Overview – developed by Mr. Tired Media and Published by Sekai Project, Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ is a dungeon crawling RPG featuring visual novels sequences. Experience a different take on a zombie apocalypse as you explore a new world, joined by a group of cute girls that have more to them than meets the eye. This release is available for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Steam service, links to the game will be available at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PR Hound for providing the copy of Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ used for this piece. The provision of this title has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions expressed within are my own. Please note that I will be omitting some details when discussing details as I don’t want to spoil the surprises that this titles offers.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting with the story.
Story – Undead Darlings takes place in a world ravaged by a zombie apocalypse, where a virus has caused the majority of the population to be turned into shambling corpses. Waking up from a drug induced coma, Reginald “Reggie” P. Happenstahnce is told by his childhood friend Pearl that society has crumbled, a virus turning almost everyone into zombies while he was asleep. This includes Pearl herself.
However, she has held onto her humanity, informing him that along with the other half-zombies they may encounter, she may be undead but her heart is still human. After telling Reggie everything that has happened and that there may be a cure, they encounter another survivor, a man named Buck that has been looting the abandoned homes nearby. Now Reggie, Pearl and Buck are on a quest to find the cure for the virus, befriending the other half-zombie girls they meet on their journey.
Gameplay – Undead Darlings is a mix of dungeon crawling RPG gameplay and visual novel storytelling, with the narrative separated into several chapters. During each chapter the player is presented with choices that will influence the way that the narrative plays out, potentially changing the ending that the player will see. This game features multiple endings and special event scenes to unlock, giving players a reason to play through the game again to explore each possibility on offer.
Away from the story segments is the dungeon exploration, with several distinct areas featuring multiple floors, puzzles to solve and monsters to battle. The dungeons themselves are made up of a grid based map, with hidden pathways, locked doors/gates and special triggers throughout. On the main screen, the player has access to a map that shows all the layout of the floor as each step is made and the markers for triggers.
Here is a summary of some of the markers that will be encountered during play;
- Encounter Cupcake – these adorable undead cupcakes contain monsters that the player must battle when contact is made. The cupcakes are separated into three categories, which are green for regular encounters, purple for challenging encounters and pink for boss battles.
- Loot Chest – these markers surrounded by pink hearts contain loot that the player can collect, items inside the chest include weapons, armor and more. But be aware of the current inventory as items will need to be dropped if loot is picked up and all slots are full.
- Event Marker – these exclamation marks will initiate character dialogue when touched, with new details and possible dialogue choices that may influence the way that the narrative progresses.
The green encounter cupcakes and loot chest markers will respawn each time the dungeon is entered or a floor is changed, allowing for easy grinding of loot and experience for quick leveling. When encountering enemies, either randomly or through the predetermined markers a turn based battle will occur, pitting the party of half-zombie girls against a variety of enemies.
Combat is made up of turn-based battles, with the order of combat determined by the agility of the combatants. Each part member can use five commands, attack for weapon strikes, skill for special attacks, defend to lessen damage, item for consumable/recovery items and run to escape combat. Be aware that not all combat encounters can be escaped, so preparation before taking on tougher enemies can be key to survival
An important resource to keep an eye on is durability points, called DP in game menus. When the player attacks a monster with their equipped item or uses a specific skill the weapons DP is reduced, with the weapon breaking at the end of combat if all DP points are depleted turning it into scrap. A second resource that is just as important is skill points, also called SP. The skills that characters use consume SP, reducing their total with each use.
At the end of combat, the party is rewarded with experience points, leveling the active girls that participated in that battle. As each girl levels up, new skills, abilities and stat boosts are applied as that character grows. The amount of experience earned depends on a few different factors, the strength of an enemy and total number of enemies in the battle, with boss battles providing the highest rewards for the party.
The last part of the gameplay I want to discuss is the inventory/party management system. Outside the dungeon, the player can speak to buck, who offers a variety of options for the player to engage with. The player can alter the party order, switching girls in and out to change the strategies that can be used in combat. Buck also functions as both a bank to store items and a blacksmith, using scrap that is collected from broken weapons and dismantling equipment to strengthen weapons/provide player upgrades.
Now with the gameplay covered, I will be moving onto the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.
Controls – the control system for this release is simple yet effective. The left side of the controller and shoulder buttons are used for menu/dungeon navigation, with the face buttons for actions and to control various aspects of the heads-up display. The game plays comfortably with both a pro controller and the Joy-Cons, with zero issues when it comes to inputs during any part of the experience.
Difficulty – the difficulty of Undead Darlings can be modified to fit the play style and skill level of the player, with five settings that will alter the overall challenge presented. Death can also be a minor inconvenience, as being the player can simply retry that battle at the cost of carried items. The items lost can easily be recovered due to the abundance of loot in each dungeon, and the ability to save/load freely reduces this penalty further.
Presentation – Undead Darlings has a delightfully creepy aesthetic, with a mix of anime styled art for the girls and creepy illustrative work for the monsters, meshing perfectly with the rendered environments. The character designs for the girls are pleasing, with cute designs that fit many of the traditional character archetypes. These designs include a tomboy with twin tails, a gothic tsundere that holds a ying/yang teddy bear and a snobbish private school student in her fancy uniform.
The music is catchy and fits the themes presented during gameplay. From the tense electro beats, heavy guitars and pounding drums during combat, to the atmospheric and sometimes calming compositions featured during exploration and story sequences. This release also features an English voice cast, featuring the outstanding talents of Lily Pichu (Twitch streamer/YouTube), Laura Post (Persona 5, Little Witch Academia) and Erica Mendez (Kill La Kill, Code Vein).
Final Thoughts – I was pleasantly surprised with Undead Darlings, I spent several hours playing this game and enjoyed every minute. The characters are aesthetically pleasing, the monsters both comical and horrific, and the designs for the dungeon environments have a satisfyingly spooky atmosphere to them. This is a fun dungeon crawler, with a well written and engaging story that offers a range of possibilities for narrative progression.
I can happily recommend this release to fans of both visual novels and dungeon crawling RPG titles. Mr. Tired Media has created an entertaining and humorous experience, filled with references to pop culture and movies including a joke based on an iconic scene from the terrifically bad movie The Room. The overall package is a delight to play, offering depth in both story-telling and gameplay, and I applaud the hard work of the developers who created this wonderful title.
In the end, I give Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ a score of 5/5. This is an entertaining and engaging visual novel/RPG hybrid, perfect for fans of either genre, offering depth in both gameplay and storytelling, with a cast of cute half-zombie girls that bring life to a world ravaged by a viral apocalypse. If you want to check this game out for yourself, links will be below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation 4 version (HERE)
Link to Steam version (HERE)