Devolver Digital's Demon Throttle, developed by Doinksoft, has been an interesting development since its official announcement. The climate of gaming has changed drastically over the past ten years as the market shifted to a digital one. It's amazing how at one point, the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii invested themselves in physical gaming. There are games to this day that remains a physical exclusive on certain consoles. Tekken 6 for example is only officially available digitally on the PS3, despite a digital version on the Xbox 360.
The digital era has made it so that games are more easily accessible now than they ever were in the past. Games that were fated to remain within a specific region, like Super Robot Wars, had received localization in other languages. This is great for fans of a series that wouldn't have access to play in the past. But that's the original allure for video games, right? Once upon a time, the only way gamers could play anything was on a physical cartridge.
This is why at first glance, Doinksoft's Demon Throttle's "physical-only release," may give some players a sense of whiplash. This wasn't a decision that was made "for kicks." Physical games in a digital era are an enigma, an inside secret that only you and a select few are "in the know" of. It helps in Demon Throttle's case that it's a really good game from what I played via the demo build. It targets a specific audience, but its brutality is a homage to the games before it.
The synopsis is as simple and humorous as one would expect. There's a big bad demon on the loose and two allies, a gunslinger and a vampiress, team up to take them down. Both unlikely allies have their own reasons for hunting the demon as the vampire wishes to reclaim her stolen chalices. The gunslinger's wife...shacked up with the demon and he wishes to have his revenge. Even though the plot isn't the meat of the game, the dialogue between the two and the various bosses is humorous. It's mainly pre-fight banter but they are enough to show the personalities of the vampire playing the straight woman and the gunslinger being the goofball.
Demon Throttle's gameplay is heavily inspired by the NES classic King's Knight, developed by Square. Released in 1986, the game itself would be revolutionary for Square as it was its first original title released on a console. It was a top-down vertical shoot-em-up, much like 1949 and Ikari Warriors at the time. It had a unique mechanic where the player could level up and thus become stronger as well. Much of these philosophies would transfer over to Demon Throttle with quality-of-life advancements.
Don't mistake that for the game being a cakewalk, for it is anything but. While it wasn't planned, I had the opportunity to play the game via local co-op and I'm glad I had the opportunity. If you have a buddy at home, encourage them to tag along with you on your adventure. Due to the Switch having two joycons included, it makes it even easier for a friend to join. While the vampire and gunslinger are similar, they are unique enough to differ from each other. The gunslinger shoots in a straight line, rewarding precision, and the vampire shoots her crossbow at several arcs for wide AOE targets.
Despite the limitations that developing a Famicom-era game would provide, the graphical tricks are rather unique. There's a lot of depth perception. Enemies will appear on bridges above the player and the player can jump over bullets to avoid them. It plays tricks with the player's vision but it's easy to discern after a while. Much like the game's inspiration, the overall game itself is "short," but the chance of clearing it the first time is slim. The player only has one life and upon death, they have to start from the very beginning. In co-op, a dead player can be revived in the next world.
This is no doubt a callback to games like Contra where every life counts. What's cool is that much like other Konami games and our namesake, there is a "Konami Code" for Demon Throttle. While the code is hidden in the game's manual, the code gives enough goodies as a Konami game would. Players who wish to obtain a piece of gaming history in the making have the chance to do so as last-minute preorders are now available. Perhaps we may also do an unboxing of this title and flesh it out ourselves? I'd like to redeem myself for always dying and dragging my co-op buddy down, but it was great fun to play!
Demon Throttle releases in 2022.