Review: Devil Daggers

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I’m finally coming off the adrenaline high from Devil Daggers, enough to keep my hands steady while I type. I can still feel my pulse in my fingertips, though, reminding me of my last sudden fatality by laughing skull. It’s the most recent death of many, sometimes brought on by nerves, sometimes by hesitation, and sometimes by arrogance. There aren’t many ways to die in the game, but a lot of reasons why, enough to keep the cycle of death and more death fresh for hours.

Devil Daggers is an arena FPS pitting you and your titular daggers against a yawning void of bloodthirsty skulls. Every attempt sees your enemies spawning in waves, a host of flying skulls, laughing skulls, spider skulls, serpent skulls, and worse. Your only defenses are your Quake-like reflexes and your daggers, fired in either a chaotic stream or a shotgun-like blast. Both attacks see a lot of use in culling the horde, either hosing down dense groups or sniping troublesome skulls.

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Larger enemies drop gems that can upgrade your attacks, but you can only attract them when you’re not shooting. Furthermore, there are enemies that will happily hoover up your gems, delaying your vital upgrades. It’s a small detail but one that adds a significant layer of strategy to the game. You’ll die plenty trying to master it, though, as the end is only a single skull touch away. The learning curve is significant but there is one, because enemies always spawn in at the same times each round, just in different places.

All of this is wrapped in a deliciously chunky retro-3D package that evokes the best parts of early shooters. I know some people call the original Quake ugly but it had a grim, nightmarish quality to its software polygons that Devil Daggers makes the most of. The sound design deserves special mention as well, hitting you with dark rumblings, menacing synth, and quad-damage-style stingers in the heat of battle. Each of your foes has their own cues, from the coconut-like clatter of basic skulls to the spiderleg-tapping of enormous skittering horrors. The persistent audio assault coupled with the dark, pixel-blurred creatures lunging at you from all angles makes every round a little panic attack of demonic portend.

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There are global and friend leaderboards to compare scores on, so you’ll get the most out of the game if you have folks to chase after. The only criticism I can really level against Devil Daggers is that that’s it. There’s no story, no multiplayer, no other modes or permutations other than that one harrowing arena. Hopefully you understand at this point that the combat, enemy, and aesthetic designs make this more than worth your time, because you’ll find few rushes in the gaming world like Devil Daggers.

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