Screwtape Studios' Damsel is a spirited platformer with fun comic book elements and a unique setting that help cover up its more tedious moments.
Damsel, an action platformer by Screwtape Studios, is a spirited action platformer that provides players with a fun setting involving an evil vampire corporation and the eponymous player character's efforts to stop them once and for all. While on higher difficulty levels Damsel can prove to be quite a challenge, there's a certain joy in meticulously planning out how to approach a certain mission, so every failure gets players that much closer to achieving their goal. It's not always fun and sometimes Damsel slips into mundane repetition, but there's enough uniqueness injected into the title due to its comic book aesthetic and interesting premise to more than push through those lesser moments.
Damsel takes place in a world where vampires and humans co-exist, thanks to a tenuous alliance. Red Mist, a giant corporation, keeps the vampires thirst quenched with a drink named after the company. But the Department of Sanguinarian Affairs (or the DSA) sends Damsel in when humans start to disappear for no apparent reason, and Red Mist is the most likely culprit. This information is revealed via comic book-like panels between missions, of which there are approximately 50. In spite of this, the plot for Damsel is actually quite thin, offering up just enough text-delivered panels to get players to the next mission.
Missions in Damsel vary from rescuing hostages to hacking computers all the while traversing through increasingly complex maps. During these missions, players can collect floating skeleton icons that will temporarily increase Damsel's multiplier, which can ultimately lead to a higher score at the end (this is a great feature for all the speedrunners out there). While working toward a mission's goal there will be vampire enemies in the way, which players can take out with Damsel's shotgun weapon. Of course, players cannot just fire recklessly either, especially during hostage missions, as it's always possible to hit something or someone you're not supposed to. This adds yet another level of challenge and strategy to Damsel.
Replayability is a huge factor for action platformers and Damsel nails it in this department. There's always the temptation to complete a level with less deaths or with a higher multiplier or in a different mode like Arcade - which gives players a limited number of deaths. As far as keeping players entertained goes, Damsel just gets it. Of course, this is where the game can become extremely frustrating, as trying to match the quick pace the game obviously wants players to operate at in order to achieve perfection can be overwhelming. But there's also a bigger sense of accomplishment that comes with effectively speedrunning a map and beating your own high score.
For all of Damsel's sense of comic book fun and fast paced suspense, it does come with a feeling of overly repetitive gameplay at times, especially in the middle portion of the game. There's not a lot of variety in objectives and players can only rescue hostages so many times before it becomes a little dull. There are also a few technical glitches with music cutting out randomly or vampires acting a little odd in-game. Speaking of the vampires, their movements are all pattern-based, which isn't exactly anything new for a platformer, but sometimes their movements are almost a little too predictable.
Issues of repetition are mostly overshadowed by the game's incredible premise, map design and overall comic book-like sensibility and style. From its heroine trying to take down an evil corporation of vampires to the game's inclusion of various styles of gameplay and methods available for every kind of player, Damsel is a game of both style and substance. There are hiccups here and there, sure, but the charm of Damsel is nearly as impossible to deny as its difficulty. Screwtape Studios has created perhaps one of the most creatively designed platformers in recent memory.
Damsel is available now for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC for $16.99. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for the purposes of this review.