Without a doubt this has been one of the hardest reviews I’ve had to write for something. The things about this game that I love, well, I really, really love them. But it’s been a rocky road filled with early access demons, frustration and an editor who was probably beginning to doubt this would ever see the light of day. Who am I kidding? I had me doubting this would see the light of day. A point came and went a while back when I very nearly gave up on this.
The game that has broken my heart is Onikira: Demon Killer, a visual, yummy little 2D side-scrolling beat ’em up by Digital Furnace Games available for download on Steam. It is presently in that ever so wild stage of early access. So while it’s fun and playable and a savouy taste of the final product to come it has had it’s fair share of issues.
Set in feudal Japan you play as the titles lead character Yamazaki Jiro, one badass Samurai, as he quests to prevent the dark contents of the Underworld from breaking through. You battle through scores of demons, swinging from grappling hooks and bludgeoning the forces of darkness one at a time culminating in a level boss. I’ve died, a lot. The cause of much of my frustration initially was that every time I would die the game would crash.And not just crash, it would crash hard. I’m talking forceful process kill-switch hard. Those were dark times indeed but there was a light at the edge of my screen and that was the consistent and note-worthy updates to the game. Each one saw an improvement and finally those irksome crashes were no more.
It was definitely worth the tears. The game itself is beautiful. And I say that with a twinkle in my eye and perhaps a shed tear or two. Really, the colours, the animation and the overall design are nothing less than a treat to witness. There are times when I would play and die simply because I was taking in a new detail I hadn’t noticed before or something flashed on screen and I caught my breath totally forgetting that I was presently trying not to be slaughtered. It’s just that fabulous.
Fear not though because as good looking as the game is, there is substance to the gameplay. You have combos, weapon variety, the ability to upgrade skills and enemies that are no pushovers having their own unique combos and strengths. The gameplay is quick, responsive and in combination with the overall visuals almost strangely hypnotic. Not to mention the striking background music which really drives the energy of the gameplay up.
Here is my main problem with the game, though. It’s fun and flirty, gorgeous and fast paced but after a while the whole affair becomes exhausting. The first time I got a good lengthy session in, my eyes ached and I felt weary. A long term relationship with this game is a difficult one, which is a real pity. It’s demanding. It demands my undivided focus while distracting me with colours I’m not sure even have names on the colour spectrum. When you play for the first time it gives you controls which are a little less than the intuitive commands a game as quick as this would really need. On top of all of the things going on you’re fighting to remember mid-combat where the hell that button is. They may change the controls before it’s fully released but playing this game as it is for more than a few minutes, is one exercise in mental discipline.
It’s been a long road with Onikira: Demon Killer. We’ve had our ups and downs. I’ve cried and run around the house screaming like a lunatic. I’ve sat for hours in front of my laptop trying to decide if I should review at all, not even considering having to give it a score. But here we are.
Onikira has banished me to the Underworld. 7/10