Are these darlings alive and kicking or do the belong in the grave?
A new dungeon crawler, visual novel hybrid has made its way to play station 4 in the form of undead darlings the title from developer Mr. Tired media has been published by Sekai Project and also lands on Microsoft windows and Nintendo switch this month the title set after a zombie outbreak sees you and your party of young half zombies travel around the city as they attempt to cure the disease.
The storytelling relies on the tried and true method for the genre with the use of text boxes and 2d character art to form a visual novel almost all of the game’s plot plays out this way with simple dialog options that affect the affection of the girls in your party I find no faults with this choice of storytelling I have become more than comfortable with this method of storytelling due to it being the default for a great many RPGS in the last decade.
The story itself sees you take on the role of a young man named Reggie waking after been drugged by your father the first time you share a scotch oddly this isn’t the strangest information that Reggie wakes up to discover by a long shot not only has the world been overrun with zombies but your father left you in a coma in the care of your childhood friend now 3 foot in the grave thanks to been slightly unliving thankfully, for the most part, this mostly includes just been very pale and a tad slow.
It goes without saying that the opening scenes set up the story while leaving some questions open to the player’s own interpretation at least initially more answers and questions will crop up as you progress but those you will have to discover those yourself. Overall I found myself invested in the story rather quickly even before the dungeon exploration even showed its head thanks in part to just how strange and different it was while also questioning just how few zombie movies the game’s characters have seen because there be some questionable survival dissensions made but I digress I’m yet to be in an apocalypse event so I shall refrain from judging men who drug their children.
Visually as stated above the game relies on 2D character artwork for both the visual novel aspect and for the dungeon and battle sprites while these visuals won’t push any modern gaming unit to there limits the artwork is well done and in many places are very well detailed especially in the dungeon exploration as I noticed writing on whiteboards that were fully legible and sticky notes in a heart shape on glass screens honestly the whole dungeon design was more detailed than most dungeon crawlers I have played recently for that reason alone I have to praise the developers however I do have to point out one small detail I couldn’t seem to fix and that was the edges of the display having images overlapping each other and flashing constantly as I played I fiddled with a few options in the hopes of fixing this however I was unable so I any of you encounter this and find a fix drop a comment bellow I may be overlooking something simple but at the moment it continues to bug me
The games audio is also on point and while limited in variety in the main game it does what is needed when it is needed and that’s all one can ask for when it comes to these type of games however the games title screen surprised me with its own slightly 80’s/90’s music track complete with vocals that I found myself dawdling to load my save file due to listening to it and would recommend a listen if you happen to pick up the title
As iv stated there are two parts of gameplay that make up Undead darlings the visual novel side and the dungeon exploration so let’s tackle each part one at a time first up.
The visual novel side – everything about this is about what your likely imagining lines of dialog and discussions among party members with the odd dialog choice here and there filled with plot, jokes, and backstory much the same as any VN on the market however there is a distinct lack of the ability to save the game to try out other options a minor issue but for those that want to complete the title a huge hindrance in terms of not being able to save scum, your choices mostly it’s not to bad though you can usually save between the transition from VN to dungeon exploration and there’s not all that much dialog to shift through that would require saving.
The dungeon crawling side – straight up this game can be brutal and I found my self been one or two hits at a point but if your reading this I include little tip whispers there’s a battle difficulty setting right on the departure screen end whisper Yeh that took me far too long to notice than I’m ashamed to admit to but let’s move on before my shame grows
The dungeon exploration itself is fun and challenging due to puzzles and traps but will also likely require a fair amount of backtracking if you don’t go and explore every little area chances are you will overlook something that puts you on the correct path however it is easy to get to grips with each new challenge the game’s exploration presents you with
The main issue I had and this could be me simply being bad or making it to areas I was not ready for was the combat. Not only did the enemies seem to hit really hard normally if they hit a weakness, but I was also down for the count in no more than two hits more often than not in a single blow, and unless you figure out your foes’ weakness they will be getting many many hits as they soak up your damage. As stated there is a workaround for that if your stuck outside of that the only other issue is the limited inventory and this isn’t the first game to do it but its the first in a good while that it has annoyed me you start off with a tiny tiny inventory and to expand it you need scrap in theory that’s all fine and it would be in actuality if you could get the items in the bag to scrap in the first place I had not been playing for more than a few minutes before the game started demanding I drop items to make room for new items when I had only a few weapons and a healing item or two in my pocket leaving me with the choice of grinding until my weapons broke and became scrap or leaving to scrap 2 or 3 items I didn’t need only to go back in and repeat the processes because I couldn’t hold enough on my first trip
Outside of my complaint and being pummeled, the combat while challenging was fun and interesting once I got to grips with it and could carry more than a handful of gumdrops I could have equipment in reserve to change out to give me an edge on foes by striking their week-points and utilizing new ability not to mention just having a backup weapon should one break was vital to me taking down foes as I progressed deeper in the dungeons
Overall Undead Darlings, while it put me through the wringer at first, was enjoyable there are a few bits in the early game I would like to see tweaked to reduce some of the grinding needed to upgrade your bag or survive the second floor but nothing too major the music and visuals did a genre standard job and I can’t fault it for doing the average for the said genre after all why try to fix something that isn’t broke that been said it was nice to see some addition like breaking weapons but I could have also very much done without the task of making sure it didn’t take ages to beat foes or micromanaging every item I acquired.
A fantastic wallet-friendly fusion of visual novel and dungeon crawler. Far from a shambling corpse.