Monday, January 26, 2015

Undead Nightmare Storm (3DS)

If you like your zombie horror survival game with a serving of gritty hard rock music, and a side order of shmup style combat then G-Style's "Undead Nightmare Storm" might just be the indie for you. It's game design, which is simple yet complex in it's own right harkens back to a retro era of gaming goodness similar to that of the original Playstation days. You'll find it's many objectives, boss fights, and escape from the undead to be a formidable challenge for any shmup enthusiast out there, even when packing enough heat to take down an army. For those of looking for value in your purchase this time around you'll be pleasantly surprised that the game has in place a full-blown single player campaign as well as a local co-op multi-player experience that will keep you, and up to two other friends busy for quite some time. Which ever way you choose to play it you will definitely have to invest a good amount of time into your playthrough in order to fully complete it as there are a lot of things to unlock.

G-Style's "Undead Nightmare Storm", in simple terms is a top down shooter built on a textured polygon foundation. It's build is not unlike the old 3D games you'd see on the original Playstation one console, as I previously mentioned. It features a scaled down 32bit polygon graphic style, and a somewhat complex shmup control setup that is built wholly around the 3DS console structure. It will only cost you a mere penny under five dollars for the digital download, and in return for a purchase the game will offer you a true challenge in more ways than one. The game itself comes complete with a singleplayer campaign filled with sixteen missions that house three objective based areas each. These areas begin with a simple escape, and looting outing only to end with a couple of final objectives including the unlocking of in-area areas via keys, and keypads as well as an epic boss fight amongst other things. It even has an unlockable local multiplayer in which 3 players can experience the core game scenarios together, supposing they too have the same game.

From the start of each mission, and their respective three tier areas "Undead Nightmare Storm" lands the player smack dab in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, and gives them only one way out. This way out includes branching pathways filled with enemies, obstacles, and loot which must be confronted, avoided, and gathered for advancement. Within each maze-like location (cities, underground ...) you'll have to make your way towards the goal area which is marked by a circular floating icon sporting the word "Goal". The area goal icon will help you to reach your objective/s efficiently like a sort of GPS tracking device, but as you follow it's lead you will have to mind your surroundings as creatures of varying sorts will crawl out of the ground, and chase you in swarming groups. At some locations within the areas you'll even be caught in a caged zombie event in which that portion of the area is sealed off with you, and a bunch of undead creatures inside. When this happens you'll be forced to use your equipped weapons of choice to survive.

Aside from those threats, and objectives there is also the heart of the nightmare in the form of an observant all seeing enemy known as a, "Nightwalker". These lantern toting female apparitions which are marked in a similar style as the goal area (only with an Eye-con ^.^) will usually be safeguarding loot of great significance. Should they see you in your attempt to get around their stationed post they will give chase immediately. If they happen to catch you the game will go into nightmare mode, and creatures of greater strength will spawn in an all out attempt to kill you off. Spotting the "Eye" icon, and hearing the haunting singing of the Nightwalker will clue you into her whereabouts. The "Nightmare Pulse" which is basically a heartbeat monitor will also clue you in to the fact that you are approaching the Nightwalker. This handy device is of course located on the lower screen of the 3DS along with the weapon selection menu, and objective update text, and can be seen easily as you mind your other matters of importance. Like a heart rhythm machine the flat line will arch as you draw closer to the Nightwalker. With a selection of purchasable, and upgradable guns, armor, and explosives on hand though making it to 'A' to point 'B' without being overwhelmed won't be too terribly difficult if you are properly prepared.

What survival in "Undead Nightmare Storm" all boils down to is in fact preparedness. You'll have to take in account a few things before advancing through the missions, and areas housed therein. These "things" I speak of include your four section arsenal, and armor setup/s as well as purchasable upgrades for said gear that can be obtained through gathered in-game currency along with the combined necessary raw materials. Initially your main character begins with a handgun, and a combat knife to get her through the initially unlocked first mission. Using these weapons you will be able to shoot crates of different varieties, and gather ammo, health refills, raw materials, and gold as you do so. The latter gold currency, and raw materials can then be used in the shop located in the main menu after you have completed an area playthrough, or died in your attempt. Purchasing new weapons, armor, explosives from the shop menu can be done with the right amount of currency. Weapons, and armor vary according to strength, and stats, and can each be upgraded in different stat based areas via the upgrade menu supposing you have the right raw materials, and additional currency to do so with.

Weapons come in three different varieties including guns, bladed/blunted weapons, and explosives. Each type can be upgraded to a certain point making them stronger against the more formidable foes. Choosing which weapons, and equipment however must be done wisely, and according to the mission's underlying requirements. In other words you don't want to bring only knives to a gun fight, and you don't want to only pack a limited supply of explosives to defend against a never-ending horde of baddies. One thing you have to keep in mind is that your equipment setups (which can be saved & selected via the main menu) have a total of four slots. While you can pack what you like it's always best to have at least one of each type of weapon/armor. You can double up on one piece of equipment of your choosing, but again you must choose carefully what you carry along as some missions demand weapons of a higher caliber, or strength.

