Devil Daggers opens with your nameless protagonist in an empty abyss beckoned to snag the game's titular weapon. Do so and an endless stream of demons will descend upon you as you flee, fire, and hop your way to a very quick demise. Your character may be resurrecting unspeakable horrors by grabbing this weapon, but it's really developer Sorath who's digging deep into the genre's forgotten past to bring us an otherworldly arcade adventure unlike anything out there today.
On the surface, Devil Daggers is a very simple game. There's only one mode - in which you survive as long as possible - and one weapon with two methods of fire: an endless string of bloody blades or a scattershot boom of a blunderbuss. Movement-wise, you merely run and jump, which I believe moves you out of harm's way ever so slightly faster. Apparently there's a homing shot upgrade as well, but I've never made it far enough to attain it. That's it.
What makes Devil Daggers such an enticing prospect is its pacing. Each round goes by very quickly and surviving even a minute in this abyssal gauntlet is a herculean effort. There's several enemy types, each with their own unique patterns, glowing weakpoints, and strategies. Before you know it you'll be dashing between multiple monster types effortlessly swapping between firing modes before something swallows you from behind.
It can feel unfair at first without a radar or any method of situational awareness outside of your own two eyes, but you do learn tactics as you go. One of Devil Dagger's most fun features is that it uploads replays of everyone's best score into the game's leaderboards. So if you want to watch the number one player in the world's run in order to steal strategies, you're encouraged to do so. Or maybe you just want to watch how your friends bested you. Did they shoot more diligently? Strafe less? What is that technique they're doing where they look at the ground and blast while jumping?
With the rules so plainly laid out before you and the possibility of a new personal best within spitting distance, the temptation for another go is much stronger in Devil Daggers than in other games of its ilk. It feels like the game that would be made if Vlambeer (Super Crate Box, Luftrausers) made a Quake spin-off. It will be interesting to see where id Software takes its first Doom game in over a decade, and while that big budget successor is going for gore and high end graphics, Devil Daggers provides a perfect budget throwback to the genre's relentless roots. It's mad, minimalist mayhem.