|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Tecmo Ltd.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Tecmo Inc.||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 29, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Maria Montoro
September 11, 2009 - Zombies are always nasty, rambunctious, and very aggressive to say the least. We've fought them to death in games like Resident Evil, Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead, and even Call of Duty. They still deserve that scornful description in Tecmo's new PSP title, Undead Knights; however, this time around the vicious undead creatures are on your side! Wonder how that happened? Read on.
The story is that Kirk Gradis, the King of Cavalier, was blinded and married the wrong woman, one who'd betray him. His best and most loyal knight, Romulus, from the House of Blood, warned him about this matter. As a gesture of "appreciation," he ordered his army to kill the unfortunate knight and all his family, including his brother Remus Blood, and Remus' soon-to-be-wife Sylvia. This bloody ending was nothing but the beginning of a new quest for the Blood family; a quest for revenge. Before they died, they happened to make a pact with a mysterious being who granted them to live and gave them the power to turn those alive into undead creatures. That's how everything started and that's why, for once, the enemy is on your side.
The demo we got contains several worlds divided into short, action-packed chapters. The hack 'n slash gameplay is combined with strategy elements such as commanding the hordes of zombies to rip the enemy soldiers apart, destroy burning barricades, form a group to cover gaps, and tear down gates and other obstacles. For the most part, this makes for a quite entertaining experience, especially once you get the hang of the game and turn the soldiers into zombies fast. If you attack the enemies a few times with the square button or perform a strong attack with triangle, they'll turn red and start to blink. The more affected they are by the attacks, the faster you'll be able to turn them into undead. You achieve this by pressing the circle button, and if they're ready, they'll transform in a flash. If they're not ready quite yet, a little timer will show you how long it'll take before they turn, while you continue to hold the circle button. During this time, you'll be vulnerable to other enemy attacks.
In Undead Knights you don't have to worry about zombie hordes, but you'll have to look out for army masses that attack you non-stop. You'll kick their ass, transform them, and somehow they'll still come back to you. They constantly respawn, which is good for increasing the amount of zombie allies, but it also makes things crazy when you're trying to reach other goals. As if this wasn't hectic enough, the zombies try to help you by attacking the soldiers, which I found to be a bit troublesome at times, because you don't always know if you're attacking the good or the bad guys, or who you are going to grab. In any case, who said a zombie game wouldn't be somewhat chaotic? That's usually where the fun's at.
Circle lets you snatch the zombies so you can toss them in the air. This is very rewarding when used to stun enemies who are further away, or if you throw them down for a big slam effect. You can also jump around with X, hit the jump button twice to evade, etc. Another thing you can do is hold R and aim to set a goal for the undead, whether it means to build a bridge, attack an incoming fiend, or destroy a tower. You can also control the camera with the D-pad and re-center it with L, which is convenient when it turns the wrong way. The controls are fairly accessible, though they always feel a little cramped on the PSP.
The preview build we received comes packed with a ton of Dark Energy points to use towards building up your character skills and defense. In the final version, you'll have to obtain this upgrade currency as you plow through the game. At the end of each level you'll be granted DE points as well as a score. The upgrades can be distributed between the three different playable characters, as you can use any one of them to play each chapter. Romulus is definitely the strongest one, and he holds a destructive sword that makes the clashes with the enemy very fun. However, he's also slower than his brother Remus, who also wields a sword and is more agile when it comes to performing combo attacks. Sylvia, his fiancée, also moves with dexterity, but she carries a deadly scythe rather than a sword, which makes her vulnerable in close encounters but works great from a distance. Who you choose for the fights depends mostly on your taste, though some chapters may be easier with one of the characters as opposed to the others.
The presentation of Undead Knights is interesting. It's a medieval story, complete with knights, swords, courtyards, and castle walls. The graphics look good on the PSP despite the enemy repetition (which I was never a fan of), and the first cutscene was splendid, but later on I found a lot of reading; perhaps a bit too much for a player mostly interested in the action genre. On the other hand, the soundtrack is quite vigorous and upbeat, just like the gameplay itself. The metal tunes included in the game will suit the taste of many action-friendly gamers, though like everything, they might not be for everyone.
In addition to the single-player mode, up to four players can connect locally and battle in pillow fights, a Survival Race mode, and King Battle Mode. In the second one you'll race against your friends towards the end line and then battle for survival, whereas in the last one all of you will cooperate to defeat the enemies and ultimately the boss. We weren't able to try the multiplayer modes, but it's nice to know they're there. Hopefully they'll be fun to play and extend the replay value of the title.
If you enjoy the action genre and love taking your games with you, keep your eyes peeled for this one. You can't expect it to be a replacement for God of War, but it should at least be fun. We'll have the final verdict for you in just a few weeks, so stay tuned!
CCC Site Director