Game: Demon’s Tier+
Genre: Arcade, Action, Adventure, Roguelike
System: Nintendo Switch (also on PC, Xbox one and PS4)
Developer|Publisher: COWCAT | Diabolical Mind
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US Everyone
Price: UK £8.99 | EU €9,99 | AU $15.00 | CA $12.59 | US $9.99
Release Date: 9th June 2020
Review code used with many thanks to COWCAT!
The trilogy is complete
Edgar Wright directed three films in the noughties: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End. All are which are utterly brilliant and definitely worth watching. These films make up what the geek culture call the Cornetto Trilogy (Cornetto is a famous British ice cream brand). This is because even though these films stand alone, they’re connected by a tiny reference to a different flavour of Cornetto in each film.
How does this link to today’s review, you ask? Well, Demon’s Tier+ completes the Diabolical Mind trilogy of games which consists of Riddled Corpses EX, Xenon Valkyrie+, and now Demon’s Tier+. (I had only played Xenon Valkyrie+, a 2D roguelike game, which I thoroughly enjoyed on the Vita and repurchased for the Switch.) It’s clear that Demon’s Tier+ is it’s own game entirely, but part of me suspects there’s a loose connection between all three games even if it’s only based on a ice cream. Anyway, enough rambling and onto the review.
Demon’s Tier+ plops you in the shoes of the Warrior, and your job is to descend into some dungeons to take down all the nasties that occupy the dark corridors. As the game progresses you soon learn about King Thosgar, who has succumbed to dark demonic forces and is the cause of all the evil that has appeared in the world.
The tone of the king’s story is quite dark, but what isn’t dark is the witty dialogue between the Warrior and his merry band of friends. These friends make up the other seven unlockable heroes.
The first time you move from dungeon to dungeon, the friends have a banter about the challenge they are up against, with the Warrior generally taking the mission seriously while the others, like the Mage, make comments about their fear of spiders while other characters mock her. The best character by far, though, is the Berserker, whose dialogue mostly consists of him wanting to simply kill things and get on with the mission, a sentiment I often connect to more than I should in gaming.
Top-down twin stick shooter
Demon’s Tier is a top-down retro-looking twin stick shooter. The controls are solid and responsive for movement and attacking.
Your character also has an ability that they can use repeatedly and charges up over time, like increased defense for the Warrior and a proximity mine for the Archer. You also have a dodge move which helps block enemy projectiles and is a lifesaver in boss fights. This, too, requires a short charge to re-use.
You raid randomly generated dungeons, but unlike a lot of rogue-like games you don’t have to clear the area of all enemies. Instead you are given a mission to complete. An example would be to find a key to unlock a chest, kill a specific hidden enemy, or of course, you may be asked to kill everything. I found it rather funny that the mission scrolls at the bottom of the screen as a gentle reminder of what you need to do. You can also check your objective in the pause menu.
Fear the Reaper
After a couple of floors, you fight a gigantic boss which is usually scary and rather grotesque. By defeating them you get a lot of gold and possibly a scroll which will unlock a new weapon for your character back in town.
Exploration is encouraged as there are multiple chests with money, health, and possibly runes to buff up your stats. You may also come across a prisoner locked in a cage, but you need a silver key to release them. If you free them, they join you on your quest as a companion–which is awesome, although sometimes they get stuck in corridors.
If you linger too long on a floor, a gigantic terrifying Grim Reaper will hunt you down to kill you. Fortunately, a timer on your HUD indicates how long you have. I loved this mechanic as it reminded me of Bubble Bobble, except the Grim Reaper in this game is much more scary.
Between floors you can spend your hard-earned cash on a variety of upgrades–health, defense, attack, range, etc. In its small tutorial, the game encourages you to pour money in the health upgrade. But I often favoured sinking currency into attack and defense since that’s the kinda crazy gamer I am. However, you get to build your character the way that suits your play style.
Know when to quit
Dungeon floors are large and expansive. Pausing the game does show you a map of the floor, which clearly marks the sections you have visited in case you get a bit lost.
Killing enemies nets you D-tokens which act as the game’s currency to unlock new characters, weapons, and items to assist you on your quest. Unlike typical roguelike games where currency is transferred to another playthrough, Demon’s Tier throws in something extra. When you die, you lose absolutely everything–like a true Rogue game. There is one single chance at redeeming your accumulated D-tokens, however.
On replaying, if you reach the floor you died on and break your gravestone, you can re-claim your D-tokens. If you die before reaching the gravestone, you lose all D-tokens locked to that playthrough, including those in the stone. The only way to spend your D-tokens is that you need to use an escape rope item to return to town. The benefit to this is that you can spend all your well-earned D-tokens, but the catch is you then have to start the game all over.
I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about this mechanic to begin with. Since I quite like to take risks in rogue-like games, I often died many times in Demon’s Tier and lost loads of D-tokens. But after many playthroughs I came to appreciate the risk-reward mechanic at play. It’s about knowing when to quit and live to fight another day.
The graphics are small but cute retro sprites for the characters and most enemies. Larger enemies and bosses, however, are gross-looking sprites, which makes for an interesting clash of styles. I kinda liked seeing a cute little retro character battling an enormous but disgusting spider.
The dungeons are dark. I mean, really dark. They are lit by crystals and candles, which was a nice effect, but you don’t always have a full view of the level. This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the darn spike traps which I constantly got caught by. Due to the random generation of the levels, sometimes multiple spike traps were placed together, literately blocking my path. This meant I had to take health damage in order to progress.
It was also hard to identify what was a hazard and what wasn’t, a challenge that increased in later lava-based levels. The graphics looked so messy that it was hard to detect sprites against the background, meaning I often lost health due to failing to identify the hazards.
In the options you can switch the graphical style, something rarely seen in games. You can switch between CRT, retro, or high-res modes. High-res mode looked a bit weird. It sorta merged the pixels, making the game look like a smudgy oil painting. I was happy sticking with the retro mode, which the game defaults to.
The music also doesn’t feel like it fits. It’s often a happy retro-style tune, which is fine if a little odd in a dark dungeon filled with goblins. But this combination of odd music choice and overly cluttered graphics failed to affect my enjoyment and eagerness to play another round.
Reasons to return, co-op being one
Like in many roguelike games, the main story is not long but will take multiple attempts to see through to the end. There’s plenty to unlock with the D-tokens, and with all the characters and weapons to choose from, there are many reasons to play over and over again. It’s fun to experiment with all the different characters once unlocked, who all have their own stats and perks.
This game features couch co-op too, which is just brilliant. In the main town, you simply go up to the 2P sign and your friend can jump in for some good co-op fun.
This is an easy game to pick up and play alone or with a friend. While it has its flaws, I absolutely loved playing through Demon’s Tier. The visuals and music don’t always match, but the gameplay here is really solid. The fact that I kept replaying it over and over without putting it down is proof enough that this didn’t dramatically affect my enjoyment. While this could be the end of a trilogy, I would not say no to seeing what the developer has in store next.
Final Verdict: I liked it a lot!