Demons With Shotguns tries to do Towerfall—with shotguns and shields instead of bows and arrows. Also, replace screen-wrapping with chunky decapitations. Shotguns require that you get up close—and nasty. Though be wary: getting within range of an opponent tells them, “Hey it’s time to use your shield.” Shields that deflect your blast and turn you into chunky-blood-rain.

I had to help my pregnant wife with dinner just as the game finished installing. I left the room as Max and Shawn jumped in. A veritable blast of laughter and shotgun shelling from the other room made me want to drop the cheese and run to the living room. I chose to be a remotely good husband and finish prepping dinner before abandoning my wife.

I picked up the controller and chose from Demon, Angel, Nun, Priest, or Deceiver. I settled on the Nun—though she plays no different from the others. I get a nice little vertical area to test my controls and practice shotgun-jumping. Then it’s time to reduce pals to entrails. I soon discovered that the deathmatch-y bouts produce bountiful smiles, but the team-matches triggered ecstatic giggle fits.

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Team matches are where Demons With Shotguns truly shines. Our crew had to figure out how to match skill disparity for good team balance, but the team game modes were so well-balanced that we all had fun even if we didn’t know exactly what was going on. My favorite mode is called Capture the Soul, a CTF variation where one player’s soul is the ‘flag’ that you have to tear out of them—which is surprisingly easy to do. Once in possession, the holder scores by jumping into the gargoyle-faced capture point. While simple, it turns into a tense feat of platforming and teamwork.

Shotgun-jumping adds some much-needed verticality (much like Towerfall’s dashing) and lets you reach some of the just-out-of-reach and power-ups. The thing is that the power-ups aren’t always handy. ‘Possessed’ took away my shield ability, for example. I had a difficult time figuring out what each of the power-ups do. I was probably in my third hour of gameplay before I realized that the ‘Holy Spirit’ gave me a near-limitless pool of holy water grenades. Oh, I totally forgot to mention the holy water grenades, which transform players into sanguine fireworks. They’re fun.

I felt obligated to check out the End of Time survival mode. It provides serviceable solo-play, and it passed the time during a two-player co-op romp, but I barely felt like writing this sentence about it. It’s an understatement to say it underwhelmed me. I mean couch multiplayer games are all about the emergent possibilities that occur with other players. So I struggle with material that doesn’t enhance that connection for me.

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Early Access means this game changed before my very eyes. Level selection started out as sterile and redundant, but a recent update added tons of level variety. I went from feeling bored with the level choice to being overwhelmed, and in this case, being overwhelmed was a very good thing.

Demons With Shotguns doesn’t divert much from the likes of Towerfall on the surface. Though when you dig deeper, the whole feel of combat is closer in proximity. The reversals are more instantaneous. Modes provide unique takes on capture the flag and kill-confirmed. I don’t know how deep Demons With Shotguns will pursue advanced-level play mechanics as the game wraps-up its Early Access run, but I think it’s okay if it doesn’t. Games like this thrive on their ability to be fair to players who just get a controller in their hand and are told, “We’re playing this now!”

About The Author

M. Joshua makes game trailers when not writing about games. He loves any game experience that engenders empathy to others, be it biographical, co-op, or games about valuing the well-being of your enemies. He loves getting humans together in his house for survival deathmatches.

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