Demoniaca: Everlasting Night is an extremely gothic, extremely brutal Metroidvania that shakes things up by utilizing a fighting game control scheme with mixed (or maybe not so mixed) success.
Title: Demoniaca: Everlasting Night
Release Date: January 12, 2022 (Switch version)
Suggested Audience Age: M for Mature for Blood and Gore, Violence, Nudity, Language, Sexual Themes
Time to Play: 8 hours, according to HowLongToBeat.com
Availability: Switch, Xbox, PlayStation, PC
Recommended for fans of: Metroidvania games, heavy brawlers, and getting lots of Game Overs
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
Metroidvania games will always pique my interest. When a 2D side-scrolling action game with an emphasis on combat and exploration works well, it’s fantastic. However, that genre also has a pretty wide gulf in quality. Coming off of finishing Death’s Gambit: Afterlife, I was in the mood for another dark, demonic game to spend way too long trying to get good at.
I installed the Castlevania Anniversary Collection on my Switch, intending to play Symphony of the Night for the first time. Yeah, I know, it's crazy I've never played it. Before I got a chance to start it, an opportunity to try Demoniaca: Everlasting Night came up. This game looked like it was wonderfully demented with great pixel art and a ridiculously heavy metal environment, so I was excited to jump in.
Climb the Tower, Kill the Demons
I know it’s pretty common for Metroidvania games to kick off without a lot of worldbuilding or backstory. Because the environment is an oppressive, interactive, and persistent part of the story in true gothic fashion, not knowing quite where you are, what you are doing, or how to do it can build tension in these exploration-focused games.
Having said that, I think Demoniaca goes way too minimalistic in its opening plot. As far as I understand it, everyone you ever knew was murdered, but you got some demon blood mixed into your blood when that happened so now you have superpowers and are therefore leading a one-woman assault against a recreated Tower of Babel full of demons. Naturally.
In the tower, you meet all sorts of colorful characters who push the story along like:
- Enigmatic blue haired girl who is always ahead of you and meows.
- Man with a cardboard box for a head who hates ravens.
- Unremarkable shopkeeper who keeps a shop in a mysterious murder castle full of demons.
- Snake guy and his pet: a big snake.
I’m totally willing to admit that I didn’t make it far through the story of this game, so maybe everything makes sense eventually… but it doesn’t do much to pull a player in at the beginning. It feels like everything is weird and vague for the sake of being weird and vague, instead of being weird and vague that compelled me to understand it's vague weirdness.
Exploring the environment
On the plus side, the details that got left out of the plot were poured straight into the aesthetics of Demoniaca. I think this game looks and sounds great. The castle you explore is dark and dreary while also being vibrant and full of life. Each space that you enter feels new and interesting, which makes exploring feel rewarding, even if you explore your way to a dead end and just end up turning back.
There’s a bit of CRT curvature applied to the screen that goes a long way towards making the style work. It helps to draw your eye toward the action in the center of the screen and gives an excellent nod to this game’s retro influences without being super in your face.
Unfortunately, getting around the castle doesn’t feel as good as it looks. Demoniaca is a rather heavy character for this sort of game. She feels a bit slow and sluggish as she walks around. Her acrobatics are amazing, though. She can jump spectacularly well and is more excited about wall-jumping than NES Batman was.
She’s actually, perhaps, abit too excited about wall-jumping. When you jump towards a ledge that’s just above your peak height, you think she’s going to grab the edge and pull herself up… but instead, she sticks to the wall like a prize from Chuck E. Cheese’s arcade. Then you have to jump off that wall to try to wall jump off an opposite wall just to get back to the platform you were aiming for in the first place.
Moving around in Demoniaca relies heavily on this wall jump, and it just never, ever feels good.
Combat feels broken
Okay, so the exploration is interesting but doesn’t feel great… but the combat has gotta be good, right? Sadly, this is where Demoniaca let me down the most. The combat does not work for me at all. The game has a cool idea, in that it looks like a Metroidvania game but your character fights like she’s in a fighting game. You’ve got a strong and light punch and kick on the face buttons, and the fighting is all about chaining together attacks and putting in button combinations to pull off special moves.
It’s a super neat idea that feels horrible.
The problem with fighting in Demoniaca is that enemies don’t react to getting hit at all. You can chain together a light punch, light punch, strong punch, special attack combo, and they just keep going about their day, completely oblivious to your attacks, until they run out of health and fall over dead.
What makes this system broken instead of just dissatisfying is that your character is extremely responsive to enemy attacks. You can be wailing on a dude who is completely ignoring you, then they’ll stub their toe against your shin and Demoniaca winces in horrible pain, interrupting your combo.
Taking on demonic hordes with a flurry of flying fists instead of a whip should feel fantastic, but it ends up being a massive frustration nine times out of ten.
I really, really, really wanted to like Demoniaca: Everlasting Night. I think this game has a fantastic art style, a really interesting idea for changing up the combat of a Metroidvania, and a bizarre cast of characters that could be really engaging. Instead, though, everything ends up just falling kind of flat. The characters are a little too weird, the movement doesn’t feel tuned quite right, and the combat just doesn’t work.
Perhaps the worst thing, though, is that the load times in Demoniaca on Switch are atrocious. As I’ve been writing this review I keep deciding to pick up the game and give it another shot. I wait for ages as everything loads up, then inevitably get stuck to a wall I didn’t mean to, which leads to me fighting a rotting skeleton with that weird pain immunity that the bad guy from Tomorrow Never Dies had, then I die and have to wait more than 30 seconds to try it all over again.