Review: Dracula: Undead Awakening (WiiWare)

Undead a go-go

Dracula: Undead Awakening is a nice example of how to port an iPhone game to the Wii properly: make sure the graphics are up to scratch and Wii-ify the controls.

If you're unaware of the iPhone original, it's like a horror film version of Williams' arcade classics Robotron: 2084 or Smash TV, or the more recent Geometry Wars: players control a character attempting to fend off creatures that attack from all sides. Gameplay boils down to shooting everything until you die, with the goal being to get a high score recorded on the Wi-Fi leaderboard.

The graphics are nice and creepy and there's enough variety in the enemies that you won't fight the same ones too often (though we did note some enemies seem to be associated with specific stages). The number of baddies on screen without slowdown is quite impressive: you can have a few dozen easily, with a mix of different enemy types attacking at once. The soundtrack is a listenable electro-guitar number that has enough changes to prevent it getting boring, though you have the usual sound options in case you tire of it.

The game modes are identical to those in the iPhone version: Survival, Super Survival, Rush and Wave Attack. In Survival you just keep on plugging away at the hordes of undead and other nasties, gradually gaining more powerful weapons, ammo and health vials from the decomposing remnants of your foes. Periodically you'll be able to activate one of three Perks: a power-up ranging from extra speed, increased item dropping or extra weapon damage to more than a dozen others besides. Super Survival is basically the same as Survival, but with a few power-ups that appear occasionally besides the perks. Rush gives you a choice of one of three weapons with unlimited ammo, but is otherwise the same: kill everything until you die. Wave Attack is the best of the bunch and provides some much-needed structure by having enemies attack in clearly-defined waves (hence the name) which become progressively larger and more challenging. The only item dropped by fallen enemies is gold, which you use in the break between waves to purchase the weapons, ammo and health vials you get for free in the other modes. This introduces a nice bit of strategy and challenge that's missing from the other modes and justifies the download.

The controls leave a bit to be desired, though they work well enough: the default Remote and Nunchuk setup uses the Nunchuk for movement and weapon selection, whilst the Remote pointer is used to aim, fire and activate perks. With (B) doing the shooting you'd think it would be a simple matter of clicking to send bullets flying one at a time with precision, but that's not the case: instead you need to hold the button down and wait for the shot to happen. It's counter-intuitive given the use of the pointer to aim at your target and feels awkward until you get used to simply keeping the button pressed down all the time. With weapons that fire continuously like the machine gun it's not a problem, but with others you'll end up missing a lot of shots and getting mauled more often. If you have a Classic Controller then this is the better option because there's no separate fire button: you just keep the right stick pressed in the direction you need to shoot – which is the way this game would be played in the arcade anyway. Of course, the problem with the regular Classic Controller is that the analogue shoulder buttons are used to swap weapons, making it nearly impossible to toggle to the one you want without skipping it over and over again, or unintentionally swapping weapons because you brushed the button accidentally. For less frustration we'd suggest using the Classic Controller Pro which thankfully does away with the analogue part of the triggers.

Whilst the classic arcade concept is a decent one, Dracula: Undead Awakening falls short of its inspiration by failing to break up the action with different stages or boss fights. You choose one of three different environments to play in and fight off a never-ending stream of baddies which will gradually increase in speed and numbers. Dracula will show up from time to time, but he moves slower than the rest and doesn't really represent that much of a threat outside of a lightning bolt attack and the fact that he takes more than the two or three shots required to dispatch a zombie or werewolf.

Conclusion

Dracula: Undead Awakening largely succeeds in delivering a classic arcade experience to the Wii. The controls probably could have used a little more finesse and the gameplay gets monotonous, but thankfully there's a game mode available which will give players a reason to come back. If you're looking for a bit of arcade shooting fun you could certainly do worse than this.

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