Devil Daggers is a suspenseful survival horror throwback

In a dark room, a spinning silver dagger awaits the touch of a worthy participant. As soon as it’s touched, the legions of the underworld seek the weapon's power, and will stop at nothing to kill its wielder.

This is the premise of "Devil Daggers," an independent game for PC that draws inspiration from the first person shooter genre, especially those from the early 90s, such as "Doom" and "Quake." The game has a low-quality, early Playstation 1 design to enhance this feeling and the movement, right down to how the characters strafes around the field, feels as though it was taken straight out of Doom.

Controls are simple: Use the WASD keys to move, hit the spacebar to jump, click for a blast of daggers and hold for automatic throwing. However, he game is much more complicated than it's interface.

The difficulty ramps up quickly in Devil Daggers, as time survived is the main scoring method. As of this writing, the current world record for the game is held by DraQu, who survived a total of ten minutes and took down only one of the game’s multiple bosses. In my own playtime, an average game lasts me around 50 seconds, with my high score only hitting 61 seconds.

Because the game is time-focused, Devil Daggers only contains one level, a dark arena where initially, it can be hard to find the first target. Within seconds, this pitch-black area is filled will skulls, spiders, centipedes and spawners all ready to bring players down.

Listening is key in Devil Daggers, as enemy position can be tracked using the sounds they produce. Some enemies make rattling noises, others gurgle while some simply scream as they fly over your head. Headphones are recommended to help get your score higher.

The sound design in Devil Daggers is nightmarish, and serves to elevate the player’s sense that the game doesn’t want to be their friend or ease them into the challenge. Throughout a play session, the game presents players with hisses, screams and thuds. When an upgrade is collected, daggers sound less like thrown objects and more like tortured shrieks.
Because the game throws waves of enemies at the player constantly, it may be assumed that the player should never stop firing their weapon and never stop moving, but this puts players at a disadvantage. Players who move around the field without considering what’s behind them will be overrun quickly, and those who never let go of the trigger will have a harder time collecting upgrade crystals.

These crystals are crucial to Devil Daggers’ gameplay. Without them, players won’t have the necessary firepower to take down the incoming swarms. At ten crystals, your third finger opens, allowing you to throw more daggers faster.

Speed in Devil Daggers is also a key factor into success, as enemies move into the battlefield quickly. It’s recommended to take down skull spawners within two seconds of them releasing enemies onto the field. Spiders with skulls for heads also appear and can absorb crystals, forcing players to act fast to ensure they collect an upgrade.

Devil Daggers is a challenging game, one that isn’t recommended for those seeking a deep story or something other than a place to test their skill. Instead, players can expect to lose hours to the game, with every session being “the one that will beat the high score.”

Devil Daggers is available for $4.99 on PC only through Steam.

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