PAX Aus 2018: Damsel is causing distress and kicking ass

Feature article

Screwtape Studios’ fast-paced, arcade platformer Damsel revolves around a dark, cartoon universe of vampires and hunters. Players are thrown into arena levels full of violent ghoulies, hazards, and precision platforming in order to rescue hostages, collect skulls, and complete objectives.

Starting Screwtape Studios in 2010 and working on Damsel since 2015, the game is out and available on PC since October this year with a port later arriving to consoles. A switch version may be considered depending on the financial success of the first.

Based in sunny Brisbane, Screwtape Studios visited Melbourne’s PAX Australia 2018 event to showcase their fantastic project. After extensive experience developing mobile games, their ambitions now lay with Damsel as their first foray into PC and console territory. Striving to create “immersive, engaging, challenging entertainment” across the world of interactive games, Screwtape Studios proves themselves a prominent player in Queensland with their exciting and creative work.

Speaking with founders Meg Summers and Anthon Wood at the PAX Rising floor this year, the passion behind their project is astounding. Summers and Wood both held incredible enthusiasm for the title and gathered quite a large crowd, and surely new followers, throughout the weekend. The diverse minds behind the team clearly create original and intriguing concepts that are beautiful to look at and fluent to play.

“…the smooth animation and incredible tech-goth setting feels like a widely-accessible Blade universe.”

Damsel is a bite-sized, arena arcade game with a focus on that ‘just one more go’ mentality. Gameplay consists of short, minute burst rounds with smooth movement, accurate platforming, and score collecting. Competitive time trials, leader boards, and challenge modes leave a lot of room for speed running and perfection. The replayability is akin to that of other 2D platformers like Super Meat Boy or Enter the Gungeon. Although if high scores and perfectionism aren’t important to you, luckily the Chill Out Time Chillout mode provides a less intense and more accommodating experience. It allows players to play through the creatively presented narrative and enjoy the environment and character design with ease.

Imagined by Gareth Pavlich, David Collinson, David Gunnarsson, and Nick Mckergow, the comic book art style compliments the cyber-vampire context of the story. Evil, over-arching Red Mist cooperation has a fairly devilish scheme going on. As the player progresses, more and more intricacies evolve. Backed by a very catchy and groovy synth soundtrack, the smooth animation and incredible tech-goth setting feels like a widely-accessible Blade universe. It’s wonderfully hypnotic to stare at, with all its vivid colours and inventive design.

Completing objectives is one way to get points. But, why not try to collect the mysterious arcane skulls that litter each environment? By stringing together attacks and movement you can create powerful combos using melee attacks, Damsel’s shotgun, or a violent special dash by saving up shots.

“…very quickly learnt, yet requires skill to master.”

Levels fit perfectly with the game’s progressing difficulty. Collecting points or attempting to gather all the allusive skulls is certainly satisfying. The different objectives through stages give fascinating ways of varying the content. Whether the goal is to kill a certain number of foes, disarming contraptions, or saving hostages, it is constantly a fresh experience.

The speed of the gameplay is essentially perfect. Avid bullet hell/fast-paced gamers player may need some adjusting to the controls. Although, this is very quickly learnt, yet requires skill to master.