You know it’s hell because you’re actually enjoying your punishment
If any game is going to drive me insane this year, it will likely be Devil Daggers. Every time I play this 90s FPS-style arena shooter, it begins the same way. I feel like playing something light, and Devil Daggers is a perfect game for those sorts of short bursts. I am typically lucky enough to last a minute in its unforgiving arena on any given round, seeing as how it’s an arena that the legions of hell call home.
I always start the first couple of rounds slouched in my chair, only half paying attention to the abominations that quickly swarm me from the darkness. Oh, I died? Whatever. This is just something to do. I never went into this expecting to make actual progress. Who cares about leaderboards, anyway?
A few stupid deaths will happen here and there, but eventually something so much worse happens. I accidentally figure out a new strategy for dealing with a particular wave of enemies, which consistently gets me closer to my current goal time. Not enough to the point that I actually beat it (that usually won’t happen for 2 or 3 more sittings), but enough that my lazy and relaxed demeanor has turned to that of an on edge maniac in the span of just a few minutes.
The twitchy, difficult nature of Devil Daggers demands that you get the best out of your limited abilities. You’re given a rapid spray of weaker daggers as well as a shotgun blast of sorts, and you have to think on your feet when determining which attack is best for any particular situation. The blast will likely do more damage to the skulls in front of you which will allow you to grab more crystals that will make your attacks stronger, but you also have a giant wave of skulls following you who can only be avoided with constant manuevering. To make matters worse, you might just hear the sound of one of the bigger demonic skulls quickly surging to the front of the line and you will be screwed if you don’t deal with him in the next second. What do you do?
Well, you probably die because you failed to notice the giant spider on the far end of the platform had collected some of your crystals and made a bunch of little spiders who devoured you. Next time, you will have to try to kill the spider first, and next time begins as quickly as you can press “R”.
The hectic, quick gameplay of Devil Daggers makes it a great example of a “just one more round” type of game. When a good run is cut short by one of the game’s various horrors blasting towards you from just out of the corner of your vision, the feeling is genuinely terrifying and heartbreaking. Yet it’s so easy to jump back in, so you’re constantly driven to capture the one round that will manage to be just slightly better than your best.
For some, even a five dollar price tag for Devil Daggers may not be worth its lack of content. It’s not a shooter packed with modes or levels, it doesn’t shove in any rich story, and it is a hard fought battle to see all the disturbing enemies the game has to offer. Part of me wishes I could see it all for myself without the punishing endurance challenge, but that goes against the purpose of the game. It’s simply a frantic arena shooter based on competitive survival, and the combination of fear and adrenaline should be boiling whenever a new monster appears.
Devil Daggers would be the sort of weird game that would sit in the dark corner of an arcade, existing just for the people who relish the competitive thrill of climbing up the rankings if only by one more spot. That might not be enough motivation for everyone, but the feeling of just barely passing somebody on my leaderboard is extremely rewarding for me when a game is as challenging and fun as Devil Daggers. It means that I survived pure evil for maybe 2 seconds longer than some other chump.