Game Review: Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ (Nintendo Switch)

During the past decade we have seen more developers take inspiration from Japanese games and culture to create unique and diverse experiences, and if there was ever a combination of these then Mr Tired Media’s debut release of Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ would most likely be the answer.  For now let us explore what this hybrid style of a game has to offer on the Nintendo Switch.

Title: Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~
Publisher: Sekai Project
Developer: Mr Tired Media
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Audio: English (White)
Subtitles: English (White)
Local Players: 1
Online Players: N/A
Install: YES (3.3 GB)

Our View:

Inspired by Japanese games and cultures, especially those in the visual novel and JPRG genre, Mr Tired Media’s debut game, Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ ticks all the right boxes to attract fans of Japanese media, but despite all of this Undead Darlings feels somewhat lacking. To some Undead Darlings can be considered a love letter of appreciation to the genre(s) it takes inspiration from, but sadly that love is not entirely reciprocated from the those would enjoy said genres.

At its core Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ is a visual novel come dungeon-crawler hybrid with a story that puts players into the perspective of Reginald, nicknamed Reggie, as he attempts to navigate and survive a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies in order to find his father’s whereabouts and locate the cure for the viral outbreak that caused this chaos.

The story is, in my mind, simplistically overly complicated, as it is both straight-forward to understand and needlessly complicated with how the story is described and presented to the player. For instance this story begins with Reggie awakening and seeing his childhood friend Pearl as a zombie, and it is here where she proceeds to explain what has happened while Reggie was asleep. It’s explained that Reggie was forced in to a coma by his father and that he, along with Pearl’s father, have a cure for the virus that plagues the world. What’s even stranger about this opening segment is that their father’s forced Pearl to stay and protect Reggie until he awoke, who at this point had become a zombie with her human personalities in check.

In all honesty, it is a completely bonkers set up for a starting point of a story and raises more questions than answers. The simplistic approach is this; Reggie and Pearl must find the cure in order to restore Pearl to normal. It’s an objective that shouldn’t really exist in the first place; especially as everyone was seemingly together before the starting point of this game. Regardless with this starting point set players will be whisked away into one of the most unusual visual novel experiences of the year.

As with any type of visual novel experience players will sit through huge amounts of text with each sentence delivering further understanding of the world and the characters that inhabit it. The same can be said here, but sadly it seems to miss its mark. Usually visual novels either act as developing a relationship or one of discovery, but neither of these seem to be a focus point in the dialogue being displayed. Majority of the characters we meet, with the exception of Buck – who the less we speak of the better – already have some form of a relationship. This means conversations quickly spiral into bickering with additional text then being provided to explain why the characters are bickering amongst themselves.

It’s not uncommon for visual novels to have dialogue that doesn’t fit the narrative being told, but Undead Darlings seems to have a lot of it. Whether this is character build-up or the illustrate the personalities on screen, it is hard to tell, but having characters interact in a playful and off-topic manner within several minutes of meeting each other is just bizarre. Perhaps the writing team wanted to offer a more light-hearted zombie apocalypse approach. That being said a romantic perspective is offered within this game, as during dialogue situations players will be able to answer multiple-choice questions and the results will vary depending on the answer given. For instance a correct answer will generate a heart icon and increased affection rate from that character.

Despite some of my criticism with the visual novel elements of the game there are a fair amount of positives to take away from it. Firstly majority of the game is fully voiced with English voice acting and while the artwork is inspired by Japanese media the voice actors fit the respective roles of the characters they are portraying. Sadly not every scene is voiced, but that is true even amongst the best visual novels in Japan. Additionally the artwork is sharp and clean to look at, with character art changing depending on the context of the situation. Sadly these are simple static images, so do not expect moving lips or breathing animations like more notable titles on the market. Overall the visual novel elements are well presented and well produced, with readable text, clean character art and – at times – a presentable story with characters that help make the story more interesting to bear.

Alongside the visual novel aspect of the game, which naturally progresses the overall direction of the story, we have the dungeon crawler RPG elements of the game. As mentioned visual novel elements will help direct the progression of the game and deliver the story that is being told, and each new location that the group visit will act as a dungeon to explore. This dungeon crawler element of the game rightfully takes inspiration from games of the same genre and surprisingly the knowledge earned in other games can be transferred to this game.

Labyrinths in the dungeon crawler section are not random (thankfully) but they will have random encounters, pre-set encounters, boss encounters and items scatted on the map. These maps are hidden, but by exploring the area the map of the dungeon will soon be created. Amusingly upon first entering a dungeon you won’t be taught the rules of combat, this is instead left to an option on the menu before venturing into the dungeon itself. A strange design choice, but it’s not that big of a deal for those already familiar with this type of game.

Combat is played through the perspective of the zombies you acquire through your travels, with each new location awarding you with a new zombie friend to use in combat. Your first is Pearl, with your second being her cousin Jordan, and you’ll have both of these for use in the first dungeon. Eventually you’ll encounter additional characters and you’ll be able to swap them in and out of battle as you would in any traditional RPG. The zombies have both physical and skill attacks with skills using MP. Personally I found skills to be relatively useless and stuck with physical attacks as they did more damage, but each battle does awared experience points in which help make your zombie friends stronger in battle.

Combat is presented in a traditional manner with each character, or monster, taking turns to attack (or defend) and once HP has ran out that character will be knocked out. One frustrating aspect I found about the combat is that attacks are overwhelmingly powerful, with even the lowest monsters dealing up to half of my characters health in one attack. Additionally some monsters will have a health bar displayed while others will not. I’m unsure if this relates to monsters previously encountered showing more stats upon a second encounter, an oversight or a random bug in the game, but it disrupts the overall flow of the game by having to consistently attack the enemy and hope the next turn is the last. Running from battles is also not instant and can see you die before given the chance to run.

Speaking of over powerful monsters the games logo, a muffin, also acts as a way to display how strong an opponent is in the field –or during a fight. Pre-set fights on the map will have a muffin icon displayed and should you walk into it the fight will begin. The colour of the muffin will dictate the overall strength of the monsters you are about to encounter as well as whether or not you can escape from the fight. These same rules can also apply during a battle, as the “timeline of whose next attack” will display the colour relevant to the strength of the monsters. It’s a neat feature and helps those wanting to avoid combats but it is an un-needed feature as most encounters are random.

The dungeons that players explore are rendered in 3D and while relatively bare are quiet pleasing to look at and during these dungeons players can find new items and equipment. Items discovered are generally used straight away, especially healing items, but equipment can be equipped from the main menu. Dungeons will also offer little puzzles, in the form of blocked doors and hidden switches, so some variety is offered. Sadly finding what to do next can be a little difficult as objective markers and target locations are not displayed, thus requiring the player to navigate and battle a lot in search for the next story point. Thankfully these will appear as an exclamation mark on the ground, but its of little benefit when they can only be viewed from a short distance away.

Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ offers the premise of a Japanese inspired visual novel come dungeon crawler wrapped in a story of a zombie infested world, which is true; but underneath the surface of trying to appease the fandom it offers a very basic experience that feels polished but un-refined. The character artwork, the English voice-over, the locations, and the dungeon crawler elements are entertaining and polished, but the writing, monster design, combat and story-telling require more work to make it reach the same heights as the established franchises on the market.

Score: review-stars-3

Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ is now available digitally for the Nintendo Switch, as well as PlayStation 4 and Windows PC (via STEAM).

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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