Dracula: Undead Awakening Review for Nintendo DSi

Dracula: Undead Awakening Review for Nintendo DSi

The Hunter Becomes the Hunted

With the additions of internal storage space and an online store in which to buy games and applications, there is little doubt that Nintendo made the DSi as a response to the wildly successful iPhone. It should then come as no surprise when some software winds up finding its way onto both platforms. In the case of Dracula: Undead Awakening, it started its life a little over a year ago on the iPhone as iDracula and after a name change, became available as DSiWare.

Dracula: Undead Awakening screenshot

Although it may cost a bit more on the DSi, after factoring in the potential costs of the hardware, monthly service charges, and the fact that you’ll actually have a real D-pad and buttons with which to play the game, the slightly larger price point of the DSiWare version begins to look like a value.

As you’d probably expect from a fairly cheap, arcade action game there isn’t much of a storyline to drive the Dracula: Undead Awakening experience. Basically, you are a nameless vampire hunter doing what you do best. Dracula is out to get you and your only option is to try to kill every vampire, werewolf, or ghoul that comes after you. Unfortunately for the unnamed vampire hunter, escape really isn’t ever an option because he always winds up dying in the end. While the end result may make the constant struggle to survive seem almost futile, taking hundreds, perhaps thousands of your enemies down with you sounds like a better option than just simply accepting the inevitable.

For anyone familiar with older games, Undead Awakening’s gameplay can easily be likened to classic shooters such as Robotron 2084 and Smash TV. However, for those newer to the hobby, think of it like Geometry Wars if they swapped all of the neon and flash for a more Halloween styled setting. Undead Awakening is essentially a top-down, right stick arena shooter but without the aid of sticks. Players will maneuver their nameless protagonist about using the D-pad and are given a few options for how to shoot.

Dracula: Undead Awakening screenshot

The most logical and straightforward of the options is, of course, using the face buttons in the absence of a second D-pad or stick. Pressing any of the four buttons will cause your character to aim in the appropriate direction while holding the button down will make him fire until it is released. It is also possible to hold down two buttons at a time, allowing for diagonal shots as well as simply firing in the four cardinal directions. This functions well enough most of the time but it is certainly not the most precise way of playing the title.

With undead hordes constantly chasing you down, accuracy can be very proportional to how long you last. As such, Undead Awakening’s second control option is a much better choice when trying to reach high scores. This option allows you to maneuver your character with the D-pad, leaving your right hand free to use the stylus to aim your shots. Again, you’ll need to hold down with the stylus to fire instead of simply tapping it to fire, but it still functions rather well and increases your potential aiming abilities quite a bit. You can switch between these two options at any point during play by simply utilizing whichever you wish, with no need to go to a menu to make the change. There’s even an option (this one is in a menu) for southpaws as well, allowing you to maneuver with the face buttons and fire with the D-pad or left-handed stylus presses.

Dracula: Undead Awakening screenshot

It’s nice to see so many options for controls since you’ll definitely need to be comfortable with them in order to do well in any of the game’s four modes. Survival mode starts you off with nothing but a pistol and a ton of ammunition for it. Slower enemies begin making their way towards you and are pretty easy to stay on top of. Whenever you kill a foe, there is a chance that they’ll drop some sort of new weapon, ammunition, or health item to help better equip you for your continued fight. As the flood of enemies continue to get stronger and quicker, you’ll also have the ability to activate some extremely useful power-ups to help out as well.

Once you’ve killed enough enemies to earn a power-up you can activate the power-up menu by either tapping an on-screen icon, or by simply pressing the select button. This will temporarily pause the action and allow you to choose one of four randomly displayed power-ups. You never know which four will come up, so this does add a bit of a luck factor to whether you get a good lot to choose from, but most of the time there is at least one really helpful option.

Dracula: Undead Awakening screenshot

There are seriously a ton of possible power-ups in this mode, and they can range from easy choices such as increasing the amount of damage your weapons deal to tougher ones like killing every on-screen enemy at the cost of some of your health. If you’re playing well, you’ll have the ability to unlock several of these power-ups during a play session and, thankfully, once chosen, they will stay active until your game ends no matter how many you activate.

Super Survival mode plays incredibly similarly to the previous mode, with the only real changes coming from having more difficult enemies and a few new random drops that will do things such as temporarily freezing all on-screen enemies or simply just making them all explode. Rush mode is perhaps the most challenging of the bunch because here you won’t be able to rely on power-ups or drops from enemies because there are none. Instead, at the beginning of a level, you’ll just be given your choice of one of three weapons, given infinite ammo for it, and then you’re on your own against whatever comes. Staying alive for even a few minutes in this mode can be a miraculous feat.

Lastly, there’s Wave Attack mode, which is probably where you’ll spend most of your time with Undead Awakening. Here you’ll once again start with a pistol and a ton of bullets, only the string of enemies that come at you will be somewhat finite. Killing enemies in this mode won’t get you extra weapons or health pickups but will instead earn you money. After you kill a wave of undead, a shop will appear and allow you to spend the cash you’ve earned to buy health items, ammunition, and new weapons to ready yourself for the next, more difficult wave. The ability to choose what items to purchase and take into the next wave adds a level of strategy to this mode that simply isn’t as defined in the others, leaving them to feel more like just improvised, reactionary slaughter.

While Dracula: Undead Awakening is likely not the best right-stick shooter (with or without a right stick) you’ll ever play, it is still quite decent and can be rather enjoyable. The selection of weapons ranging from crossbows to flamethrowers, the plethora of power-ups that can dramatically change the gameplay, and the increasingly more difficult adversaries keep the game feeling fresh even after a few hours of play. This classically modeled arcade shooter’s longevity is further aided by the four different play modes, offering up more of the same enjoyable shooting action while also adding some twists that help to keep the player interested. At five dollars, this shooter is easy to recommend and should provide you with at least a few hours of vampire, werewolf, and ghoul-killing joy.

While not visually impressive, the backgrounds and characters have enough detail to keep the game from looking incredibly cheap. 3.8 Control
Controlling shots with the face buttons feels a tad too imprecise at times but having the option to use the stylus helps out considerably. 3.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There’s not much in the way of music, but some of the weapon sounds are pretty satisfying. 3.7

Play Value
With four different modes and the twists that can arise from simply using different weapons and power-ups, you’ll likely get more than your five dollars out of this one.

3.6 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Become a Vampire Hunter and fight legions of undead foes including zombies, vampires, and werewolves.
  • Wield an arsenal of explosive weaponry such as Machine Guns, Buzz-Saws, and Flamethrowers.
  • Choose unique weapon upgrades and new abilities as your enemies increase in number and ferocity.

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