Leaves start turning colors.. there’s a slight chill in the air as it begins to get cooler.. spooky decorations start popping up on random houses as you drive through the neighborhood.. and the local haunted house attractions open up for business to try and scare the pants off of each and every person that arrives. There’s something truly special about Autumn, and the atmosphere and aesthetic surrounding it plays a big part in this feeling. Damsel, a game about hunting corporate vampires, has nothing to do with the Halloween setting, but just the fact that you’re going up against countless vampires is always going to remind me of the holiday.
Publisher: Screwtape Studios
Developer: Screwtape Studios
Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: August 7, 2019
Game Provided By Screwtape Studios for the Purpose of This Review
No, Damsel is best described as an action platformer with an incredible sense of speed. Missions, which there are 75 in the current base game, can be oven in a matter of seconds if done correctly. It very much is reminiscent of games like Super Meat Boy and more recently, Katana ZERO. The challenge is trying to set high scores, beat your friends and random strangers online in the leaderboards, and have fun doing so. At least, that’s the goal, right?
Special Agent Damsel, the first and last in a line of defense against these corporate vampires, is who you’ll be getting to know throughout the campaign. The first aspect of the game that immediately jumped out at me and smacked me in the face is that it is set up as if the player is reading a comic book. This was an incredibly cool design touch as the narration is told to you panels at a time, with it scrolling and moving around as if, again, you’re reading the latest issue of Batman. Except this isn’t Batman.
Playing the Nintendo Switch release, for some odd reason, there was an annoyingly and weird amount of framerate issues and slowdown while the story was being told in this cutscene-esque manner. I tried it in both docked and handheld mode, turned my Switch on and off to make sure it wasn’t just a fluke occurrence, and every time, there was framerate issues. Since it takes place during the story moments of the game, it’s easy enough to pass it off as technical issues.. if it also wasn’t happening when playing the game itself. While not always present in the actual gameplay segments, there are times when the framerate drops to an insanely low number and it gets hard to even look at. When it works, it works well and is super fun to play as you take out vampires, free hostages from their bondages, disarm bombs, and hack laptops and computers for information. But being a game centered around speed and completing missions as fast as humanly possible, the slowdown definitely hurts in the overall.
Speaking of the story, it’s somewhat similar to the HBO series, True Blood in the loosest terms possible. The evil organization these vampires are part of is known as Red Mist, and they’ve been adding this illegal ingredient to their vampire drinks. Sound familiar? The development team, Screwtape Studios, mentioned how Damsel is a ballet, and the player is the choreographer. It does feel like that at times, but don’t mistake this for being similar to the recently released My Friend Pedro, which is much more fluid and seamless when it comes to these types of mechanics. Instead, Damsel is about the intricate jumps and ways you can string together attacks to keep your multiplier filling and achieve the highest score possible. So, in theory, I guess it is a lot like My Friend Pedro after all.
Except it doesn’t play nearly as well as games that came before it which are much more beloved. Stages quickly begin to feel repetitive and boring, with even slight variations not being enough to truly feel satisfying. You can only save so many hostages, disarm so many bombs, or dispose of so many vampires before you begin to want more to make the experience feel worthwhile. Something as simple as different level designs, instead of just reusing the same basic structures throughout the game, may have made a slight difference.
The soundtrack is a huge positive, all things said and done. A mix of synthwave beats and rocking tunes, composer Dan Sugars captures the gritty feel and synth inspired focus Damsel was going for. Even if I didn’t necessarily love the entire experience, I definitely was grooving along with the music and stopping at times just to hear the beats continue before moving on to the next level.
Damsel is a mixed bag of emotions for me. I came into this really excited for another experience like Katana ZERO and games of a similar fashion, especially because that is still one of my favorite releases in 2019. While there are elements that I enjoy, I can’t get behind the game as much as I initially expected I would. The odd technical issues and way too repetitive missions holds this back into the good department, instead of thrusting it forward into the great department. There’s a hefty amount of content in those 75 levels to be enjoyed, but reaching the end may be more troublesome than it’s worth. Still, fans of these quick platforming style action games will find some enjoyment. And if nothing else, the soundtrack will keep you moving well into the night when it’s time for your next meal.. after all.. your body’s dying. Pay no attention, it happens to us all.
Yes. That’s from Interview With the Vampire. I couldn’t help myself.