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Undead Line (Genesis) artwork

Undead Line (Genesis) review


"It’s hard to play a fantasy-based shmup like Undead Line without (a) recalling that horrible Square NES release King’s Knight and (b) laughing. Even if one of these games turned out to be good, I will always think the idea of a shooter set in medieval times is silly, especially when it comes to projectiles. The armor clad hero of Undead Line



It’s hard to play a fantasy-based shmup like Undead Line without (a) recalling that horrible Square NES release King’s Knight and (b) laughing. Even if one of these games turned out to be good, I will always think the idea of a shooter set in medieval times is silly, especially when it comes to projectiles. The armor clad hero of Undead Line (whose name may be mentioned in the all-Japanese intro) evidently loaded a semi-automatic with daggers before he set out on his quest to cleanse his homeland of evil.

I wish I could say that’s where the similarities end, but unfortunately Undead Line hosts a fatal flaw that its “inspiration” also carried. You see, I died a lot while playing this game, but it’s fairly safe to say that most of those deaths were not my fault. The thing is, the main character is slow. Very slow. One could make the assumption that since he’s a knight, his heavy armor is dampening his running speed and making him more vulnerable to attacks. I choose to believe that the developers simply didn’t know what they were doing. When I played Undead Line, I felt like I was wading through mashed potatoes with an army of Uzi-toting pterodactyls mowing me down ten feet above my head. I’m more than happy to submit to challenging gameplay, but I get frustrated when a game is difficult only because the character I’m controlling is incompetent.

Undead Line lets you choose between six levels, all with exciting names like Forest and Rock. All of them are varied in appearance, but are otherwise exactly the same: One very slow hero is pitted against a million very fast enemies. Each stage is the epitome of chaos: Bugs bombarding you from every direction, bats flapping and hovering all around you, ghouls creeping up from the ground below, turret-like enemies popping up and firing at you, projectiles flying every which way… It’s virtually too much to keep track of and is an assault on your vision and your ability to keep up. Which is fine – I like a good chaotic shmup. But you’ve got to react to everything that’s happening around you, and the sluggish bastard you’re controlling won’t allow it.

Let's say you want to actually shoot at your opposition – this is a shooter, after all. That’s great, but you’ve got to line up your shots, and by the time you’ve finally dragged your knight’s slow ass across the screen into your target line of fire, the enemy in question is usually, like, a foot away from you. Bam. So maybe your next strategy is to simply avoid enemy contact and to repeatedly jam on that B button, hoping you’ll hit something, anything, and perhaps clear a safe path for your movement-impaired hero. This tactic works better, but then we’ve done away with the entire concept of the “shooter,” and a new genre is born: The avoider. And even then, your lightning-fast opponents will get to you eventually. It’s only a matter of time.

Undead Line is as generic a shmup design as they come, with no rhyme or reason behind the mayhem that is constantly unfolding in front of you. I mean, all you need are those King’s Knight bottomless pits that form out of nowhere and, yep, you’ve pretty much got a better-looking version of that anti-classic. But even if I could unearth some positive values from this train wreck – and hey, for all I know I’m overlooking something – it wouldn’t matter, because it all comes down to control. Anything potentially good about Undead Line is cancelled out by the main character’s inability to MOVE HIS ASS, and frankly the only thing that could save the game in this state is if they had toned down the action to match your own speed… And even then, the game would just be boring as hell and I’d probably move on to something with a little more energy in it.

What’s funny is that I stumbled upon a GameFAQs review for Undead Line with a tagline that said, “Only the hardcore need apply.” I’m certainly not hardcore – apparently, giving Space Megaforce a 10/10 made that pretty clear – but even I can distinguish the intentionally challenging shmups from the ones that just flat-out suck.

Rating: 2/10

Suskie's avatar
Community review by Suskie (February 19, 2008)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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