Demon Pit plays just like the shooters of the 90’s did not!
Release date: 17 Oct, 2019
Demon Pit is a simple game. There are demons, you shoot them, and then new demons appear, that you also shoot. Rinse and repeat, until you’re dead. All of this is done with a charmingly 90’s shooter-inspired aesthetic.
At its core, Demon Pit is a score attack game. Your goal is not just to survive, and kill the enemies that appear, but to get as many points as possible, by chaining together combos, while at the same time trying to last as long as possible.
Graphics & Sound
Demon Pit looks like what would happen if you mixed the original DOOM, Quake and Chasm: The Rift, and then increased the resolution and brightness. The enemy models are simple and chunky, although I suspect somewhat more complex than you would have got in the shooters that inspired the looks of this one, a with textures that look like they have a very low resolution. And because everything is very consistent, it actually ends up looking pretty good. Also, the enemies look suitably techno-daemonic in nature, ranging from almost human-looking creatures who’s had their mouths fused shut, to skulls that walk on 4 metallic legs to worse things. The different enemies look visually distinct, and yet consistent enough for none of them to look out of place, although the developers seems to be almost as obsessed with skulls as mid 90’s Games Workshop were.
With the default sound levels, the sound effects do feel a bit weak, but increasing the sound effects does wonders for this game. The guns get a nice kick to them, and in a game like this, that’s important. There’s nothing in here that’s on the level of the Super Shotgun from DOOM 2 in terms of how satisfying it feels to use, but very few shooters have guns that feel that good.
The soundtrack is also decent. While it’s hardly memorable (as I write this, just half an hour or so after playing the game, I can’t remember what it sounds like, just what I thought of it while playing), it does fit the action, without being distracting or annoying.
Demon Pit is a wave-based shooter that takes place in a small arena, similar to games like Devil Daggers, but with a few twists of its own. At the start of every new wave, the arena will change the layout. New walls might appear, part of the floor might turn into lava and so on and you get a few moments to figure out what changed before enemies start spawning. This always follows the same pattern though, wave 20 is going to be the same every time you play the game.
The basic gameplay is simple, and if you’ve played a shooter before, picking up on how it works won’t take long. The controls are the same as they’ve been in shooters for almost two decades now, and all the guns feel familiar. You’ve got a shotgun, a flamethrower, a rocket launcher and so on, and they work as you would expect. The shotgun deals more damage up close, the rocket launcher deals splash damage and the flame thrower lights enemies on fire, and seems to apply a weak damage over time effect.
The most unique thing you have in your arsenal is a grappling hook, which can be used to quickly move between different points in the arena, with some places only being accessible with the grappling hook, most importantly the places where health pickups appear.
All the different enemy types follow predictable patterns, which usually involves them either trying to run towards you or shoot at you, with projectile weapons (there are no hit-scan weapons in the enemy arsenal). Knowing the attack patterns of the different enemy types is an important part of staying alive, something that’s easier said than done when you’ve got 4-5 different enemy types on the field at once. Dodging the slow projectiles that are always aimed at the spot where you’re standing from one enemy type might not be very hard in itself, but when you’ve got flying skulls and demons with huge knives for hands trying to get to you at the same time, things suddenly get far trickier, particularly when there are lava pits scattered all over the map, and you need to conserve ammunition for your more powerful guns.
Like with any good score attack game, getting far into the game is one thing, but getting far into the game and getting a high score is an entirely different one. In Demon Pit you’ve got a combo system, whereas long as you’re able to chain together kills fast enough, you’ll get a point bonus, but if you want too long with killing something, the combo counter will go down to 0. A good player will know what enemies to prioritize to keep up the combo counter, and try to kill the more valuable and tougher enemies, when the combo counter is high, to maximize point gain. A really skilled player (i.e. not me) will likely be able to keep track of how much damage each enemy has taken, and will be able to make sure that the really tough enemies are softened up enough that you can get a guaranteed kill when the combo meter is high.
For anyone who cares about FoV in their shooters, which is quite a few people (including me), there is an FoV slider, although oddly enough, it seems to use vertical FoV, rather than horizontal FoV, so don’t get fooled by the low number. This should be around 105, horizontal FoV. It was hard to actually test this though, as you don’t really get enough time to do it before the daemons close in.
Demon Pit is not a game that tries to do a whole lot of different things. In fact, there’s no real story, no level progression or anything of that nature, just you, your guns, a bunch of daemons, an ever-changing small arena and a leaderboard. And that is perfectly fine.
My main concern with this game would be longevity. How many times can you play through the same pre-determined waves before repetition starts setting in? For the right kind of person, really mastering the game and trying to top the leader boards might be fun enough for them to sink dozens of hours into the game, but I would imagine that most people will play it for 3-4h before they feel like they’ve had enough.
I enjoyed my time with the game, and I’ll likely keep it installed for at least a few months, playing a round of it from time to time, but it’s not a game I really feel like binge-playing, or really try to master. If I do have any real complaints about the game, other than its likely lack of longevity for most players, it’s that it feels a bit stingy with ammo. While actually being able to hit the enemies while circle-strafing and grappling all over the place is a valuable skill of its own, the powerful guns are more fun to use than the puny starting pistol.