By Tommy Robbins. This is RE/PLAY, where all that stands between us and eternal darkness is our right hand. This week, Tommy revisits ‘Devil Daggers’, developed and published by Sorath and available on Steam.

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THE GAME: Devil Daggers

RELEASE DATE: February 18, 2016

SO… THIS AGAIN? Devil Daggers holds an appeal unlike many games. It’s mechanically simplistic but designed to be maddeningly precise, holding with it the potential to defeat even the most skilled of gamers, try after try, again and again, forever. Accepting defeat is an option, of course. The game is only $5. But that road is for babies.

Tracking score like old arcade cabinets, Devil Daggers also sports a system that allows you to view any playthrough you desire, found with all its charted scores. Viewing somebody else’s run is but one click away, allowing an attractive ability to spy on other players’ techniques so that you may suss out how, exactly, these people got such high scores. The tension of slowly improving your scores and your technique is reminiscent of days spent in an arcade being utterly defeated by games that were made to do just that. With Devil Daggers, you get the same thrill but you can keep your quarters.

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THE OBJECTIVE: It’s dark. You’re surrounded by nothing but the dimly lit platform on which you stand. Ahead lies a pristine, floating dagger. Approach the dagger.

So minimal it skews on the arcane, Devil Daggers’ tone and all-but-absent setup inspires in you a morbid curiosity, like a child peering into a dark basement. Your parents told you never to go down there, but there you are, placing one foot in front of the other in the first defiant steps towards blackness. Approach the dagger.

Seize the dagger and find yourself in its place. Standing in the same position in which the dagger previously hung, the world around you suddenly feels alive. Stand still long enough and find yourself in a sea of demons in flight. Don’t let them touch you.

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THE MECHANICS: Devil Daggers thrives in its mechanical fortitude and its strict one touch, one kill nature. All presented on a hovering platform about the size of an average home in the suburbs (though far less comforting), a sense of claustrophobia is sure to set in as more enemies begin to fill the arena. Falling from the stage proves just as lethal as any encounter with your foes and pyres appear from the blackness to spill ethereal skulls who quickly lock on and close in around you. Soon, enormous arachnidan hellions loom over the edge of the void looking to steal what little you have in the realm of aid. Later, the centipedes.

Your weapon? Your fingers.

There are no high damage weapons to cycle between in Devil Daggers. All you have is your hand. The terror and blackness is countered with but two little fingers. It should probably be mentioned that those two fingers spray illuminated crimson daggers at an alarming rate and hold the potential to be upgraded, though the upgrade process is never really explained. Another cryptic feature that makes this simple little game so damn interesting.

Assuming the player has the patience to forgo a second attempt after being embarrassed by their first, they will soon find themselves fiending. “Just one more!” As progress is made, some things begin to become apparent. As specific enemy types, and the pyres from which they spawn, are destroyed, rubies will drop and find their way to the player. These hold the secret to unlocking your next finger. It sounds silly, I know. But those extra fingers fling more and more daggers. The extra firepower is a must for reaching higher scores, and higher scores, you’ll recall, are why we’re here.

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MUST WE LOOK BACK? Devil Daggers has been around on PC now for four months. Easily dismissed at a quick glance, there is probably a wide portion of its potential audience that has missed it. Without requiring any significant time investment, but holding the potential to eat all your free time, Devil Daggers is easily one of the most recommendable games on my Steam account. One attempt per day could literally only take up two minutes of your time, but a good series of attempts generally only last about an hour. Seriously, expect stress migraines, nightmares, and random nosebleeds if you play this game too long.

Devil Daggers is not one of those games designed to captivate all audiences, but it encapsulates the aura of another era of gaming, enough to scratch a certain nostalgic itch. It distills the essence of those mechanically-driven games of old, and then cuts the crap. You won’t find another game quite so pure or so special, and certainly not for $5.

RE/PLAY VALUE: 8.5 out of 10

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