A devilishly challenging 3D platformer, Demon Turf is a lovely blend of classic genre tropes and oodles of innovation. The Finger Guns review.
I want to start this review of Demon Turf by being straight with you: In my opinion, this is a really, really great game. Presented in an retina tickling mix of 2D and 3D visuals, this game blends almost every tried and tested 3D platformer staple with a number of innovations into a challenging but very rewarding package. It’s not perfect, as we’ll get into, but it does far more right than the few things it trips up on.
In Demon Turf, you play as a young, take-no-prisoners demon called Beebz. Unsatisfied with the hierarchy of the demon world, ran by 4 gang leaders who all report to the Demon King, the young demon protagonist is obsessed with overthrowing the status quo. When the Demon King invades her dreams in order to torment her, it was the final straw for Beebz. Accompanied by her very helpful friend Midgi (and her less than supportive friend Luci), Beebz sets out to beat the snot out of the gangs of the demon world, take over their turf and take down the Demon King.
It’s genuinely refreshing to play as a character in a 3D platformer that’s just in it for themselves. Beebz isn’t trying to rescue people. She’s not trying to save the world. She’s just a pocket rocket packed with bad attitude and honestly, it’s kind of endearing. The primary motivation for the game might be taking over the whole joint but that’s reinforced by a myriad of characters that just presume Beebz can’t do it. She’s point blank told regularly that she’s not capable of becoming the Demon Queen and is laughed at by others. This might vary for other players but these interactions lit a fire in my belly that wanted to see Beebz slap the smoke out of everyone that stands between the little demon and her goals.
Assault and Batteries
In order for Beebz to gain access to the Demon King’s castle and kick their ass, she needs 50 batteries. It just so happens that there’s one of these waiting at the end of each level. There’s 7 of these levels for each of the 4 themed zones which unlock one after another. “But wait“, I here you ask, “4 x 7 is only 28. Where are you going to get the other 22 batteries from?“. Well, dear reader, Demon Turf has quite an interesting progression system. Once you’ve collected the 7 batteries from the standard levels in each zone, Beebz will draw the ire of the area’s gang boss. Beat them in their own unique boss battle and the little-demon-that-could will take over. Under her reign, the 7 standard levels get a redesign. The same basic structures apply but there’s an added level of challenge, kind of like the way Yooka-Laylee And The Impossible Lair dealt with replayability. Waiting at the end of each of these remixed levels is another battery to collect.
Levels in Demon Turf take inspiration from the full spectrum of 3D platforming classics. Most are linear with a clear path forward but with branching paths and side activities, akin to those in Jak & Daxter. Some are more divergent, asking the player to collect a number of keys from an open area filled with mini-puzzles which will open a path to the battery. These are reminiscent of a Banjo-Kazooie level. There are a few levels designed entirely around using some of Beebz’s powers (more on those in a second) like speeding across pieces of road and gliding between them, much like levels in Spyro. There are tower levels, asking you to scale their heights as well as water levels that task you to raise the water level by completing parkour sections. If you can think of a 3D platforming set piece, you’ll see it, or a variation of it, here.
One of the most impressive aspects of Demon Turd is how infrequently it recycles ideas. From start to finish, it feels like you’re constantly meeting new dangers or new ways to use mechanics you’ve used before. It’s a very inventive game in that regard.
Jumping through hoops. Literally.
The moment to moment game play of Demon Turf is crafted around the abilities of Beebz herself, which are the real star of the game. Even before unlocking any additional powers, the protagonist is quite unique in the way she traverses levels. Sure, she can jump and run around which feels like any other game. Beyond that though, this game is in a league of its own. For example, there’s a double jump and you can spin which acts kind of like a parachute. The order in which you do these is always important though. If you jump, double jump and then spin, you will travel a fair distance and float to the ground. Alternatively, if you jump, spin and then double jump, that second jump will fling Beebz for a much greater distance – but you you’ll have to stick the landing travelling at speed. How you traverse even a mildly challenging series of jumps needs consideration on Demon Turf. This isn’t a game where you can just spam the jump button. By doing so, you’ll sometimes lock yourself out of being able to land the manoeuvre you need too. Everything has to be deliberate and measured.
Combat is also pretty original in Demon Turf too. Rather than giving you an offensive weapon that defeats other demons directly, this game gives the player the ability to punch foes around. This can be done quickly with low power or charged for a big hit. Brawls in Demon Turf are almost always within arena styled sections of the world where the aim is to punch the enemies into hazards, repel their own firepower back at them or to knock a foe off a ledge to the depths below. It’s a smart way to turn every fight into its own little puzzle, lining up your charged punches so that it’ll knock a hostile demon into a block of spikes, for example.
As you progress through the game, Beebz’s friend Midgi will provide a series of new powers. As you might expect, these new powers coincide with a new type of obstacle being added to the game play elements. Initially, it’s a chain grapple hook like Scorpion uses in Mortal Kombat. With this, Beebz can swing from specific tubes in the world and she can use it to drag enemies or boxes in the world. Later, it’s the ability to turn into a snake that spins, allowing Beebz to travel up steep slopes or the power to glide through the air as a bird. Demon Turf uses these powers to keep the game play fresh. You’ll find that each gives the proceeding set of levels a new feel to them as Beebz becomes ever more powerful.
