Title: Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~
Developer: Mr. Tired Media
Release Date: September 28, 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Sekai Games
Genre: Dungeon Crawler RPG
My history with Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ began when it was announced years ago at the beginning of my writing career in the video game industry. After following the development across a few failed Kickstarters and many system updates, the game has finally released. What players get now is a labor of love from a developer who didn’t give up on this idea for a western visual novel dungeon-crawler RPG. While a case can be made for its characters and this zany adventure that they’ve found themselves on, the other gameplay systems could use some fine-tuning.
Undead Darlings introduces us to our faceless male protagonist Reggie Happenstahnce as he wakes up in a world that has been plagued by a zombie virus. Many of the citizens have suffered mutations, but a few can hold onto their human conscience and communicate like they normally would, albeit looking like a flesh-eating zombie. It just so happens that Reggie’s father is a scientist who has created a cure for the disease and instructs him to find a way to mass-produce it for the world.
The story then follows Reggie and his group of half-zombie companions as they set out to save the world. Along the way, they can interact and spend time together, which fleshes out their personalities. I ended up really liking the writing as it plays on tropes that we see in many Japanese visual novels. The characters are witty and have a few different layers to them that provide a decent balance of comical and serious tones throughout the narrative.
During the dialogue, players can make choices that impact the relationship between Reggie and his companions. I found the options to be a mixed bag due to how difficult it is to guess which of the characters it will raise affinity with, but there’s plenty of opportunities for that. One character I ended up not liking at all was Buck, he serves his purpose by means of upgrading the player’s item slots and handling repairs, but I just never really felt like he fit in with the group.
Regardless, I really liked the interactions and scenes between the half-zombie girls. As you get closer to them, you learn more about their previous life and how they deal with their zombie disfigurements. Also, depending on your group, there are additional scenes that can be unlocked while exploring dungeons. Furthermore, players can take on side-missions that show different events, but these are more comical.
While the story is fun and engaging, the dungeon crawling elements seem to hurt this game more than a zombie bite. Players enter massive dungeons and explore them with a party of three characters. Exploring is done in the first-person, where players will progress by interacting with switches and story events. It’s pretty straightforward until the actual systems kick in, and you release that so much quality-of-life is missing.
For starters, players have minimal HUD customization options. You’re pretty much limited to two choices, a tiny map on the right, or a large map overlay with an ugly key on the right. The lack of options continues with how you can’t save your game during dialogue, or how the game doesn’t save your selection choices in battles.
Still, there’s more; it seems the menu in the dungeons contain several different layouts as you try to navigate it. Equipable items were exceptionally tough to understand, which is vital because you can only hold ten items in the dungeon. Hence, there are times when you have to choose to throw away stuff, but later on, this can be upgraded using scrap.
Dungeons require the player to enter them multiple times and each time you enter the items refresh, so it’s possible to acquire rare loot. This is also needed because, for some reason, weapons have durability, but it’s tough to catch when your weapon breaks, so most of the time, I’d be walking around weaponless without a clue. I think this game didn’t need this feature since weapons can be upgraded and repaired, but then they break, so you just spent all that scrap for nothing.
If that wasn’t enough, the difficulty is wild in this game. I played on Normal and repeatedly died in the first dungeon. Switching to Easy did little to nothing to the challenge of the game, and I was forced to spend an hour close to the exit, slowly leveling up my characters because I couldn’t take it anymore. The problem, especially in these early dungeons, is that the enemies have so much HP that slowly trickles down with each attack. In the event that you luck out with finding their weak points, it doesn’t really make that much of a difference.
The battles are a huge issue with this game because the developer seemed to what to challenge the player, but it ended up only keeping players from the best parts it has to offer, the story. Sure, it can be fun to level up and explore these large dungeons, but there are just too many things that hinder this experience to be fun.
Undead Darlings has some adorable character illustrations. These half-zombie girls completely fulfill their roles in being obnoxiously cute and terrifying at the same time. I loved the CGs and various situations that they found themselves in as well. However, some of the backgrounds looked more like gradient layers slapped together. Still, the dungeons were actually very well designed and even revival some other dungeons crawlers available. I also felt that the soundtrack and voice-acted lines were a great touch for this overall experience.
Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ is very much the product of love, and it shows in the story and character relationships that develop over this adventure. Each new area offers more challenges to overcome, but the biggest of them all will be navigating the menus and dealing with overpowered enemies. There are some significant quality-of-life updates needed here, but I can still see it infecting a few dungeon crawler fans through its difficulty and narrative.
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