|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Team Tachyon||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Tecmo||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 Nathan Meunier
Being the hero is usually a cut and dry thing. There's a distinct line drawn between good and evil, and your feet more often than not tend to be squarely planted on the prim and proper side of that invisible barrier. Undead Knights spits on that line, douses it in blood, and drags dismembered corpses back and forth across it. There's a general sense felt throughout the game that the vile and heinous deeds you're perpetrating are a justifiable form of karmic retribution, even if your soul will inevitably burn in hellish torment when all is said and done.
The heroes of this game are in fact reanimated warriors whose killing skills are even more potent in un-life than they were when the poor souls counted themselves among the living. Cutting a swath through throngs of bodies to get to the ones who put them in such a predicament is the only way they know how to exact proper revenge. Even pared down to its most primitive elements, this dark and grisly formula is inexplicably satisfying. Heads will roll, blood will spill, and limbs will sever - all by your own hand. The creepy thing is you may find it tough to suppress a demonic laugh while you cleave soldiers in twain and violate their remains.
Things start to go south in the Kingdom of Cavalier when the aging king has takes a young, buxom new queen whose feminine wiles and personal agenda prove to be extremely persuasive to the weak-willed ruler. Voicing opposition to Queen Fatima's reign quickly bumps the members of the House of Blood to the top of the "to be violently assassinated" list. The hulking, armored warrior Romulus, the nimble swordsman Remus, and his betrothed Sylvia (who is actually the king's daughter), are all cut down in a brutal ambush by the king's men. Not content to stay dead, the trio find themselves reanimated by an unknown force that grants them necromantic powers and instills in them a thirst for revenge. The path of vengeance is a bloody one filled with cathartic head-mashing, corpse reanimation, and giant swords.
Playing as one of the three fallen warriors, you'll gouge, slice, and gore your way through regions of the kingdom to dispatch corrupt lords and minions while you continue the hunt for the king himself. Each member of the House of Blood wields a unique bladed weapon (a massive two-handed sword, dual short swords, or a giant scythe) and sports a visually distinct fighting style. You can switch out characters between missions, but they're all well-balanced. Souls collected from enemies you cut down can be spent on unlocking new moves and customizing the three different characters in various helpful ways. The way this is handled, via a menu on the main screen, seems almost an afterthought, and some players may not even realize it's an option unless they fiddle around in the menu for a while. The enhancements range from increasing damage and health to adding special effects to your attacks and evil powers.
The intense, over-the-top combat that serves as the cornerstone for Undead Knights is fast and visceral. Though the slicing-and-dicing is well-done, it's the necromantic powers at your disposal that make the action more dynamic. Most human-sized foes can be turned into zombies on a whim. This is dramatically accomplished by grabbing them by the head, lifting them off the ground, and surging evil red energy into their face. Once imbued with your unholy might, these victims will rise again as your zombie minions, which can be directed to attack or tackle special tasks. On the flipside, transforming fresh victims into undead soldiers for your small army takes a few seconds and leaves you prone. You can speed the process up by slicing up your foe a few times first. This also lets you consume some of their vital energy to heal yourself in a pinch.
Zombies can be used in quite a few different ways, and their inclusion really spices up the variety in the otherwise straightforward hack-and-slash gameplay. They can be directed to swarm enemies and tear them apart, knock down towers and structures, and chain themselves together to form bridges. For a more hands-on approach, you can grab one as a human shield, throw them at bigger enemies to slow them down, and even pound one into the ground to knock down large numbers of foes.