Buka Entertainment has a knack for making bone-crunching, visceral beat ’em ups/hack and slashers. First for me was Redeemer, then 9 Monkeys Of Shaolin, now Demon Skin. They’re all very different to one another, but all feature that cartilage crushing thuds during combat.
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In Demon Skin, from Ludus Future, you play ‘Wanderer’ from the Order of Wanderers. The intro sequence was a rather fetching series of (digitally?) painted images where this hulk of a man takes on evil head-on. It’s all very Kratos, but this ignorance to one’s own safety results in him shedding his skin and having to call a rain check on Demon Falls Beauty Pageant.
Apparently, he can regain his youthful complexion once more but needs the artefact that caused himself to ‘shed’ in the first place. Cue some side-scrolling hack and slash action as you take down the undead and more, recruiting the help of the beasts that live in the woods et al. Think Treebeard, only useful.
When we join our skinless hero, well, he has skin, but it’s Demon Skin Steam (eh, eh?), he’s a bit out of puff and has to find his bearings. This is your intro to the very intuitive controls, so you don’t need frequent reminders to walk off a ledge. Some of it’s helpful, nevertheless. Especially when the tut says it’s ok to pick up and eat scorpions to replenish health. No culinary skills, just raw.
As a side-scroller, it’s clear what you need to do. Primarily you’ll be taking out bad guys, jumping and climbing ledges, outrunning nasties, finding secrets and levelling Wanderer up to be a bit of a powerhouse. Note that this isn’t a grindfest as enemies don’t respawn (that I’m aware of), so invest in your skills wisely.
Can you play Demon Skin with the mouse and keyboard? Yes. Should you play Demon Skin with a mouse and keyboard? Err… I’m on the fence with that one. By default, I don’t have my controller connected with Steam. Either I plug in the cheap wired controller, or <gasp> turn on the Bluetooth for the Switch controller.
As you can imagine, it’s a lot of effort, so if I can play a game with the mouse and keyboard, I will. For the most part, it works well in Demon Skin gameplay as you hover the mouse up or down, or slightly in front of Wanderer, and it’ll block incoming attacks. The platforming can also be executed on the keyboard without any issue.
However, juggling both peripherals during a setpiece had me dying for more than I cared to imagine. For those bits, it’s 100% controller for me. Even then, it takes an age to get used to the controls, turning him in a direction, then jumping onto a ledge… when it’s a ‘time limited’ segment, this does not bode well.
As mentioned, combat works well with the mouse (arguably, it’s better). It’s much like For Honor or Nioh 2 where you have three stances that will execute the appropriate action. Emphasis on execute. On-screen notifications will show when an enemy will attack, so you counter by moving in the proper direction. Red will indicate an attack, blue shows up when they have a bit more health that needs chipping away at, and orange gives you a nudge that you can execute the enemy in a gruesome death.
Additionally, he’ll be able to lug an axe or similar at enemies, break anything in his path, or chuck it away if over-encumbered. For most of the time, a couple of weapons will suffice. The others are great at keeping the enemies back. Combat can be sluggish but methodical, and for that reason, I mostly enjoyed it. However, some of the bosses are overpowered, inflicting knockbacks, and should you dare roll past them, unleash an immediate counter-attack.
Demon Skin gameplay has a levelling up system where you can invest points into the Wanderer in the same way as Redeemer. Like the aforementioned, it’s not a convoluted process, and you can tweak what area you please without having to read walls of text to understand. In some regards, it’s more of an arcade game but with depth.
Even the Steam page touts this as a Dark Souls-like game, but other than the standard YOU ARE DEAD that everyone uses these days, I wouldn’t compare it to that. 100% closure, DS is one of my favourite games. I found it to be mostly fair, whereas Demon Skin not so much. Some of the deaths result in the timing of jumps, more so than tactics for slaying a boss.
I suppose you could say it’s a mash-up of God of War (the originals), fused with Buka’s own Redeemer, only a 2.5D (ish) adventure. Demon Skin also has that old school Amiga charm, that as a Commodore veteran, I am allowed to bring it up when the opportunity presents itself. It’s one of those games that’s an instant classic for folk that played these types of games in the past, but here there’s a bit more substance than the 16-bit era of old.
Evasion is a technique worth applying. The downside is you can’t level up. An element I didn’t enjoy was repeating areas because of a silly mistake or cheap moves like falling obstacles. More often than not, I’d end up skipping areas to reach that elusive checkpoint.
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Demon Skin is a no-brainer for me. I’m already a fan of Redeemer and 9 Monkeys of Shaolin. That doesn’t qualify it as an instant like, but having battled the elements, undead and skipped my skincare routine, Demon Skin is something I’d recommended if you’re a fan of the genre. Be mindful that the controls are trickier, plus generally harder than its counterparts, from my experience. Just don’t go in thinking it’s another Souls-like game.
- Flexibility through skill tree and weapons.
- The stance system is excellent, better on a mouse.
- Mostly satisfying combat.
- Great atmosphere throughout.
- Better the further you get.
- A mouse isn’t recommended for platform sections.
- Unable to grind areas, so level up wisely..
- Almost impossible to get health from some save points.
- Placement of checkpoints cruel in some areas.
- Would benefit from a difficulty level!