Demon House: FPS

Writing about a really bad game is easy.  Writing about a really good game is easy.  When a game is middling, neither that good nor that bad, I struggle with my goal to write an entertaining review.  I’ve done a few first-person shooters on XBLIG.  Of them, two are on my leaderboard: Send in Jimmy and Devil Blood.  As of this writing, they occupy the very bottom two spots.  I’ll fully admit, those games are both atrocious and could (some would argue “should”) be exorcised from the board.  But at least they were playable and fun in a train-wreck sort of way.  Others have either been glitchy, poorly conceived, or just plain boring.  I previously noted that I was surprised at how few FPSs are on XBLIG, considering that the Xbox 360 is pretty much a dedicated shooter console for many of its owners.  Sadly, every XBLIG FPS plays like it arrived to the party about fifteen years too late to be enjoyable.  Demon House is not really different.  It’s not horrible, but it’s not exceptional enough to make this a fun review to write.  This will probably not be one of my better ones, so here’s a preemptive apology.  For what it’s worth, I’m doing Trailer Park King 3 next!

Weapon design in Demon House ranges from inspired to predictable, and getting the really fun stuff takes too long for such a short game.

First off, yea, Demon House looks relatively good.  I mean, it still looks archaic.  It would have been just fine in 2000 as a Nintendo 64 or PlayStation title.  In 2012?  It falls into the dreaded “it looks good for an XBLIG” category.  And that’s where it also falls in other areas.  It’s designed well.  You know, for a FPS on XBLIG.  The controls are pretty good, at least for an FPS on XBLIG.  I accept that a first-person shooter is an incredibly hard game to design and the guys behind Demon House should be commended for creating one of the better ones on the platform.  But all I care about is how much fun I can have with a game, and fun is a fleeting commodity here.

It started good.  Really good in fact.  The game opens inside a haunted house.  This is your stereotypical amusement-park style ghost mansion, with all the clichés.    Piano playing itself?  Check.  Spooky shadows?  Check.  Lightning custom-designed to give me a seizure?  Grumble, check.  Baby carriage that rocks itself?  Check, and fucking creepy.  I wasn’t kidding about the amusement park feel of Demon House.  Considering that the enemies are all robotic devices, I kind of figured the concept here was supposed to be something like Westworld, where the animatronics had simply started to run amok.  That would be an interesting plot, but instead you’re dealing with a mad alchemist.  That’s lame, but at least the haunted house setting is.. oh.  Never mind, that’s only for the first half of the game.  The second half takes place in an utterly generic cathedral/catacombs place thingie that looks like it was lifted from Quake and/or any of a trillion Quake mods out there.  Good move Photonic Games.  I was almost interested for a bit.

The only thing Demon House: FPS had going for it that made it stand out was the legitimately creepy haunted house setting.  Once you’re removed from that and instead inserted into the boring, sterile, lifeless second act, the game becomes a chore.  Oddly enough, after about thirty minutes in that section, I was hoping the game would just end.  And then it did.  That was very kind of it.

It’s not THAT complex. I’m pretty sure enemies that stand back and shoot at you instead of charging at you has been around since I was at least old enough to ride the Haunted Mansion ride.

Let’s be clear here: I had fun with Demon House and it is going on the leaderboard.  I liked the opening act that much.  While playing it, I figured it could be a top-fifty game.  Despite dated gameplay, the shooting mechanics are fun, the enemy design is neat, and the floor layout with the multiple hidden nooks made this enjoyable.  And then you leave the house and suddenly you’re transported back to 1996, which is not where I wanted to be.  The placement of the game started to sink.  Not like a rock, which would have been quick and relatively painless.  It sinks more like a boat.  You know that scene in Titanic where they watch as the ship breaks apart and the lifeboats (some filled to half-capacity) look on in horror?  Yea, Demon House is the Titanic and you’re Kathy Bates watching on in horror.  Not me though.  I’m more like Kathy Bates from Misery, taking a sledge-hammer to the feet of Photonic Games.  Out of love of course.  🙂

Demon House: FPS was developed by Photonic Games

80 Microsoft Points DIDN’T GET OUT OF THE COCK-A-DOODIE CAR!!! in the making of this review.

Demon House is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard, although I’m sure that will be of little consolation to its now crippled developers.  


