Demon Turf Review: "A Deviously Fun Romp"
The nineties saw so many evolutions in the world of video games that it’s impossible to catalogue them all, but arguably the biggest was the advent of 3D platforming with titles like Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie. Games of that ilk were few and far between for a while but in recent years, like bomber jackets and oversized clothes, it’s made a comeback. Titles like A Hat In Time and Psychonauts 2 have defined the return of this genre (along with Nintendo just doing their own thing as always). Demon Turf is the newest attempt at tackling the 3D platformer, but does it succeed enough to join the list of quality titles above?
Demon Turf Review: Play For Power
Demon Turf is a 3D platforming collect-a-thon with a simple premise: you play as Beebz, a young demon living in Forktown, as she fights to take over the various demon-ran dominions (demonions?) in a quest to become the ultimate queen of demons and usurp the Demon King himself. On her quest, Beebz is joined by two allies, the nerdy Midgi who has a plan for everything, and the tentative Luci who’s unsure about Beebz taking on the Demon King but wants to help her friend.
To do all this however, Beebz must first defeat the four underbosses who have their own dominion and soldiers, and collect enough batteries to power the gate to the Demon King’s castle. It’s a quite a journey for a child, but if we've learnt anything from video games, it's that children are immortal, world-beating powerhouses.
Demon Turf Review: Handsome Devil
Demon Turf's presentation is the first thing you'll instantly notice. To say the game is set in the domain of demons, there's a surprising amount of colour, with levels running the gambit of oppressively vibrant colour schemes. Deep pinks, bright yellows, toxic greens, and more are all there, filling the skyboxes of every level and hub world. There is also the combination of 2D and 3D in use. Most characters are 2D sprites (barring some bosses), which are wonderfully expressive, which gives the game a uniquely defined look.
The music is fairly idiosyncratic to the experience, featuring high-pitched rapping by Beebz over brightly lit, poppy beats, reminiscent of Kero Kero Bonito thematically. In the experience it fits perfectly, especially with the cocksure and rebellious attitude of Beebz, although on paper you'd expect some much heavier rock or metal for a game about slaying demons. Maybe that's been done before though...
The actual art design in the majority of levels can be great too, with stages inspired by tropical beaches, cyberpunk metropolises, and the post-apocalypse. Some can be a bit hit-and-miss, however, with a few levels looking flat and uninspired while others stand out due to busy design. This seems to stem from the simple textures, which can look boring with no accompanying objects in the environment and becomes prevalent in later snow levels.
Demon Turf Review: The Devil’s In The Details
The game's undeniable strengths come from the moment-to-moment gameplay, the actual design of the levels, and the sheer variety of content. The game is split into the main hub world, Forktown, and then four smaller hubs that lead to the levels. In Forktown, you’ll find tonnes of side quests and extra content to complete. For example, there is a photography quest that requires a picture from every level in the game, and an arcade which has special levels for players to complete.
In the smaller hubs, once you have finished every level and collected the batteries, you’ll be able to take on the boss of that domain. Beating the boss will result in Beebz becoming the new ruler and activating the second state of that hub world, where all the levels are redesigned with mechanical and environmental changes. This mean’s each level can be beaten twice, and you’ll have to do so to fully complete the game, as the only way the player can acquire the 50 batteries to battle the Demon King, is by completing some return trips.
The design of the levels is varied, so it’s never just the same type of platforming each time. Some of them feel like actual arduous journeys across sprawling landscapes, others make for long vertical climbs, and there are more unique stages, like the standout train level in world three or the skiing level in world four. In short, Demon Turf understands the importance of variety, especially for a twenty-hour experience that will have you doing much of the same thing.
Considering this is a so called collect-a-thon, it begs the question, what do you actually collect? Besides the aforementioned batteries, each level also has three hidden cakes which can be used to buy upgrades in Forktown; it’s a nifty system with a total of six slots, and each upgrade takes a certain amount, stopping you from collecting every upgrade and blazing through everything. The return trips and some quests also reward lollipops, which is the currency for buying hair and outfit dyes. There are so many things to collect and quests to finish in Demon Turf, so if you’re a completionist or enjoy watching numbers tick up, it will be an immensely satisfying experience by the end.
Demon Turf Review: Bat Out Of Hell
Mechanically, the movement is top-tier and tightly designed, with snappy, responsive controls. There is an entire list of moves for you to master, with double jumps, spin jumps, side jumps, and more, all there to help you get from A to B smoothly. There are also four unique moves that you earn for facing a world’s boss, such as the raven form for gliding, which become necessary for finishing certain levels after they’re unlocked. Adding them all together will get you some clever combinations of moves to pull off too, that will have you zooming through levels and beating the developer times with ease. There are also some very difficult to pull off but purposely placed shortcuts, presumably for speedrunners and speed demons to attempt, which is a nice touch.
An interesting gimmick that Demon Turf tries comes in the way of allowing the player to set their own checkpoints. You have a total of four, including the one at the level’s beginning, and then can place them freely throughout. While clever, the issue with this stems from the general high difficulty of the game. It's all too easy to find yourself out of checkpoints because you've exhausted them all during some early tough sections of a level, being left with no option but to keep pushing on with no fallback and getting frustrated. An option to use them infinitely would go a long way for accessibility, or just upping the default amount by a few could make a world of difference.
Another gimmick that doesn’t quite work is the momentum-based combat, which frankly becomes annoying after the first couple of uses. It mainly consists of knocking enemies off cliffs or into spikes. The challenge level for them never changes, with the same cut-and-paste enemies each time, meaning it’s always too easy. Their purpose seems to be breaking up the platforming and keeping the game fresh, but you'll find yourself longing for the platforming.
Demon Turf Review: A Devil Of A Time
Demon Turf should be remembered fondly in a few years time as a solid platforming experience. The core of the gameplay loop is close to perfection, with the combat tirades and checkpoint system letting it down. Movement mechanics are tight and satisfying, along with well-designed levels that challenge the skills the player will have built up over the course of a playthrough. It’s got a loveable presentation thanks to its melding of 2D and 3D art, bright music, and the majority of its art design and aesthetics. It doesn’t do much to shake up the platformer or collect-a-thon, but it nails the important aspects of each one to craft a deviously fun romp through the Demon World.
Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher.