Damsel, a game about a vampiress agent who fights against an evil corporation, is the PC game debut from Aussie game devs Screwtape Studios.
Oh great – another game where I have to rescue a female. YAWN.
Uh – no.
Damsel is the hero.
See what they did there?
Before you’ve even started the game they’ve blown your mind.
And sure, you do rescue female hostages – but you also rescue male hostages because equality is for winners.
Damsel is described by Screwtape Studios as an action platformer set in a cartoon world, and that’s an excellent description. All I’d add is that it happens in 2D, and she has a shotgun.
That’s great and all but what about the game itself?
Damsel is probably one of the most responsive games I’ve ever played. And that’s handy because the pace is very quick. This game has you completing missions in less time than other games load missions.
The game starts you off with basic objectives (such as collecting skulls or freeing hostages), which become more complex as the game continues.
There are also timed missions which appear every now and then.
If you’re not a master gamer (and how many of us are?) you’ll find yourself ignoring hostages or avoiding bombs during these missions, which felt wrong to me but hey – that’s the life of a vampiric anti-corporation agent for you, I guess.
There is so much to do in this game.
There are vampires to kill, hostages to save (and also not accidentally kill), skulls to collect, cameras to destroy and things to hack.
Hacking happens via very quick minigames, all of which are intuitive and fun. One was neither (intuitive nor fun), but it was patched and fixed on Steam during the writing of this article.
Pre-patch, I had to enlist the help of my 12-year-old daughter. One mission took us a combined total of 45 attempts, so I’m glad they’ve fixed that one minigame.
Post-patch, I loaded the game to test the new minigame (they nailed it) and ended up playing Damsel for quite a while longer than I intended.
Anyway, while you’re doing the minigames the rest of the mission is still happening in real-time which means that enemies will still spawn and patrol.
However, it also means you can play minigames and engage in combat at the same time. Or you can just move away from the minigame to cancel it if needed.
How is the overall design?
The design is top-notch.
The gameplay is amazingly instinctive and uses popular game tropes in an effective and simple manner. For instance, you can rocket jump with your shotgun (shotgun jump?) by – wait for it – facing down and firing. This is the type of game where certain gamers will already know all the moves before they’ve finished the first mission.
Further, the Quality Assurance (i.e. the beta testing) for this title is off the charts. The only issue I had was ‘that one hacking minigame’ but as mentioned before that’s since been patched.
The art style gives a ’90s comics nostalgia vibe without being derivative and is perfect for this type of game. The cutscenes are comics which (unlike way too many cutscenes in a year that purports to be 2018) can be skipped through very quickly.
The music, to my mind, was amazing. If ’90s game music sensibilities with modern sounds are your jam, get onto some Damsel action.
Tutorial-wise, game tips sit unobtrusively in the background of the missions written on the walls of the level where you might need to know something.
For instance, when they introduce electricity, they tell you it can stop your gun from working.
They don’t, however, hit you over the head with the solution of how to disable the electricity.
Here, see if you can work it out:
Also, the first chapter (there are two chapters with another one on the way) feels a lot like an extended tutorial. This is a good thing – the missions in chapter two appear to be much larger.
At least, they feel that way because you’re not herded towards your objective and it’s assumed that you’re skilled at the game.
And if you’re not skilled at the game? Don’t worry, Screwtape Studio don’t want you to miss out!
There’s a ‘chillout’ mode, where you can’t die. You can still be knocked about – it’s still tough and requires skill to complete the mission – but you can stop dying, at least.
Holding out for a heroine
To my mind, the best thing about this game isn’t the amazingly responsive gameplay. It’s not the ingenious mix of old-school and modern gaming. It’s not even some other third thing.
It’s the heroine.
I LOVE ME SOME GOOD HEROINE and yes that final ‘E’ was very important to put there.
Here’s a vampiress who isn’t highly sexualised.
Granted, I can see that some people would consider that a downer or a missed opportunity, but I was happy to be able to show my daughter a new video game without making excuses for the artwork.
Damsel herself is a wholesome badass.
In the words of Megan Summer (the Producer and QA for the game), she’s ‘a Buffy meets Batman hero‘
Buffy meets Batman?
I don’t know about you, but I’d watch the crap out of that show.
But we can’t because it doesn’t exist.
Fortunately for all of us though, we can play the game.
Would you recommend this game?
Damsel is a fun game with gorgeous graphics and addicting gameplay that can be enjoyed either in binges or in 10-minute sessions. It’s kind of tough but when you die it’s because you screwed up, not the devs.
I think the game is well worth the asking price and I think it’s important to support good developers. For these reasons, I’d recommend Damsel for any platformer fans.
Heck, I’d even write a whole article about it. Obviously.
Damsel is available on Steam here.