REVIEW: Demon House

One of my top picks from earlier this year, having participated in the last two(!) Dream.Build.Play competitions, and looking like a much more impressive and polished FPS with each entry, Demon House (80 MSP) has seen a welcome and pre-Halloween release on XBLIG.

Fitting, as Demon House takes a decidedly paranormal angle concerning reanimated souls, steampunk skeletons, anti-spectral weaponry, and a typically-shadowy cult bent on world domination. You’ll need to put a stop to all that, of course. Story takes a backseat for most of the ride between beginning and end, however, as other than few short expository cut-scenes, it’s a pure shooter.

And in playing similar to a Doom or Quake, albeit with ghosts and a focus on steam, it’s tough to find the trouble with that. Enemies are varied and introduced gradually. Your weaponry packs both a punch and personality (your grenades are bomb-laden mechanical spiders). The game also does a great job at crafting distinctive environments, avoiding bland corridors and repeated rooms, injecting impressive lighting and effects elsewhere. There’s a brief hunt for keys and the odd switch to throw at times, part of the few minor puzzle sections that most should have no trouble navigating. Like I said, shooter.

And the AI is refreshingly adept, from flying contraptions that can heal allies to shielded machines that will actively attack and effectively thwart your advance, only able to be defeated via an obvious (but nonetheless defended) weakpoint. Enemies drop health, ammo / grenade refills, and money, the latter of which you can use to buy stat and ammo add-ons, new weapons, and increase the damage output of your existing guns, with upgrade stations that are peppered throughout the levels. You’ll likely spend 2+ hours on the campaign, with its two sprawling levels and a tough, multi-part boss finale. A word to FPS veterans; for a more-suitable challenge from the start, bump the difficulty up to Hard.

The above content alone is worth the cost, but Demon House throws in part two of its package, a wave-survival mode, playable alone or with a friend locally. Two arena maps are re-purposed from the single-player art, both of which contain upgrade stations that function exactly as those in the main game, unlocking its goods as you progress. With mini-boss waves and the escalating number of foes, the pace is even more frenetic (and potentially more fun) here. There are additional difficulty settings and options, as you’d expect, and this mode, like the single-player, offers up various challenges and trophies to earn that encourage replays.

The Eradicator— when you absolutely positively have to kill every steampunk-er in the room, accept no substitutes. 

In total, the game is a solid experience, though there are some minor quibbles if you set out looking for them, mostly in the initially-stiff controls (you can adapt, or adjust the sensitivity) or archaic design choice (the linearity isn’t a problem, but it is a little regressive to turn a corner and find literal monster closets).

Even with the protracted development time Demon House is a little rough around the edges, though after playing through it, it is immediately (and by far) the best campaign-centric first-person shooter on the indie channel at present, with an equally best-in-class co-op wave shooter as support. All for a solitary dollar. It’s a fantastic addition to anyone’s library that follows the overall upward trend of higher quality FPSes.

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21 thoughts on “REVIEW: Demon House”

  1. I gave Demon House a go based on recommendation and having just finished it, i feel its more than worth the 80 points I paid for it. The game was engaging throughout and I loved the little touches like the butterfly enemies healing other enemies, and the hidden rooms. The last boss was well done, especially for an FPS. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a good shooter on XBLIG.

    1. You and Daniel said it better than I did. 🙂 It just goes to show what a lengthy development time can give you in terms of polish. XBLIG isn’t a platform a developer can get rich on (there are exceptions), but games like this are good for the service, whether they’re a million seller or not.

  2. “It is immediately (and by far) the best campaign-centric first-person shooter on the indie channel at present, with an equally best-in-class co-op wave shooter as support. All for a solitary dollar.” – Completely agree 🙂

    1. Ah, finally someone that saw in the game what I did. 🙂 How were the controls for you? Did they get easier to handle over time, or did you struggle with finding the right sensitivity and such?

    2. I found the controls got easier over time yes. At first, small movements weren’t giving me enough aiming velocity, but I adjusted, and am happy with them. Yeah props to the developer, this has been given lots of love, and punches above its weight at 80 points.

  3. Found it buggy and the controls made me seas-sick. I never get nauseous in games but the laggy response time, and the really dull AI just made it too hard to play. I made it as far as the door that required 3 keys looked at the ground and the whole camera system flipped upside down…..

    1. The ‘key’ problem I never ran into, as I found each through natural exploration / probably a little luck. I wasn’t even sure what door I ended up using them on, as there wasn’t any notification that I saw.

      The camera and controls seems to be a common problem with everyone else here, but after some adjustment and time, I felt comfortable with them. Everyone’s different, of course, so what I find workable you may not. They’re not perfect (controls / camera), neither is the game (it won’t dethrone Doom), but for an indie, it’s one of the better I’ve played. There are a few more interesting FPSes on the horizon, so maybe you’ll have better luck with those 🙂

  4. Yet another Indie Game that looks like it has a pretty smooth gameplay, also the graphics are above average for an Indie Game. Plus it looks like you would have a good time playing through the campaign, that said it’s time for a little magic…

    #DemonHouseCode

    1. Even beyond adjusting the sensitivity and / or remapping the buttons, you need a good half-hour to really get comfortable with it, I’d say.

    2. The few indie FPS games I have played always seem to get the sensitivity and FOV wrong to the point that I no longer give them much time to win me over. I didn’t even notice it had a survival style option I turned it off so quick when I played the demo… and that was after changing the sensitivity.

    3. Each one tends to be different, I agree, and for indies, it covers all the extremes sometimes. It works the same for retail games too. I hadn’t played Assassin’s Creed since early Spring, and in playing part 3 yesterday, I was still getting used to the controls 45 minutes in. So far as FPSers, it’s fashionable to hate on Call of Duty these days, but that’s probably the only series I can vouch for that feels and plays more or less the same with every outing (some would say that’s a flaw). To each his or her own, though.

    4. Just been having another little play about with the options and it suits me much more to turn off the auto aim and smoothing but I think my main problem with the controls is in looking up and down. It seems to be weighted correctly for looking around but if you tap up or down you suddenly get a face full of sky or floor when you just wanted to aim a little better.

      Using a mouse it makes sense to have every direction the same but on a pad I prefer it to be a bit more restrictive on the Y axis.

      I’ll still be adding it to my future purchases but at this time I have only 80mps left and I am being really picky about what to spend it on.

  5. An XBLIG that’s visually pretty AND plays well is a rarity. Usually the pretty ones are as bland as paper pie.

    The Doom mention was enough on its own to convince me. I love a bit of Doom.

    1. Yep, the Doom mention is enough for me too! Looking forward to giving the trial a go later today.

    2. Well, you were right. I bought it and had a blast playing it. The controls did take a little getting used to, but I soon adjusted to them.

    3. Except doom had blood in it, and there was carnage…..this game is using really rigid enemies with no animation. It really is not fun to kill these baddies….its far worse than doom.. The price is decent I would say that much. But, the packaging is 10x better than the gameplay.

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