Damsel, from Brisbane-based Screwtape Studios, deserves a lot more local love than it’s been getting. Released in early access on PC last year, Damsel has now come to consoles. On Switch, it may have found its best home. Unfortunately, it’s gotten lost in the noise of recent releases and other high-profile game. Which is a shame because Damsel is a great little independent, Australian-made title.
Sitting comfortably in the same league as Super Meat Boy, Hotline Miami and games of that ilk, Damsel is an action-platformer at its core. Players control the titular Damsel through tiny, fast-paced, hectic levels trying to get the fastest time and highest score.
There’s a story underpinning it all, but it’s largely fluff about vampire bureaucracy. It’s told via some nice comic-book style cutscenes but I’d struggle to tell you what actually happened.
The gameplay is far more interesting and enjoyable.
Damsel Switch Review
In each level, Damsel has a specific objective to complete. Sometimes she’ll need to rescue all the hostages, other times she needs to defeat all vampires or hack a computer etc. Each of these objectives is the impetus for Damsel to zip around the screen jumping, shooting and stabbing to victory.
A basic set of moves is all Damsel needs to get around. In Damsel on Switch, you use B to jump (and again in mid-air for double jump) Y to fire your weapon or use your stake at close range and R to dash. You’ll also need to use X as the context-sensitive button i.e. freeing hostages, disarming bombs and the like.
Getting a handle on the way Damsel moves is the first great challenge of the game. Damsel is a lot floatier than you’d expect. Often, I’d overshoot my goal of jump way too soon and mess up my entire run.
I was actually pretty down on Damsel at first because of the controls. However, once I understood the weight of the character and the way she moved, I was loving it.
In each level, there’ll be a host of vampire enemies, usually some hostages and bombs as well as a number of floating skulls. These skulls will give you a score multiplier. The more you collect, the higher the multiplier. As you collect more skulls the multiplier timer will deplete more rapidly, making it essential for you to move quickly and precisely.
Herein lies the brilliance of Damsel and it’s “just one more try” addictiveness. Like a racing game, levels in Damsel have a perfect line that following will net you the best score. Figuring these lines out and then perfecting them is key to mastering Damsel.
However, it’s not as easy as it seems.
You’ll need to link jumps, dashes, pogo jumps (firing downwards while in the air), melee, shooting and more. The faster you move, the greater the chance you’ll make a mistake. Some mistakes you can live with, like mistiming a jump but others aren’t as forgiving.
Accidentally shoot one hostage and it’s game over for that level and you’ll need to start again.
Something for Everyone
If you just want to enjoy the platforming aspects then you can turn the Chillout mode on. With Chillout mode on, you can’t even die, so it’s perfect for younger players or those who just want to, well, chill out.
There are also leaderboards to show you how far off the mark you are and to give you an incentive to “Git Gud Skrub.”
Visually, Damsel is really pretty and has a great comic-book vibe with lots of colours and plenty of character. On the Switch, the visuals are crisp and clear and even in handheld mode, everything is easily visible and readable. I did notice some mild slowdown and some audio distortion issues during loading on Switch, but nothing that affected the gameplay.
There’s lots to love about Damsel and on Switch, it’s perfectly suited to playing on the train, tram or backseat of the car. If you crave the challenge of trying to attain perfection through minuscule improvements each time, then Damsel is definitely for you.
As I said, the Hotline Miami and Super Meat Boy crowd will eat it up with a spoon.
Damsel was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by the developer.
Game Title: Damsel