It’s been said - mostly by us, but also by the rest of the English-speaking internet - that the world has had enough of those “one guy versus an army” hack-and-slashers. After all, a few three-button combos and thousands of nearly identical grunts aren’t exactly a recipe for a lasting, nuanced experience. But here comes Undead Knights, which ironically breathes fresh life into the genre by - also ironically – giving you the ability to turn your enemies into zombie henchmen. If you skip this creative take on bringing the shuffling menaces to the PSP-clutching masses, you'll miss out on one of the year's most original action/horror entries.
Unlike most offerings in the genre, Undead Knights does not arm you with a simple sword or spear and tell you to go to town. In an inspired switcheroo, the refreshing gameplay instead sees you conjuring and controlling your very own army of brain-eating meat bags. The story involves medieval and mystical characters who seem to be pissed off at each other and sets you up as one of three protagonists - an oversized-blade-baring brute, a pretty boy, and a hottie with a scythe - who possess the power to turn their enemies into rampaging zombies. Upon grabbing an enemy by the throat, the transformation begins, and you're soon joined by a blue-skinned baddie who'll do your bidding.
When left to their own devices, your lifeless army will do a decent job of munching on the bad guys. However, as most missions require you clear an area of enemy forces and often the structures they're protecting, it's more efficient to directly order your clueless corpse clan around. This can involve targeting specific enemies, picking up and throwing your zombies at a boss to slow them down, or slamming one of your shufflers into the ground in a sacrificial act that enables you to create additional death-dealing drones more quickly. You can also send your army scampering up archer’s towers to destroy them, or instruct them to use their own bodies to assemble a makeshift bridge across a chasm.
Building an army of rotting corpses is a blast, and it's especially satisfying to see your current tally of allies - represented by decaying zombie heads - grow along the bottom of the HUD. However, as much fun as it is to sic your pale-skinned psychos on a variety of low-level henchmen and screen-swallowing bosses, Undead Knights' flaws occasionally pull you from the fun. Certain large-scale enemies, who possess their own non-zombie aided melee and magic attacks, are poorly balanced, and camera issues, sometimes clunky controls, and collision issues all display the title's severe lack of polish. That said, the concept is fresh, the combat fun, and the zombie conjuring and commanding mechanics super addictive. If you're craving a unique take on undead gaming, we recommend letting this one infect your PSP.
Nov 30, 2009