Devilishly affordable, devilishly challenging and the chances of topping the leaderboards are devilishly low.
Devil Daggers is an odd game to discuss since it’s very ‘small’, but it can easily be described as a spooky first person shooter time attack game that is dirt cheap, but incredibly challenging. It’s a very deceptive game however, as the simple objective of staying alive for as long as possible is marred by specific rules used by the enemies that in theory are simple to read and avoid, but when put into play together go from zero to frighteningly threatening in no time at all. Add to that a leaderboard that demands player perfection to reach the top, and you have a small game that fills a -big- niche.
The name of the game is survival, and with every passing second the game grows more and more invested in murdering the crap out of you. At first you’ll simply get squid-like enemies that vomit a gaggle of minor skulls and a lone horned skull that tracks you much more intently when your back is turned, but before long the danger rockets up with enemies like ribbed-horned skulls that are -very- keen on biting your ankles and horrifying spiders that will produce offspring when they consume the valuable gems dropped by enemies, [just] to name a few of the obstacles the game will employ against you. Gems dropped from specific enemies go towards powering up your dagger firing hand, and make no mistake, you -need- these upgrades if you want to survive beyond a minute. You at first have two methods of attack; a constant stream of daggers machine gun style or a shotgun blast that does great damage. The only issue is that the shotgun spray is random, which is a realistic representation, but having a run be ended by a minor skull because a stray round zips by its target grows incredibly frustrating after multiple attempts at a record run. With later upgrades your fire rate increases and you gain access to homing daggers that require constant charging through gem gathering - I know this not because I’ve accessed it, but because I’ve watched replays of others from the leaderboards who clearly have been playing old school shooters more than I have.
Speaking of, the replay system is a magnificent inclusion to the game, allowing you to download and watch runs from other players to see the how's and why's of leaderboard toppers, or compare your runs against friends via filters, allowing you to improve your game. Minus very brief hiccups in the playback from time to time, the replays are a verbatim recording of a player’s run right up their demise - You don’t ‘win’ Devil Daggers. You’re going to bite the dust eventually, which is evident from how chaotic replays from the latest or recent top times get. Thanks to the study of replays and chatter on forums, subtleties like bunny-hopping and rocket-jumping have been picked up along with other nuances; always keep moving, let off on firing to gather gems quickly, prioritize certain targets, and so on. Knowing the tricks to Devil Daggers is one thing, pulling them off is something else entirely. Thankfully death can be -very- brief, as a tap of the R key at any time will reset the game into a new, fresh run for you to attempt.
You won’t be playing this game to relax and unwind thanks to the frightening enemy design and the deliciously disturbing sound design. The way the spiders flail and the crackling of their spindly limbs echoes nearby, pursuing skulls pant like horrid dogs when they’re an inch away from robbing your run. When the later minutes start rolling on not only are the constant waves of enemies overwhelming but the sounds that are going on are oppressive on the eardrums. I actually have to turn down my volume while playing, otherwise I begin to sweat and feel more stress than one should, never mind when I get to later times where my limbs begin to tighten and my heart rate leaps up. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but the Quake-style graphics only add that bit more to the appeal. While other games use pixel or ‘retro’ style graphics to cut graphical costs and merit visual appeal, Devil Daggers looks, feels and plays like it came right out of a time capsule as some sort of unreleased game, save for the modern leaderboards and replays.
Save for the at times hair-pulling unreliability of the shotgun, there really isn’t much extra that Devil Daggers could use, other than perhaps a practice mode to allow experimentation or careful studying of enemy movement without having to get killed and restart each time. The lightning quick restarts, the near seamless replay system, the floaty yet fully controllable movement and shooting, the sound design that will plague my nightmares in the most positive ways possible… As far as time attack games go, Devil Daggers is, for my money, the very best you can get. It’s also stupidly affordable at $5.49 (Canadian), so striving for leaderboard greatness will only hamper your blood pressure, not your wallet. I very much recommend the game, but I would warn those who suffer too greatly from stress-induced ailments should pass on the game for the sake of their health.