by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Imagine Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a secret agent along the lines of James Bond, but instead of piercing vampires through the heart with a wooden stake, she had a number of high tech vampire fighting weapons with which to destroy the flighty beasts after infiltrating their headquarters. Damsel does just that, placing the gamer within a platform game taking on the role of the titular character, Agent Damsel. It is up to Damsel to work her way through the locations, killing vampires and destroying the coffins in which they sleep, as well as performing other set tasks in order to rid the world of the immortal blood-suckers.
Damsel comes with two modes – Arcade and Campaign. The Arcade mode gives our hero a number of lives and the gamer must move through as many of the levels, completing the main mission goal of collecting skulls whilst also completing the side goals in order to gain a larger score. These arcade levels are great for speed-running enthusiasts, as bonus points are awarded for collecting the purple skulls in a quick time. Of course, the speed bonus needs to be weighed up against the bonuses given for completing all the side goals. Upon ending the game, your score is added up and compared to all those who have played. Challenge accepted.
The second mode is the campaign mode, which consists of three chapters (of which only one is currently playable) of twenty five missions. Levels are generally quite easy to complete, but are varied in the mission goals. Apart from collecting the purple skulls scattered throughout the levels and killing the vampires like a high-tech Buffy, Damsel might be asked to destroy vampire coffins, hack servers to enable access to other areas of a level, or even rescue hostages. Enemies are generally easy to destroy especially in close with melee combat, but I often found myself losing a level due to the death of a hostage through a stray shot of Damsel’s weapon.
Vampires and other undead characters aren’t the only thing Damsel has to deal with in levels. Environmental dangers such as spikes, electrical currents and even ill-placed time bombs can put an end to our hero if a player’s movements are misjudged. Luckily for gamers, movements are rather smooth in Damsel. Damsel can be played with a keyboard and mouse combo, or with a controller, and although I would definitely suggest the latter, both are quite playable. Having said that, some of the keyboard/mouse controls almost require three hands as you run and jump with the keyboard and shoot with the mouse. Though, as mentioned, the controls are smooth and enable our hero to move around the areas hassle free. Running, double-jumping and in-air combat are easy to pull off, and the level designs are simple enough that I knew it was my fault if Damsel died, rather than some inaccuracies of the control scheme.
Damsel is a vibrant game, and despite the fact that the game is mostly played out in evening settings, is full of colour, with a range of purples featuring. The visual style reminded me of the cartoon look of Shank 2, whilst the professional looking Damsel fits the mould of a heroine along the lines of Kim Possible mixed with the previously mentioned Buffy. The backgrounds are nice and do not detract from the gameplay, leaving the gamer to focus on the task at hand. The soundtrack is pretty cool, with upbeat digitised music setting the tone for the fast-paced game. Sound effects are fairly standard for platform shooters, but do a more than adequate job.
Can’t wait for more vampire slaying
I first saw a sample of Damsel a couple of years back at PAX Aus, and it looked great back then. But what you see at expos and events are often simply what the developers and/or publishers want you to see. But I can happily say that from what I’ve seen of the game, the PAX Aus display was a great indication of how much fun it is. With smooth controls, fun and varied levels and some lovely, colourful visuals, Damsel is looking like being one of my favourite platformers of recent time. I can’t wait to see how the other chapters evolve, but in the meantime, that top score looks gettable. Just one more turn should do it. Well, that's what I thought five attempts ago...so we'll see.
Fast paced with plenty of action. Varied level design
Keyboard and mouse controls can be difficult