Checkpoint, Check Mate
The obstacles and platforming that Demon Turf lay before the player are devilishly challenging. While there’s a lot of genre tropes – moving platforms, spike pits, timed pitfalls, slippery surfaces, wall climbing, spinning spikes and a whole lot more – there’s a few innovations here that I’ve not seen used elsewhere. For example, in a few sections of the game, there are platforms which alternative between being physical and spectral each time Beebz jumps. This means that every leap has to be accounted for because if you double jump when you simply wanted to jump, that platform you’re aiming for won’t exist anymore. Demon Turf also has a tendency to combine long series’ of obstacles and hazards together. I won’t lie – this game has given my legs a good work out as I flinched and shifted around as I attempt some tricky jumps. It can be really tough.
Some of the difficulty in Demon Turf can be of your own making. This game has a pretty inventive way of doing checkpoints. As in, you get to set your own. For every level, you’re given 3 flags to place down where ever you see fit, so long as there’s enough space. Not only does this mean that you’ll set the place where Beebz will respawn should she die, but you can also transport between the checkpoints you place. By enabling you to place your own checkpoints, the game gives you a massive amount of freedom – but the kicker here is that it’s easy to waste those checkpoints on your first attempt at a level. The length of a level is not uniform in Demon Turf with some taking a few minuets while others, I’m ashamed to admit, taking me half an hour. If you happen to be on a longer level, you’ve got to make those checkpoints count. Placing them all within the first third of a level (hands up – I did this once) means that you’ll have to finish up the rest of the level without dying. Or restart from scratch. I suggest you opt for the latter.
While collecting batteries is the core aim of the game, Demon Turf also has an impressive amount of side activity to partake in. Each level has either 3 cakes or 30 lollipop sticks to collect, depending on whether Beebz has bested that zone yet or not. These collectables are often off the beaten track and can be hidden in and around some of the most challenging and/or fun content in the whole game. It’s beneficial to collect these too. They can be spent to unlock modifiers which add to Beebz’s powers (like adding a triple jump or an additional checkpoint flag) or can be spent to retrieve batteries from levels you’re finding difficult. They can also be spent on customising the look of Beebz. Fancy a purple demon with green hair? Go nuts.
There’s a few other mini-games you can access from the Fork Town hub too, essentially a home base. A demon who is definitely-not-a-human-in-disguise-no-siree has opening up a photo gallery in town and tasks Beebz with taking pictures of certain landmarks with an in-game camera. There’s also demon golf to play, which is the demonic version of mini-golf. Here you’re punching balls around courses to reach ending flags – but that’s much easier said than done. All together, Demon Turf offers a massive amount of content for completionists.
I imagine there’s going to be a large speed running community built up around Demon Turf too. There’s target times for each levels as well as leader board support for both friends and worldwide. The traversal methods in this game are ripe for exploitation so it’ll be really interesting to see this aspect of the game grow ever more competitive.
A Hell Of A Look
One of the most original aspects of Demon Turf is the art style. Beebz, alongside almost every NPC character in this game, is presented in 2D. What’s incredibly impressive about this is the way these 2D sprites have been animated. No matter in which direction the demon moves, the sprites show the correct side of the character to make it look as though they’re 3D in this space. It’s easy to forget you’re moving a flat 2D character at times because of how well this has been implemented.
Despite being set in the demonic world, Demon Turf’s environments each carry their own vibe. Even within the themed zones, you’ll notice quite a lot of variety in the way levels are lit of presented. Despite each themed world having its own ambiance though, the game feels aligned and conjoined. I have to congratulate developers Fabraz on some of the ingenious twists on well established tropes they’ve included here too. Just one example – the “golems” in the snow kissed peak levels are robots that feature Tibetan-like artwork.
The music for Demon Turf is excellent too. Many of the tracks are reminiscent of those in Jet Set Radio, packed with attitude and trippy beats. The audio in the game does a really great job of complementing the visuals in each themed area too. In fact, Demon Turf does that really cool thing that’s almost unique to 3D platformers: there’s a melody that’s synonymous with the game after you’ve been playing it for a few hours and you’ll here it presented slightly differently, via different instruments, depending on which themed area you’re in.
I mentioned at the start of this review that Demon Turf isn’t perfect. Rather than having any core design issues though, the niggles that this game has are purely polish related. For the most part, this game works as intended. There are a few glitches in there though. In one example, I landed on a bounce pad and rather than spring into the air, Beebz locked in place and started to do the animation as if she was sliding down a wall. In another level, I’d picked up all the collectables that were needed to unlock the path forward – only I died on my way there. When I respawned, the grapple hooks had disappeared, forcing me to restart the level. In a game this big and as mechanically diverse as it is, there are bound to be a few bugs. Thankfully none of these are game breaking and they can hopefully be ironed out with a patch.
In a year that has seen an impressive array of 3D platformers release, from Psychonauts 2, It Takes Two and…*sigh* Sonic Colours Ultimate, Demon Turf deserves to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of them, despite a few glitches. This is a game for people that grew up on collect-a-thon’s, who remember the pain of losing all of your extra lives on a single tricky jump only to nail it on your last attempt, and for those who know where all the golden jigsaw pieces are. IYKYK.
A slick, well designed game, Demon Turf is packed with personality, in part due to its 2D/3D hybrid visuals. Like a tour of the best the genre has to offer, this is a 3D platformer for those that grew up on them and fancy a hearty yet deeply rewarding challenge. It’s only let down by a handful of bugs which will hopefully get fixed via a patch.
Demon Turf launches for the PS5 (review platform), PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S | X, PC and Nintendo Switch on November 4th, 2021.
Publihser: Playtonic Friends
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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