Demons with Shotguns is an action, indie game currently (at time of this review) in early access. The game was released June 2015 on steam and was developed by MindShaft Games, LLC. Demons with Shotguns shares traits from other games; such as Super Meat Boy and Duck Game.
The plot of the game is to survive waves of enemies in an arena type scenario by using your shotgun and power-ups. Each wave progressively becomes harder as more enemies spawn. When completing the final wave, the player completes the stage and moves on to the next. Subsequent levels become harder by introducing new types of enemies which will alter the way the game is experienced; such as demon-guards and demons which explode in a suicidal attempt to take you with them – much like the boomer from Left 4 Dead. Furthermore, there is a variety of characters to be chosen which fits the heaven vs hell theme such as an angel, demon, death or preacher to name a few examples.
There are two game modes in Demons with Shotguns, the single player/co-operative ‘End of Times’ and local multiplayer versus mode where up to four players can blast away at one another. Demons with Shotguns gameplay revolves around platforming and ammo managing the shotgun which adds a layer of difficulty, risk and reward as players must manage the distance they choose to engage enemies. This adds a question of whether the situations players find themselves in require safety or damage to survive. Players also solely rely on ammo-spawns to help survive the waves of demons, pickups can also add a variety of game experience such as increased jump-height or increasing the power of shotgun shells. Other mechanics such as using the knock-back from the shotgun to boost jumps added another layer of intricate gameplay because it aids in both platforming and giving the player a learning curve to master the mechanics of the game. The game also allows for the player to block enemy fire or melee with a shield with the exception of the bazooka. Demons with Shotguns is a game which has solid gameplay mechanics and gives some satisfaction with the gore effects and addictive shotgun meta-game.
However, there is also a variety of issues in the gameplay of Demons with Shotguns. While the game gives great shotgun satisfaction and the movement of the characters felt just right. The power-ups within the game were unclear and only a few stood out within the seven that could be used. The shotgun power-up and angelic jump power-ups being the most communicative and clear to understand while the rest were non-existent. For example, the speed-boost power-up makes the character slippery and uncontrollable for the extent the power-up and thus added a number of frustrating and unavoidable deaths because of the lack of control and inability to escape enemies. Elements of the game can also blend together such as the foreground and background, at times levels were confusing because it was unclear where or what could be used to platform on – such as the third (church) level with the crosses.
The art and music within the game were great additions to the game because it added to the overall theme of the game. However, at times the character blended with the backgrounded and gunfire was often difficult to see because of the conflict between foreground and background elements of the game. One of the most innovative aspects of this indie-shooter was the music – adding a mix of haunting and upbeat nostalgia to aim for the older demographic of players. Demons with Shotguns is not informative or friendly to new-players either, with the problematic lack of tutorial or explanations of powers. The game lacks any guide or in-game menu of controls for the controller or keyboard. While the player can bind controls, the game does not explain or show what keys can be used for the keyboard. One example of this was the inability to go into a game using the keyboard because it was unclear what controls should be used to do something simple like entering a game. Thus the experience of the game was through the game controller and not the default keyboard and mouse. It is because of the lack of control or tutorial into the game that adds an unnecessary level of difficulty to the game.
The difficulty varies from normal or hardcore, the normal difficulty of the game only develops a higher skill curve to challenge the player within the last level itself. The difficulty of the game changes through the enemies that are used to manipulate the players game experience. For example, the last (fourth) level was difficult because of the single rocket-launcher enemy which has an enormous blast radius which was often unavoidable because it goes through various platforms.
In conclusion Demons with Shotguns offers an addictive shotgun experience as blowing enemies apart was the biggest highlight of this game. The action and skill is rewarding, and players with a thirst for gunplay and gore will enjoy the few hours this game can offer with friends. The theme, art and music of the game were fitting and added a sense of style to the game but elements often blended together such as the background and foreground. The character models were bland and unoriginal as the lack of game modes hinders the longevity of the game to a mere few hours. Players looking for an original, fresh or bang for their buck will be left disappointed as Demons with Shotgun felt unoriginal and could offer nothing memorable or unique to its name.
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