Tag Archives: Imported from Japan

Wait, It Gets Weirder: ‘The Undead Syndrome 2’

It starts with random visits from a Wikipedia page dedicated to the original game, which I reviewed and appreciated for its boldness, and its bizarre… everything, despite some shortcomings and rough gameplay. Though in reading through the entry, I get the confirmation I’ve been hoping for— Yes, The Undead Syndrome 2 exists, and yes, it is descending even further into utter strangeness.

The Undead Syndrome 2 - Screen

Probably not an ally.

Featuring alien obelisks, tentacles, and spaceships, it’s safe to assume the Silent Hill-y / supernatural vibe of the original will receive a heavy dose of the extraterrestrial. It’s all work-in-progress shots for now, but the basic pillars behind the first game, exploration and ranged-combat, are intact. The RPG-like upgrade system, that had you implanting various crystals into your body to improve stats and attacks, looks to be returning, as well as some familiar enemies (well, shirtless men, now with teeth!) and all-new ….creatures. I don’t have a clue what it all means, yet I’m really excited to know the sequel is on its way.

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The Undead Syndrome 2 is aiming for a sometime-2013 release. If you can read Japanese, or trust Google Translate, or just prefer to absorb your data visually, you can follow developer Mukago Software and the game’s progress here. 

The Undead Syndrome 2 - Screen2

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The Undead Syndrome 2 - Screen4

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REVIEW: DepthAttack

Whenever I read a game’s description as ‘TPS Game. Homing is divided out of the Balkans and is characterized by’, I think Google Translate had a bit of fun at a foreign language’s expense. Which is unfortunate. To be fair, my Japanese is (currently) non-existent, and I can only imagine how this site reads in translation (though it looks really cool). So while I’m sure the Balkans are nice this time of year, I’m going to assume the description was something about DepthAttack (240 MSP) being a shooter.

DepthAttack - Screen

Either that girl is really tiny, or the cones are freakishly huge.

And a rail shooter on a wireframe grid is exactly what it is, with regular and homing shots in the minor vein of something like Star Fox / Panzer Dragoonexcept with a schoolgirl and none of the narrative, fun, or talking animals / dragon-riding. Instead you’ll be dodging and destroying cylinders, cones, and other flying menaces, only rarely ever being encumbered by your enemies, most of which are re-skinned and recycled throughout. DepthAttack hedges its bets just in the event you do struggle, laying a trail of health pickups before each mini-boss and end boss. Those fights too, are largely routine and reused.

Being easy is one thing, though the game lets you in on its most grievous error straight away, committing the mortal sin of not having an auto-fire and insisting you press down every time in order to shoot. Call it being nitpicky or call it a vote for sanity, but there’s a rule for making shooters. That rule is simple; you should be able to hold down the button to continuously fire. We’d all like to stave off gaming arthritis for as long as we possibly can. Having to pause the game after each stage to physically rest up for the next is never a good design choice.

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Even that could be forgiven if there were other redeeming qualities, but DepthAttack doesn’t have any. Variety in any form is sorely missing, just part of the lesser whole, along with its uninspired gameplay, obnoxious sound effects, and ‘bored’ layout (only once did the game ditch the grid look, and it was hardly transformative).

Should you need it, the game does save progress, starting you at the most recent level. At four stages long (about twenty minutes), however, there’s not much real estate to cover, nor any real denouement or extras gained upon completion (reversing the controls doesn’t count). DepthAttack is a poor excuse for a shooter in any language, and there’s zero reason to recommend a trial when it’s lacking in mechanics and duration. It’s just far too expensive to be this basic.

REVIEW: The Undead Syndrome

Based off of the screenshots (and the trailer, which is awkwardly captured via camera), I was beyond ecstatic to boot it up and find that The Undead Syndrome (240 MSP) is utterly made from the stuff I’m interested in. The list of games it takes parts and its tone from include: Killer7, Parasite Eve, Silent Hill, Deadly Premonition, and Kenji Eno’s ‘D’ series, among other ‘bizarre horror’ titles past and present. Given that pedigree, it’s shouldn’t be a shock to hear it’s also undeniably Japanese.

The only other title I’ve played from developer MukagoSoftware Development was last year’s terrible and terribly-flawed Bioerosion. TUS is fortunately a much more polished effort, both in design and scope. The game starts with a nameless woman, stabbed in broad daylight walking down a deserted street. Without explanation (or dying, apparently), she’s transported to a ‘nightmare’ world in the form of a haunted house, where she’ll attempt to learn the truth of what’s going on and catch her murderer.

While this is the stated main goal, it also involves killing off three multi-colored and tentacled monstrosities, checklist-style, and fighting dozens of clones of her killer, and weird, alien-like fish, scorpions, and jellies. Yeah, I know, sounds like one hell of a head trip.

Graphically, the game is gorgeous for XBLIG, with plenty of clean (and overused) textures and shadow / lighting effects. The third dimension makes for some awry camera angles in tight spots, but goes comfortably ‘over the shoulder’ for fighting. And that combat takes an interesting form with KI, which allows our protagonist to launch bursts of energy from her hands. In addition to leveling up RPG-style, your KI is upgradeable via ‘implants’, crystals that give boosts to stats or, with experimentation, enable new ways to fight and explore the environment.

Exploration plays a big role, of course, and is intriguing, if a little vague. You’ll find various colored keys to open locked doors, most of which aren’t marked, naturally, and there’s some light puzzles to solve (check surrounding walls for hints). Forgettable platforming bits are kept to a minimum. The rather impressive audio and cues alert you to enemies (a la Silent Hill), and keep the unease dialed up at all times. In between the heavier action or odd story snippet, you can catch your breath and recharge in the scattered save rooms, or buy items and crystals in the shops, manned by a spectral salesman.

There are definite downsides. It desperately needs some kind of mapping system and a much larger inventory (you’re constantly running out of space). Some of your shots miss when they should hit, and cramped rooms and corridors mean enemies can effectively pin you in a corner without a way to hit back, enemies that love to inflict status ailments. Did I mention the enemies respawn after you leave? Hope you like backtracking and clearing the same rooms. Then there’s the absence of an objectives screen, which leaves you on your own to figure out your next move. TUS‘s best unspoken advice? Explore everything, sooner or later you’ll find your way. Not very reassuring, is it? Oh, and before I forget— an abrupt, cliffhanger ending after 3+ hours of nonsensical buildup.

And yet I can’t recommend The Undead Syndrome enough if you’re even remotely a fan of ‘different’ and the titles I mentioned in the opening. If you’re not, you probably lack a pulse, or at the very least, good taste. That’s not fatal, but it does make you bland. Flaws and all, this is exactly the type of game that should be mentioned whenever XBLIG’s worth is brought up, a spice that can’t be found on arcade or at retail.