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Rule the Ghouls- Undead Knights Review

Unlike many of my contemporaries, I still enjoy an occasional session of Dynasty Warriors. Slicing through throngs of enemies can be strangely cathartic; a therapeutic conclusion to a busy workday. When I first saw Undead Knights at E3, I assumed the title merely substituted ancient warriors with ravenous zombies, and ratcheted up the intensity of Dynasty Warriors’ bombastic metal soundtrack. Fortunately, that first impression was misguided- Undead Knights is a skillful amalgam of genres that might even appeal to gamers who’ve sworn off exploration of the three kingdoms.

The game’s storyline is little more than a reworking of the revenge tale, told in a brief, but skillfully rendered cutscene. In the kingdom of Cavalier, an aging king falls for a youthful bride with sinister ambitions. Speaking up against the treacherous queen, three members of the Blood family are put to death- until a mysterious force brings them back to life. Awoken from their mortal slumber, each member of the Blood family is endowed with the ability to turn living souls into member of the undead. Players use each member of the reanimated trio traverse a series of levels, and seek retribution on the nefarious monarchy.

The fundamental structure of each mission is similar- players will battle foes, turn them into zombies, and use the undead subordinates to achieve a goal. However, each level throws a slight variation at players- from funneling the protagonist through a thin corridor to placing them in a room full of lance-equipped bloodthirsty knights. Gamers will need to assess each level to find life-refilling vessels, and progress halting obstacles within each environment.

Before each level starts, players may choose which member of the Blood lineage will be thrown into the fray. Romulus is the slow but powerful behemoth, Remus forsakes strength for agility, while Sylvia has an extended range of attack. Each protagonist has a unique weapon, and variety of power-up abilities, creating a slight incentive to replay levels.

Each member of the Blood brood has two melee strikes- a regular attack is performed with the square button, while the triangle evokes a heavy assault. A tap of the circle button can transform enemies into an undead minion. Players are encouraged to whittle an opponent’s health down before conversion, otherwise other nearly foes will attack the player during the necromancy. Once a lifeless legion is amassed, players may direct the group to attack more demanding enemies, topple structures, or form ladders and bridges. Watching zombies work cooperatively to form a hand-to-foot makeshift bridge is wholly endearing- it’s unfortunate the game doesn’t offer more of these darkly comical moments. 

Undead Knights’ biggest setback is the game’s inaccurate control scheme. While player can pick up a zombie and throw the corpse to stun a boss, there are just as likely to pick up a living adversary, or hurl the underling in an errant direction.  Although the game’s camera is controllable with the PSP’s digital pad, occasionally Undead Knights doesn’t keep the protagonist in sight, making the warrior an effortless target for foes.

Graphically, Undead Knights is competent with a handful of flourishes that elevate the title above typical PSP fare. The game’s limited number of characters models are rendered with a modest polygon count to maintain a speedy framerate, although each is easily identifiable on busy battlefields. The occasional splash of blood will remain onscreen, which reiterates the game’s ghoulish tone, and secures the game’s Mature rating.  Neither the game’s blistering metal soundtrack nor its repetitive sound bites are remarkable, but contribute slightly to the title’s overall enthusiasm.

Undead Knights isn’t a revolution PSP game; the title is a capable amalgam of Dynasty Warriors‘ swordplay, Overlord’s minion-directing, with just a dash of puzzling. While controlling a band of zombies can be invigorating in short doses, the title doesn’t offer quite enough depth or polish to warrant its forty dollar MSRP. There’s grisly fun to be had for sure, but most gamers might want to wait for the first instance of a price drop before seeking their blood-spattered retribution.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

34 comments

  1. Good review. It sounds like fun, but $40 is a bit too much when many PSP games are less than $30.

  2. Desert, I don’t know how you turn out so many reviews. You must play games in your sleep!

  3. You guys don’t review Gran Turismo for the PSP but cover this? I’m baffled.

  4. Graphics look pretty nice for a PSP game. I like the veins on the sickle.

  5. I saw the Destructoid loved it while IGN hated it. Seems like you guys really wanted to like it more.

  6. Speaking of price, I picked up GT for $20 this weekend. $40 for this seems nutty. I have to agree with the review, $40 should be the price of a AAA PSP game.

  7. I haven’t seen or heard of this one until now.

  8. I want this, but I agree $40 seems greedy.

  9. Tecmo, just give the people what the want- Ninja Gaiden for the PSP

  10. PSP is dead, the PSP Go was the last hope as it took out the battery, but no ones buying that.

    PSP games will dry up in a year or so. mark my words.

  11. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m tired of zombies. Seems like EVERY action game has them.

  12. Any game that lets you be evil and control zombies can’t be too bad. Is there a demo?

  13. I played the full game and it’s just hack and slack fun. Nothing great, but not too bad. Like the review said the controls can be bad at times. I also thought the graphics were pretty plain. A “C” would have been a perfect grade. Not good, not bad but average.

  14. Good review, I might have to get it.

  15. So this is in stores.

  16. Cool review. I Need to get this.

  17. How come there’s no blood in the screenshots.

  18. I still enjoy them. They make great cannon fodder.

  19. How are the bosses? Hopefully not uberfrustrating?

  20. Ouch, $40 does seem like a bit much, especially when most PSP games are around the $20 mark.

  21. I bought this and really haven’t play it too much. Not that it’s bad, I just haven’t had much time.

  22. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen one.

  23. How many levels are in the game? I’ve heard its short.

  24. Anyone get the demo and get the full game instead? That’s how I got it!

  25. What how? Please explain!

  26. Nice man boobs on the big guy.

  27. great review! I might try to rent this.

  28. Wow, I read the IGN review 11 comments. Here over 20. How do you do it?

    I played it a bit of it, and I can see some people liking the game, but others being compeletly put off by the controls.

  29. I need to get the demo! I heard about this at E3 and then almost nothing!

  30. Aint nothing wrong with the occasion DW marathon!

  31. I eventually pick this up, just not for $40.

  32. Decent textures. I heard the music kicks ass. I guess you don’t like metal.

  33. Might have to try the demo to try the game.

  34. Tell me more about the demo being free!