Screwtape Studios: Damsel (Nintendo Switch)

Developed by Australian studio Screwtape Studios, Damsel is an arcade platformer that is full of fast-paced action and has challenging yet simple gameplay that is bound to be fun for anyone to play.

Damsel’s story instantly begins by letting players know that the world is infested with vampires. An evil corporation have also created a special kind of drink called ‘Red Mist’ with a unique ingredient (which I’m sure you can guess exactly what that is), which triggers concerns, especially once humans start disappearing from city the city. Enter our cool and no-nonsense heroine Damsel, who has gone undercover to discover the mysterious disappearance of humans and the ‘Red Mist’ drink.

The story is presented to players through the style of a comic book-strip, which is very current with comics and comic book related films being popular, and it is something that I adored in Damsel. It easily sets up the mood and setting of the game, designed with dark and gothic brooding colours, a feel of old-school 90’s shooters and a cheesy vampiric story, while also giving us an idea of the lore and characters in the world of Damsel.

The gameplay also evokes the kind of 90’s-influenced PC gaming you may expect to see at a first glance. As generally a shooter and platformer mixed in one, you will find yourself dodging, shooting, in melee combat and jumping in order to complete levels and proceed onwards, all while timing things correctly without getting attacked or killed. Vampires will be roaming the levels with the thirst to attack you non-stop, spikes may be just below you, waiting for you to trip and fall to your death and hostages hopelessly tied to a chair against their free will need to be saved. As you progress further, it’s a mixture of planning and careful shooting to ensure that you don’t make a mistake and fail the level, depending on what the level requires you to do.

Damsel is split up in two modes, Campaign and Arcade. Campaign is your main experience of the story and consists of three chapters, full of many levels in each. Each level has a mission that must be met in order to proceed and the game usually mixes up overtime as you move onwards to new levels; such as destroying all vampires, hacking all computers, saving hostages or detonating all bombs before time runs out. While some may be quite easy to do and move on, some require more tactical thinking and planning instead of simply just charging and shooting at your enemies.

As mentioned earlier, hostages may need to be saved in a level, but just like enemies, you can attack and kill them too. Hostage-themed levels can be the trickier ones as it’s easy to accidentally shoot one instead of a vampire, instantly resulting in failing a level. You also need to look out for your health bar as vampires can appear from nowhere and attack you if you’re not watching. This becomes more apparent the further you get in the game’s chapters and increasing difficulty. It’s not just hostages you need to be thoughtful of. Playing Damsel is a fun experience and becomes surprisingly tactical, at least to me.

At the end of each stage, your score is tallied up, detailing results of your accuracy in killing, rescuing hostages, maybe even destroying any cameras that can alert more enemies and most importantly, collecting the purple skulls scattered throughout every level. These are what gives you a big boost in your score the most and collecting a lot within quick succession and within a consecutive amount of time can rack up big points for the online score leaderboard to show off to all players.

The second mode is Arcade, which is mostly similar to the campaign, but this time you are given only three amount of lives and must traverse through levels without losing all lives, otherwise it’s game over. I quite enjoyed Arcade mode as it felt more pressured for you to plan and think through each level, whilst still being quite fast-paced and fun.

My only issue with these levels is that the further you venture forward the more these level layouts start feeling very similar and too ‘copy-paste’. Each level is basically a small map with ledges and floors, with walls to jump on or over while shooting and avoiding enemies, is what you’d normally expect with platformers. It’s a little ‘been there done that’ as you keep moving on, which is unfortunate. Some more variety in level design would have been a little appreciated as the game progresses, it starts to feel like the same thing and gets sadly repetitive, with just more enemies and harder difficulty.

Playing the Nintendo Switch version, I can say the game plays and controls well. Everything felt precise and accurate and I have no issues to report here, considering Damsel was originally released on PC. I can’t say how the switch controls compared to the PC controls, but it’s a thumb up from me for the Switch version.

Damsel feels and plays really well, and I can say I had much enjoyment with this game. I caught myself saying that I will put my Switch down after one more level, just to get other things done. Instead, I found myself still playing hours after. Damsel addicting and fun, especially to kill time. While some levels do start feeling a little rinse-and-repeat that could do with more creativity, Damsel is a solid first indie entry from Screwtape Studios. Considering that this is the team’s first major game and is a departure from mobile titles to something more hands-on, it’s executed very well.

Images provided by Screwtape Studios.

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