Demon Turf Review
Videogame characters rarely have “attitude” these days. In the 90s and early 2000s it was everywhere, with every platform mascot and their dog having a suave and sarcastic demeanor. Nowadays it’s all about feelings and being realistic, fully fleshed-out characters. That’s great, but sometimes it’s cool to play a character with limited dimensions, and Demon Turf’s plucky protagonist Beebz fits that description in more ways than one.
Developer Fabraz has done really well here to evoke the spirit of those old-fashioned platformers and this really feels like it would be at home on the Dreamcast. The graphical style is quite original, with a cel-shaded 3D world inhabited by 2D character sprites. It’s not too far from something like Paper Mario or Parappa the Rapper, but instead of the character models being “floppy”, they turn with your camera to give a 3D illusion. It takes a little while to get used to, but when you do it actually ends up being very intuitive.
The core gameplay loop is exactly what you would expect from a platformer. Beebz has to collect batteries to claim turf from the demons of hell in order to gain enough respect from bosses to be able to fight them. Along the way you can also collect sweets that allow you to purchase upgrades such as higher jumps or faster running. These aren’t required to beat the game’s levels, but they do come in handy for some of the side challenges that are available.
Those aforementioned side challenges are plentiful too. There are trials that you can run for a little talking mind dude which challenge you to master the game’s controls, and each level has a speedrunning target time. In addition, there are arcade games that can be collected in the main world hub. Presented in similar art style to the main game, these are accessed within a literal in-game arcade which is run by a vampire. You can probably tell by now that Demon Turf has its tongue firmly in its cheek throughout, and only takes itself so seriously.
Where it does take itself seriously is in the control department. These are deceptively complex, allowing for a great degree of freedom in how to approach levels. You have your regular jump or double jump, but in addition there’s a flutter jump, a flutter double jump, and a few different kinds of super jump. This gives quite precise control over Beebz, but it will take a lot of practice to acquire this control as there’s minimal room for error in some of the more intricate manoeuvres. The default automatic camera doesn’t help with this either; I found that for a number of the more awkward platforming sections it was near-impossible to work out what was going on, as the camera would either get stuck in a corner, or just wouldn’t pan to the position needed. The manual camera is far easier to work with so I would recommend setting this from the outset.
One rather interesting mechanic that you get given in Demon Turf is the ability to set your own checkpoints. You can set up to three points as you go, with a fourth available to be unlocked. This is great for giving yourself a checkpoint just before a particularly hard section, but I found myself regretting setting them too early on a number of levels, and in a few cases I ended up having to restart a level as a result. Some of the levels are particularly unforgiving and whilst I enjoy a challenge, it has to be said some parts of the title are a bit on the frustrating side.
There were a number of different points during my playthrough where Beebz got stuck in a bit of scenery. These were usually resolvable, but in one instance I had to return to a checkpoint after she got caught in an apparently particularly sticky bit of wall. There was also one point where I managed to collect four out of three sweets in a level, although this sorted itself out the next time I died. It’s not a major problem, but it did take some of the shine off of an otherwise well-polished game.
With the retro styling, the difficulty and a few small glitches, Demon Turf isn’t a perfect platformer, but it’s certainly one that’s well worth playing if you like an old-school platform title with a bit of cheesy dialogue. A few small niggles weren’t enough to stop me from overall enjoying my experience and I would recommend it to anybody else who laments the death of the cocky protagonist.
Demon Turf (Reviewed on PlayStation 5)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
A stylish throwback to a couple of decades ago, this platformer will appeal mainly to those who still miss the Dreamcast. A few niggles with the camera, a couple of minor bugs and some rather harsh difficulty spikes stop it from being a world-beater, but it's a solid piece of fun despite these small issues.