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About Indie Gamer Chick
The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

7 Responses to Demon House: FPS

  1. Argamae says:

    I found the controls horribly sluggish, the enemies were abysmally stupid and the feel of the weapons terrifyingly awkward (shots travelling at the grotesque speed of snail). So, yes, it fits the theme of the game rather nicely. It was a nightmare!

  2. Dave Voyles says:

    Good review. I playtested this a while ago. It was refreshing to see someone try something that XBLIG didn’t have much of.

    Sadly, XBLIG is not the market for this sort of game. I did enjoy the atmosphere though, and that rocking chair was a nice touch.

  3. Hats off to Photonic Games, this felt solid. Thought provoking review, glad to see Demon House on the Leaderboard, its earned its place there.

  4. An XBLIG Guy says:

    Good review. I know it’s not true, but sometimes it feels that the measuring bar used for 3D games is different than the one used for 2D games, specially when it comes to platform ones. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just in this site. It’s pretty much everywhere, and it’s not always consistent – I heard someone complaining that people said that his 2D project looked like a “flash game”. Personally, I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but I’m not an expert reviewer.

    About Demon House, I played the trial and I bought it after the 8 minute mark. For me, it’s just not about killing monsters. It is the whole game experience I look for, and I found that “Demon House”, overall, was a great deal for 80 msp.

    Just my 2 cents ^_^

  5. sndwich says:

    Nice review! I had a great time with this despite the flaws. I tend to admire the atmosphere and personality of games over other aspects, and this game felt like the author had an idea and was trying to take me there, which I really appreciate. For what it’s worth, I played it for about 30 seconds before I bought it, I knew it was my thing. 😀

    I couldn’t get on with the controls though. I know AAA games probably have people whose sole job it is to make the joypad>camera controls feel natural, it’s gotta be harder than I think it is; but the deadzone in Demon House is massive, fine aiming is impossible. It either doesn’t move, or moves past where I wanted it to be, mostly all i could do was whiff shots either side of an enemy’s head. My solution was to point the camera roughly where I wanted the shots to go and running around with the other stick to line the shot up. In the first half of the game this kinda worked and it didn’t really affect my enjoyment ‘cos most of the enemies were on the same level (hey, that’s how I played Timesplitters! :D) but in the second act with all those flying guys wingin’ around my head I was just waving around wildly hoping I’d get ’em. Which was frustrating, ‘cos with better controls they would be toast and I would be happy. A sniper shot from afar with the laser gun would have made me feel GODLIKE. Instead I was cursing and falling off ledges. nngggrgh

    Basically I think the controls couldn’t handle it and they made the second half worse than it should have been. But I agree with your review also. The design just could have been mooorreeeee. Comparing those two screenshots says it all really. 😦

    I did enjoy the game! I liked that there was a story goin’ on. I enjoyed the second half of the game, even! 😀 And the boss! That bad guy’s got some commitment, I respect that! I liked exploring, I liked the laser beam gun rifle thingy, the upgrades, the hidden rooms (HIDDEN ROOOMMMSS!!! :D), the variety of the baddies. I liked those bastard skeletons hiding behind their shields! The cheeky sods!

    … but the trouble is with bad controls it affects *everything*; I liked those skeletons that hid behind their shields but I didn’t have the accuracy to nip behind them and laugh as I plasmaed the back of their stupid unprotected heads. I liked the walky contraption things with the laser beams, but they were too difficult to dodge and shoot at the same time, so I took the damage and ran at them shooting wildly instead. The controls reduced the simple pleasure of taking in a dining room as I ran through it, it even made switches more difficult to switch. Dodgy controls just add extra nngghhgh, everywhere.

    BUT! Yes I actually really did enjoy the game a lot (despite the rant!). Don’t think I didn’t!

    but nnghghhhhgh!!!

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  7. Gryzor says:

    I can’t quite explain it; but something about the design of Demon House puts off a very similar vibe as that of a pre-rendered 90’s CD-ROM game for me, and yes… I’d totally consider that a positive.:D

    I really enjoyed the unique atmosphere and feel of this one, despite the abrupt end and…the controls. Something about the aiming is just totally off and frankly nasty, no matter how much I fiddle around with the configuration. Not that this is the only game I’ve had this particular issue with: L.A.R.A. is probably the only XBLIG FPS that I haven’t (then again, that game is just flat-out incredible!)

    The weapons really could’ve used some more work, too. Although the laser ray shooting blunderbuss is pure genius, weak, impotent sounding/feeling shotguns should be an obvious no-no for *any* shooter.

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