Demons with Shotguns really couldn’t have come along at a more ideal time that over the Christmas period. It’s requirement for at least two players meant that I needed to rope in my wife and our resident reviewer Moosli for an evening or two of death match fun. Despite not really being up either of their alleys, they came away having had a good time with the game and, as a result, so did I.
The press blurb promises 9 modes for multiplayer carnage; the 4 core modes (Deathmatch, Soul Reaping, Capture the Soul and King of the Soul) should be familiar if you’ve played any multiplayer title in the last 20 years and feature team variants that count towards the tally. We also have the one life based Last Soul Standing; as soon as you die you’re out for the round. This mode proved to be rather short lived and, in all honesty, not all that fun. Perhaps with some more competitive players it could provide a little more entertainment, but we soon found ourselves returning to the more standard fare. Luckily these hold up rather well.
No matter the mode, the gameplay is the same; pick a character from a wide choice of Angel/Demon varieties and get blasting away with your shotgun. The characters all have a floaty yet controllable double jump ability, as well as a shield to block or deliver a powerful charge attack with. Once the action kicks off, all hell breaks loose with shotgun blasts flying in from every angle. As you may expect, the range on them is quite limited, so there is no time for hiding away and taking potshots. This leads to some up close and brutal games of chicken, as one player ducks in range to fire while the other weaves into cover ready for the counter attack. Get caught, and your avatar falls in a gruesomely animated pixel art death. Arms slop off, heads roll or you simply explode into red mist. A short timer counts down and then it’s your time for revenge. There’s not much more to it than that, but the simple fact is the action is short and sweet enough to never really get old. Rounds last roughly a few minutes, depending on the game mode and the settings you choose, and each ended with us ready to get back to it and look to reclaim our loss.
You’ll also need to be wary of ammo, as we only start with 6 shots. More can be picked up, but these can take time to respawn – use of the melee attack is highly recommended! Much to Moosli’s delight, there is also a powerful Holy Water grenade that, well, let’s just say it will obliterate anything in its vicinity and she got rather good at aiming… Finally, there are Tarot cards dotted about the stages at random. These bestow perks or hindrances on all players depending on the card, from giving everyone angel wings allowing super high jumps to forcing all players to auto fire repeatedly for a time. Some, such as the one that acts as a Quad damage multiplier, are brilliant to gain. Others, such as Sand of Time that slow the whole level down, not so much. As with the more generic settings these can be disabled in the pre-game menu, but they do add that extra fun factor for the most part.
Levels are all single screen layouts and feature ledges and walls to use to your advantage. There are several themes to choose from too, though I did find the Church ones hard to differentiate between back and foreground detail at times. Ammo, Holy Grenades and Tarot cards are often located out of the main play space, so you’ll need to keep on the move to grab them before the other players.
While the PvP aspect is undoubtedly the focus of Demons With Shotguns, Mindshaft Games have also catered to those that want to work together. The End of Times mode allows two players to team up against waves of AI enemies, with things naturally getting harder as the levels progress. While it was a little disappointing that it was limited to 2 players (though it’s possible to play solo too, which is nice – if damn hard), considering the carnage that happens as it is, we can understand not allowing 4 to take part. There’s no slow build either; by wave 2 of the first stage we’re introduced to shotgun wielding cavemen that can kill us far easier than we can them. Team work and some quick reactions are needed to clear each wave successfully. It’s here that combat other than shotguns is introduced. Rocket launchers, roaming ghosts that have claw attacks, charging demon dogs and more, you’ll need to keep your wits about you.
While the need to get a handful of players together locally might hinder your ability to play Demons With Shotguns regularly, when you can it will likely fast become a game night favourite. The action is quick, violent and wonderfully fun, the visuals and audio compliment the gameplay brilliantly and, despite the simple premise, things don’t quickly become overly repetitive. The co-op mode is a great addition that braver and more skilled than I solo players can take on too.