I loved Van Helsing, the 2004 movie with Hugh Jackman tearing through wolfmen, vampires, and all sorts was just too much fun. Sadly, the official game wasn’t up to much. Dracula: Undead Awakening (D:UA) takes that Van Helsing vibe and puts it straight into a top-down shooter for the PlayStation Minis collection.
Originally an iPhone release, D:UA has now been ported for Sony’s ever increasing range of Minis. Just how does this twin-stick shooter translate to the single stick PSP? Answer: Not too badly, actually.
Setting the mood in a game can be a hit-and-miss affair; a poorly placed piece of music can often ruin what a developer is trying to create. MoreGames Entertainment, however, didn’t miss when they went about creating the music for their title. The gothic-tinged guitar and synth that plays throughout suits the game perfectly.
A common complaint with most indie titles is that the there is usually only a single music track (there are exceptions, obviously) that plays from the start screen straight, right throughout the entire game. D:UA does have just one piece of music, but it is so fitting to the game that the repetition is barely noticed when you’re knee-deep in werewolf carcasses.
It isn’t purely hairy man-beasts on the enemy front, though; there’s a fairly decent ensemble of hell’s occupiers to take on as well. Accompanying the werewolves are little squid-type creatures that move scarily fast – they look very much like the Flood from the Halo series. There are also wraiths that make a most exquisite scream when dispatched, aggressive larvae, zombies, and finally there is the big man himself, Dracula.
Dracula appears only occasionally, but provides a pretty stern challenge. He floats towards your character and, when close enough, unleashes a green lightning attack. Any weapon can be used to kill him, however if a crossbow is used, then an “Omen” will drop at his feet. Collect 10 of these and you will level up. It adds some strategy for how to approach battling Dracula; should you conserve crossbow bolts for him, or gamble that some will possibly appear as a pick-up before his appearance?
For a game with such a simple premise, D:UA actually has a good deal of strategy to it. The main area of strategy is in the “perk” system; after killing a certain amount of enemies, pressing select brings up the perks menu. Many perks have a trade off, further driving home that careful selection is needed. Taking increased armour will mean a decrease in speed, increased damage will reduce your health and so on. Some perks don’t have a trade off, but the best ones carry a risk.
Each of the game’s four modes of play are slightly different. The first game mode is “survival”, which provides an endless supply of increasingly powerful enemies. Weapons are picked up sporadically as pickups on the ground. Super Survival is much the same but with meatier weapons dropped earlier, so it’s kind of super.
Rush mode is for the all action heroes out there. Choose either the chain gun, flamethrower, or grenade launcher, and fight off a heaving mob of enemies – there are no breathers here. Perhaps the most satisfying mode of all is Wave. After clearing a wave, a merchant appears and will sell weapons, health, and ammo, giving players complete control over their armoury. Cash is collected in the form of piles of gold coins dropped by dead waves. Perks in this mode are also slightly different and are more like “leveling up” health, damage, and firing range than unique perks in the other modes.
I found myself sinking most of my time into wave mode, the control over what weapons to use meant I was never stuck with a gun I didn’t like using. I could stock up on crossbow bolts, and not even bother with the rifle. This control over arms is much needed once the enemies become faster and stronger.
There’s just about enough variation in D:UA. Three different maps – Castle Hall, Grave Park, and Frozen Earth – are all different enough in colour, scheme, and layout to avoid becoming stale; a favourite map and game type is quickly found and stuck with. The art direction is typically gothic, with nothing spectacular. The vampire hunter himself isn’t very well animated, but with so much going on, it’s easy to forgive, and not that noticeable.
Dracula: Undead Awakening is another solid port of a good iPhone game. The control scheme works well enough, and the recent price drop makes the title even better value for money than it was before. There’s plenty to like and not much to hate on, a bit more variation in enemy types would be a welcome but small change. Anyone looking for a solid, yet not particularly original, shooter should feel pretty satisfied with their purchase.
Gamer Limit gives Dracula: Undead Awakening 7.0/10