of the Dead by only a year, the graphics are surprisingly blocky and jaggy, but that doesn’t detract from what a smooth and simple rail shooter it is. And bringing the camp to the crypt, the game is loaded with an urgent voice-over incessantly saying things like “go left!” and “look behind you!”, despite the game being on rails, thereby giving you no choice but to do what is being said.

The Egyptian vibe is cool, and you go through temples, caverns, forests, crypts, caves, and even underwater. Your guide is a prophetic talking head that tells you what you’re in for before each level, and there are six levels to choose from, each with 3 acts and a boss.

The odd thing is that at the end of each act you get to shoot one of two doors to take different paths, but paths are actually repetitive and recycled in other acts, so you can’t be methodical and just choose only the left or only the right doors during one playthrough and then the other side during a second playthrough in hopes of seeing every unique path.

The enemies and dangers are a nice mix of skeletons, zombies, bats, bugs, gargoyles, fishmen, fish, mummies, and more. Plus, there are falling dangers you have to shoot, flying projectiles, blocked passages to clear as your racing towards them, walking brick columns, and treasure chests you can blast open to then shoot the upgraded guns that pop out of them, giving you a temporary boost of fire power.

The bosses are pretty easy, and virtually every single one requires you firing at their face. We get Medusa, a King Tut head, a Ghidorah type monster that ironically does the Godzilla growl, a multi-armed Egyptian god, a winged lion, and a winged demon.

The great news is that the PS1 port gives you the option to turn on auto reload, so it’s all gunning, no thinking.


Area 51 offers a playtime of only about 25 minutes, and it isn’t bogged down by dramatic boss battles—I think there are boss battles of sorts, but they’re integrated smoothly into the nonstop movement and action and feature low-key enemies, so you won’t even realize you’re fighting “a boss”.

Light gun support for this game on PlayStation is abysmal. It isn’t GunCon compatible, so I used my Justifier gun, which worked horribly. Targeting was all over the place and there is no calibration system for the game in the options. In fact, there are no options whatsoever for using a light gun, but if you plug in your gun instead of the controller, you can aim and shoot through menus—an absolute nightmare when using the Justifier.

A straightforward path through warehouses, airfields, and offices buildings, this game is unique in that your team members, who you naturally have to avoid shooting when they pop up in front of you now and then, are created by giving a video game makeover to footage of actual people acting out their parts.

Enemies consist of skeletal zombie soldiers with guns, as well as monstrous aliens that are also armed. You can shoot power up symbols and ammo boxes in the surroundings, and if you score a grenade, you’ll see it in the bottom center of the screen. You simply have to shoot it to blow up every enemy on screen.

Secret rooms can be found if you shoot certain objects that look like part of the background, however you have to turn on an option to get the secret rooms or they won’t be available. These secret rooms feature quick challenges like shooting alien eggs, hitting as many power ups as you can, or saving a sexy woman being eaten by aliens.

One option that isn’t available is auto reload. You have to shoot off screen to reload, which seemed to work fine for me, probably because the gun aim was so bad it just unintentionally shot off screen quite often.

And finally, it’s totally worth dying at least once in the game, because the death animation rocks, showing you turn into a monster.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at
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