When it comes to advancing in levels, or missions if you prefer, you will have to pay to unlock each one. This means you will have to grind for gold , not only to equip your character properly, but also to open up all the other missions in the game. As with better weapons, and gear the missions will also cost you an increasingly higher amount of in-game currency. Going back, and repeating missions is not an issue though as you can do so as much as you need/like.

As far as the mission, or area objectives go you will begin with a simple yet challenging run from start to the finish as you loot crates (lootcrate, Lol!) for needed ammo, health refills, raw materials, and gold. It goes without saying that you will also be blasting the fool out of the undead as they make themselves known. In area two, and three though an objective, and a boss fight are usually put into place to test your mettle as a shoot'em up gamer. The objectives include such things as making it to lock pedestals, and unlocking them via a press of "X" so that the center locked gate will open, all while avoiding the usual threats. Speaking of goal location you will find that this ending spot is marked off with a blue laser, and that it houses some extra goodies for your success (ammo, health refills, gold). Once you reach the end goal you will have a few seconds (shown on a timer) to gather the extra loot. aside from the area two objectives you will also encounter a boss fight in some missions. These boss fights will pit you against a larger than life undead foe that has boss-like attacks. During these boss fights you will have to deplete the boss's health bar with your weapons while dodging it's enemy specific attack patterns, and attacks. Once the boss is defeated it will implode into a bubbling pile of mess, and will let loose some valuable raw materials, and gold for you to collect.

Now for the controls ...

In all honesty I found that a major part of the challenge that came with this game involved the applied control scheme, particularly the need to use the "L & R" shoulder buttons to change the direction your character is facing. Unlike a simple dual-thumbstick shmup "Undead Nightmare Storm" combines the use of the thumb pad for movement, and the top shoulder buttons to rotate the character's aim in their respective directions. Having to rely on the shoulder buttons for directional aiming makes for an awkward, and inefficient combat experience. That tied with the fact that you'll have to reload your guns (B), fire your guns/slash your melee weapons (Y), use health items (A), and swap weapons via the touch screen or Dpad inputs really over complicates things. I've seen indie shmups that used one thumbstick for aiming, and direction facing with no issues, so it puzzles me as to why G-Styles chose to make it this way. Even with the complicated controls though the game is manageable, but you will receive your fair share of unfair damage in each area outing.

The graphics, and the sound ...

Once again, in all honesty, the graphics in "Undead Nightmare Storm" aren't exactly the best I've seen on the 3DS. The aren't too bad, mind you, but as I said earlier they look more like a 32bit game from the original Playstation. Having the game scaled down to a small 3DS screen though does help to improve upon the graphics, somewhat. While the graphics aren't exactly new-gen you will find that the soundtrack which is compiled of hardcore Japanese/American vocals, and hard hitting rock music really adds to the overall gaming experience. The ambient, and eerie humming that comes from the Nightwalkers also adds to the game's dark, and foreboding atmosphere. For $4.99 I cannot really complain of the visual, and audio quality of this particular indie release.

Lastly, for all of you who are wondering about the co-op multiplayer portion of the game you'll find that my knowledge of it is very limited. I do know that the mode is locked shortly after the first mission playthrough, and that up to three players (including yourself) can play in a team effort, locally. This "Team Effort" includes the reviving of fallen players via additional control functions. Other than those things I'm clueless.

The Verdict ...

I know parts of my review have already summed up my opinion, but I'll narrow it down for you again for the sake of a summary. The game, for five dollars is not that bad of a deal. You get a full-blown singleplayer campaign filled with lots to do, and an extra local co-op multiplayer that you can play with nearby friends. The gameplay is definitely oldschool in construction, and harkens back to the 32bit era of arcade style gaming as I've mentioned a few times over. While that may be a turn off to some my own issues with the game do not lie with the graphics, or audio presentation. Where the game falters for me is the control setup. In my opinion it is too complicated for the simple style of gameplay that the developer went with. I can understand the convenience of using the touch pad to switch weapons, and the use of other button functions outside of the inclusion of the shoulder buttons for directional change. The shoulder button functions really made things awkward when trying to fight of the swarms of undead creatures. It's nearly impossible not to take damage throughout each area. I will hand it to G-Styles though that the plentiful supply of health refills were there to negate any worries that you'd die as a result of the occasional bump into an enemy. That at least was good. All in all I do think the game is worth the asking price, but keep in mind it's not a perfect game.

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