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.