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Damsel - Review

Developed and published by the Australian indie studio Screwtape Studios, Damsel is their first PC game after some mobile titles, and the change clearly was the right thing to do. Nominated for six different awards, Damsel won two of them; the DASH Awards - Indie Scene Award, and BNE Game Awards - PC Game of the Year 2018. This vampiresque platform was inspired by the classics, but has its own line of DNA!

Vampires and the Humans have finally managed to co-exist peacefully, or at least, as far as everyone’s knowledge the damages are controlled, and everything's under control. But we know better, and those blood sucking freaks have something up their sleeve, but what exactly? Vampires are now well established in society, and false accusations would just stir things up. That’s where agent Damsel, a special agent for Secret Intelligence Services comes in, together with her crew, she’ll unveil a secret running on the underground.

Vampires had to come up with a way to survive, but since drinking common citizens were no longer an option, fake blood starts to become the way of the future, and quickly companies found a way to profit. Red Mist is perhaps the top popular drink, with different flavours for each type of blood. This synthetic blood drink became a solution to appease both vampires and humans.

Damsel and her team work non-stop, getting all sorts of tips and intel regarding vampire activity. Some just don’t play by the rules, and crime is still a secret terrorizing the population, but that stops now. Damsel infiltrates several installations to follow up on leads in which something terrible may be hiding behind the success of the Red Mist. Humans are being kidnapped and kept in large storage compartments, money has been flowing offshore and large amounts of vampires have been appearing in unusual quantities. What could all of this mean?

Players take the role of Damsel, a modern vampire agent, in a world where mere mortals and vampires run against the time of progress, but corruption is still lurking. At its core, Damsel is a 2D Platformer, with a fast-paced sense of movement in an arcade projection style. The plot is simple and doesn’t hang for too long. It’s what one would expect of an arcade-ish style indie, but we always appreciate the extra effort put into a good contextualize of dialogues between Damsel’s crew, that keeps a non-stop fight against vampires.

Damsel is a well presented comic book style driven plot, where at each new mission, a page or two works as a cutscene, depicting conversations, events, and other important references. It’s actually very well designed and the art context could be used in physical comics, it surely has the potential. A plus for the artistic side of Damsel, that nailed the perfect artwork, maintaining the simple style, avoiding pretentious unnecessary filters, and still delivering identity.

Level design offers a good variety and although the cyber vibe can be felt throughout the game, the levels quickly become memorable, and original in their aesthetical presentation, offering good challenges and avoiding generic or consensual repetitive gameplay. This leads to a permanent increase in difficulty, as expected. Areas are colorful, but retaining a dark and obscure feeling, obviously in an animated sense, of course, as its beautiful and smooth to the eyes.

As gameplay goes, movement is pretty accurate, although can take some time to get used to the double jumping and the ability to hang from ledges. Hitboxes are well defined and there has been quite the positive improvements over since the early access phase.

Campaign mode delivers a story-based levels where completing objectives are the goal to beat, in order to put an end to the vampire infestation. Missions are diverse and very from objectives. Saving hostages, hacking computers or terminals, breaking into safes or eliminate a specific number of vampires or coffins. All of this while kicking and dashing your way through, with a very special shotgun, to burn those living dead.

At the end of each mission, there is a rank that analyses the player’s number of attempts, the time it took, the accuracy rate, collectibles, and extra objectives that weren’t required to finish the mission, but were still available. All these factors count towards the final level score, and replaying the mission gives you an opportunity to increase those numbers.

Pure arcade mode is available separately, and contains extra missions focused on objectives. This mode delivers competitive Leaderboards which shares your online scores. If the top scores aren’t for you, well then, at least you can compare them with your friends online, and see who got the best vampire-striking skills.

A mode named “Chill Out Time” is also accessible, which lets you enjoy the game with no time limit or any possible death. Perfect for training or anyone with young kids at home who want a piece of the action. For hardcore players, an extra difficulty unlocks after completing every mission in the available chapters, which significantly increases your chances of frustration, and hopefully, with entertaining moments as well.

Developed using Unity, there aren’t many options other than the basic resolutions with Windowed or Fullscreen mode. Option to activate Vsync is available and there are over 10 available languages, which is amazing. Not only that, but the game supports OpenDyslexic, a peculiar text font to help players with contrast/blindness, letter confusion or rotation, and crowdin issues.

Damsel's official soundtrack is available as a DLC, with 20 tracks composed and produced by Dan Sugars. The sound works are what was somehow expected to suit this adventure, with some groove synthesized rock, that tries to give a deep and industrial ambient. It’s a nice background wave that fits the in-game sound effects!

In an animated way, Damsel is a mix of Selene from Underworld series, with Alice from the 2002 Resident Evil movie. If anything of such is even possible, that is! An arcade-ish platformer with good visuals and pleasant gameplay. A shot in the right direction for this indie studio!

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