If you are a big fan of the metroidvania genre, I have a title that may interest you. DOOMBLADE, although not your typical 2D platforming game, incorporates twin-stick shooter elements into the mix. You begin the game as a dark creature with horns and tentacle-like arms and legs. Your glowing eyes guide you through the dark cavern as you head towards the only source of light on the screen. A voice calls out to you, compelling you to follow the light, leaving you no other choice but to move in that direction. The character you play is Gloom Girl, the last surviving member of the Gloomfolk. Alone and afraid, she hears a voice promising vengeance against the Dread Lords, the ones responsible for her situation.
Initially, Gloom Girl lacks any means to attack, and she can only perform short jumps or walks, but it is enough to avoid enemies until she discovers a hidden room in the wall. Inside this room, she finds the DOOMBLADE, a sword that has been trapped here for countless years, chained to the wall with no means of escape. As the name might suggest, it’s an evil entity seeking revenge against the Dread Lords that convinces Gloom Girl to join forces by revealing her status as the chosen Gloomling. Realising her own weakness, Gloom Girl accepts the blade's offer, forging an alliance between them. As she picks up the blade, it asks if she can feel the power and rage surging within her. With their fates now entwined, their objective is to break the seals, escape their prison, and embark on their quest.
DOOMBLADE shares similarities with traditional metroidvanias, requiring exploration and obtaining specific abilities to access certain areas. However, it diverges in other aspects. Rather than simply swinging a sword at enemies, Gloom Girl targets them and charges directly at them in flight. Most enemies fall with a single hit, but a few pesky ones require an extra strike. Acquiring the DOOMBLADE really makes this previously helpless girl feel powerful and able to take on any obstacle that gets in her way. The game allows you to use either a keyboard and mouse or a controller. Initially, I opted for the gamepad since I'm more accustomed to it, but I remapped the jump button as using the left trigger felt odd. You aim using the right thumbstick, and the targets you can hit are indicated by swirling arrows. It is crucial to aim first before attacking. If playing with a keyboard, you select your target with the mouse and attack by clicking the right button. I found it easier to move with a controller, but attacking was smoother and faster using the mouse. Ultimately, the choice depends on your playstyle!
Defeated enemies drop bones, which serve as currency, and hearts that replenish one of your health points. In the beginning, you start with five of them, but as you explore, you will find additional heart pieces to increase your maximum health; similar to the Legend of Zelda, you need four pieces to complete a full heart. It was nice to be able to add health, as it can deplete quite fast when you are fighting hordes of enemies! DOOMBLADE lacks autosave, so you will likely find yourself doing a fair amount of backtracking. However, if you fall in battle, you will respawn at the last saved spot, so it’s not too punishing. In addition to providing a new checkpoint, these save points also restore your health, making it essential to remember their locations when your hearts are depleted or when you acquire a new item.
The world of DOOMBLADE reminded me of Metroid, with its descent through shafts and encounters with spiky characters that cannot be killed, only frozen. Just like the Chozos in Metroid, statues in DOOMBLADE hold power-ups and new abilities. Unlike the clinical and sterile feel of the original Metroid, the underground caverns in DOOMBLADE possess a beautiful hand-painted aesthetic that gives off warmth rather than a sense of desolation. In my mind, it is a welcome change! Industrial rock tracks provide high-energy battle music, contrasting with the calm and atmospheric tunes in other areas.
Inside the labyrinths, you encounter various enemies and spores residing deep within the mines. Strategic placement of plants on platforms serves as handholds to reach otherwise inaccessible areas, as Gloom Girl's jumping ability is limited. Thus, you must utilise these plants to traverse the environment. The first item you acquire is the Ethereal Eye, which reveals a map of your explored locations. Important spots like save points are marked, so it is easier to get back to a previously explored location or so you are able to figure out where you haven’t been yet. As you progress and defeat bosses, you discover new abilities, such as attacking enemies through walls, performing a slam attack, or flying upwards. These abilities significantly enhance your mobility, making previously inaccessible areas open to be explored.
DOOMBLADE offers little hand-holding. Much of what you learn is through exploration, as the map does not indicate where you need to go. At times when I would feel lost and unsure of where to go, I would venture into areas that I hadn’t explored yet to find a way to progress. It can be frustrating to return to the last save point after being overwhelmed by hordes of enemies. However, the ability to target multiple foes simultaneously was very gratifying when you could destroy a lot of foes with one swipe! Personally, I found it easier to use my keyboard and mouse for combat, which allowed for precise targeting. Since I don’t play a ton of games using the keyboard, it took me a little while to get used to this new control scheme, but it is worth the time. Besides battling against many foes at once, this game also challenges you with hazards you need to avoid, like lasers or thorny bushes that test your reflexes. If you are a fan of metroidvanias that test your hand-eye coordination and provide a challenge, DOOMBLADE is definitely a title worth playing!
DOOMBLADE (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
DOOMBLADE is a fast-paced metroidvania title that blends twin-stick shooter mechanics. With tons of enemies and challenging boss battles, it puts your skills to the test. If you enjoy games with minimal hand-holding, this is the perfect choice for you!