Devil Dag­gers


EDGE - - GAMES - PC Out now So­rath

Devil Dag­gers is an un­usual crea­ture: part twitchy first­per­son score-at­tack shooter, part hor­ror game. It’s com­pul­sive and re­pul­sive at the same time, work­ing both as an ex­pertly de­signed test of skill, but also a test of nerve set in a dimly lit cir­cle of hell. When the game asks you to seize the float­ing dag­ger to start the round, it’s a fraught mo­ment. It’s a chance to add a few pre­cious sec­onds to your best time, but it places you mo­ments away from a trau­matic death.

The dag­ger is your only weapon against the hordes of hell. Seize it and the small cir­cu­lar arena starts to fill with float­ing egg-sacks that vomit roam­ing skulls into the air ev­ery few sec­onds. You fend them off with an in­fi­nite stream of dag­gers – fired rapidly from your fin­gers – but only for a short time. Soon, new ten­ta­cled crea­tures spawn on the edge of the dark cir­cle. Hordes of spi­ders be­gin hatching from eggs. Huge snakes start arc­ing over­head. The horde pur­sues you re­lent­lessly. A sin­gle touch means death, but the ef­fect is more pro­found, like be­ing swal­lowed by a night­mare.

Devil Dag­gers creates this in­tense re­sponse with the care­ful use of old ren­der­ing tech­niques. So­rath’s be­spoke en­gine is de­signed to repli­cate the poly­gon jit­ter and tex­ture warp­ing of early 3D games, and th­ese Fly­ing skulls are most com­mon en­emy. They’re a con­stant threat that must be mopped up quickly be­tween at­tacks from spi­der-egg throw­ers and the dreaded laugh­ing skulls, which will haunt your dreams un­nat­u­ral dis­tor­tions give the crea­tures a dis­turb­ing, grimy qual­ity. Sound de­sign is also ex­cep­tional. The com­pressed, digi­tised screams and en­emy death rat­tles man­age to be both un­set­tling and func­tional. Horned skulls – one of the few hom­ing en­emy types that can move faster than you – can be pin­pointed by their laugh­ter be­fore they bite your head off. The gur­gling noise of a fresh spawn lets you keep track of the mo­ment a flood of new en­e­mies en­ters the arena, which is use­ful, be­cause crowd con­trol is es­sen­tial if you want to sur­vive for more than 60 sec­onds.

Move­ment is smooth and fast, re­call­ing the flu­id­ity of sem­i­nal arena shoot­ers such as Quake 3 and Un­real Tour­na­ment 2004. Bunny-hop­ping and blast-jump­ing also nod back to this era, but are ap­plied in a hordesur­vival con­text that feels fresh. It’s a mis­take to think of Devil Dag­gers as a nos­tal­gic throw­back when it does so much to re­fine what it bor­rows. In­stead of mul­ti­ple weapons, you ac­cess dif­fer­ent fire modes through mouse tech­nique: hold down the but­ton for a stream; tap sharply for a shot­gun spray.

More lay­ers emerge as you push past the minute mark. Spe­cific en­e­mies drop gems that power up your dag­gers, en­cour­ag­ing you to leave spawn sacks alive to keep your gem sup­ply open. Af­ter a while, bosses start to ap­pear, adding greater ter­ror and dif­fi­culty to a stark but fo­cused and en­ter­tain­ing ac­tion game.

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