“Not all damsels have to be in distress. In fact, some damsels can cause it.”
Screwtape Studios’ memorable slogan is tacked onto Damsel, a cartoony platformer that turns the tables on the classic video game trope. You play as Agent Damsel, a vampire hunter who makes Princess Peach look like an absolute fool. Instead of hiding from the darkness, Damsel embraces it, traveling the world with one goal in mind — to cleanse the vampire underworld of evil. Agent Damsel seems unstoppable with a trusty shotgun by her side, but does gameplay fare in the same way?
I can confirm Damsel relates nicely to its label of “arcade platformer”. As evidenced by chained-combos and timers, the game centers around speedrunning each level and trying to beat missions as flawlessly as possible. Damsel is mainly about arcade skill and mastering the variety of platforming moves available. Movement is smooth, and reminds me of the often forgotten Strider reboot. However, goofy environments sometimes clash with the idea of razor-sharp accuracy in Damsel. It’s extremely difficult to build a game that relies on precise movement around a cartoonishly clunky atmosphere. I’d say Damsel performs strongly under these worrying conditions, but carries a burdensome cap that limits its final potential.
Although Damsel is phenomenal as an intellectual property, the PC title itself seems only slightly better than average. While it boasts over 150 missions currently in development with potential for even more in the future, the large number is somewhat misleading, as even a simple change in objective counts as a brand new “mission”. From Damsel’s preview build, there will be 15 unique environments with several missions available for each. I’m not saying more stages need to be added, but just know the difference between a location and a mission within one. Also, there isn’t much of a story or connection between levels. Content isn’t necessarily lacking in quantity here, but falls a bit short on quality. An immersive storyline and more streamlined progression would do wonders for the game.
I was able to try several of the mission types that are being offered in Damsel. Each one takes about a minute to complete, but you’re meant to work for badges and high scores. They consist of clearing enemies, finding a briefcase, or defusing bombs. Insta-death makes these otherwise straightforward tasks much more difficult. You know how some mobile games have that refresh button pop up right after you win or lose? Damsel needs that format. Upon losing, which will definitely happen countless times, you’re brought to a loading screen that takes just a few seconds too long for the modern attention span. Restlessness would be magically cured with a refresh button that immediately thrusts you back into the action instead. A minor complaint indeed, it’s worth mentioning, as fast-paced gameplay needs to have fast-paced loading screens.
Damsel would do better as an animated series, but it’s already a game in progress. Since there’s no turning back at this point, all we can do is hope for the best. Sadly, I do not think Damsel can reach award-winning status, but it definitely has the power to entertain. While some games are over-hyped and turn out to be flops, Damsel is under-hyped and may surprisingly become an indie favorite. Whatever the case, I encourage you try to try out Damsel’s public demo for yourself, and possibly support its final stages of crowdinvested development.