PAX Australia 2017 Focus – Damsel

Being Brisbane based myself I find it amazing just how many game developers we have up here in the Sunshine State.  On the Saturday afternoon I caught up with Anthony Wood from Screwtape Studios, based out of Brisbane.  Despite being only half way through the weekend, Anthony was already starting to lose his voice. Just as well I brought my audio recorder then, so he didn’t have to repeat himself.

He was at PAX this year to demonstrate a game that he and Screwtape Studios producer Megan Summers have been working on for about three years now.  In short, Damsel is an arcade platformer set in a dark pulpy, cartoon world and features a confident female protagonist known simply as ‘Agent Damsel’.

Damsel is set in a dark cartoon universe where vampires and humans live in a fairly unstable co-existence. The vampires in the game all work for the multinational company which manufactures the drink Red Mist, the number one selling vampire drink on the planet. Red Mist is a blood analogue that satiates the vampire thirst without a need for human donors.

Prompted by a tip-off that the makers of Red Mist may have a “secret menu” containing drinks with real human blood destined for the highest bidders, Damsel, an agent for the Department of Sanguinarian Affairs (DSA) is called in to investigate, and if required, put a stop to any illegal activity.

When I caught up with Anthony on the Saturday afternoon of PAX he informed me that the idea for Damsel came about from a desire to create a video game that embraced diversity and inclusiveness.  Anthony felt there was a lot of talking but not necessarily a lot of doing, and so taking those values went out to make a game that dealt with empowerment.

The title Damsel itself is intentionally a flip on the old trope of a ‘damsel in distress’.

The game features handcrafted levels that progressively get harder and introduce new enemies and challenges, accompanied by some gorgeous artwork that I really admired.  Something I really appreciate is the ability for gamers to either simply play through the game at a basic level, complete the challenge required each level and move on OR work to beat levels as quickly as possible, chain together kills, or complete bonus objectives to achieve the highest possible score (and unlock some pretty tough achievements).  Because of this the game should appeal to both casual and competitive gamers of all ages.

The game will have online leaderboards and the team are hoping to include the ability to record your games and upload them or possibly even a ‘Ghost’ mode so you can see how to improve your runs.

I managed to get some hands-on time with Damsel as well and found the controls to be fluid, tight and intuitive.  It didn’t take me very long before I was moving quickly through levels, destroying vampires in all directions and securing the release of captives.  As I mentioned earlier the artwork is fantastic, with what appear to be hand painted backgrounds with bright, colourful sprites over the top that really ‘pop’.  At no time in the game did I struggle to find my character, the enemies or the objectives on the screen.

Take a look at the gameplay video below and be sure to keep your eye on the Steam Page as the game should be releasing about February 2018 for Windows, Macintosh and Linux.  All going well, Anthony hopes to see the game on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch not long after the PC release.


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