Damsel review for Nintendo Switch

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC, Switch, Xbox One
Publisher: Screwtape Studios
Developer: Screwtape Studios
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

Damsel is a lot of things done exceptionally, and one thing done really wrong.

When first loading into Damsel, one thing is clear: the visual design is solid. Comic book visuals flood this game, from loading screens to the UI to color schemes all the way down to point totals that fall, bounce, and rest on platforms until they eventually disappear. Less the oddly snarky and unfinished looking bloodied vampire “game over” screen, everything here feels consistent and polished.

The same goes for movement design. At no point in the game can controls be blamed, given the significant amount of freedom and precision given by the game. Using a basic jump/double jump/dash system is fine, and the ability to stomp and melee (when near enough to an enemy) are solid. But where the game really starts to excel is in using the gun as a Newtonian pogo stick. It’s unusual that a game would allow someone to fly from one side of the stage to the other by firing downwards repeatedly, but Damsel does just that. It’s also welcome that the designers allowed this, because it gives a level of movement and strategy that bring the game into its own.

But therein is the big issue: for all of the polish on the visuals and the movement design, Damsel is sorely lacking in gameplay and level design. Stages start to feel similar, then diverge a little, then ram back into similarity over and over. It’s here that the game starts to show its seams–feeling more like a mobile game than an actual console game. Level designs are short, difficult by way of oddly placed items, and a bit irritating.

This is, of course, from someone who’s not a huge fan of genre contemporaries Super Meat Boy or Spelunky.

Even then, the game really never needed to return to the same exact level so many times with slightly varied goals that overlap to the point of self-sabotage. For example: one time around, you have to save all the hostages while typically killing all the vampires, activating all the switches, and disabling all the time bombs–another time around, you have to disable all the time bombs…while killing all the vampires, activating all the switches, and hey the hostages are there–so you might as well do that too. As a result, the game starts to feel like a drag halfway through the first chapter.

Which is a shame, because this is a really great game in concept.

Note: Screwtape Studios provided us with a Damsel Nintendo Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: C