[Review] Diabolic – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mark Maultby
  • Developer: MyDreamForever
  • Publisher: Drageus Games
  • Release date: 20/03/2020
  • Price: £4.49 / $4.99
  • Review code provided by Drageus Games

Introducing: Diabolic Switch Review

If you have half an eye on the videogame or music industries, you hear the word ‘indie’ so often it’s easy to forget what it really means. Of course it means stuff that’s independently produced – put out on a shoestring, crowd-sourced, garage-built – but what does that mean for the content? We might expect a less refined experience. One that’s more rough and ready, less polished. But, in the video game world, and particularly on Switch, it might be fair to say we’ve been spoiled, with many indies becoming as beloved as anything from the first, second and third party developers. At this point, lines between indie and everything else have become blurred. Not so with Diabolic. It is raw, unfiltered and unpolished; indie in the most indie way I can imagine. 

The reason for mentioning this is that it’s been a while since I’ve played a game so immediately obviously an indie title. Diabolic really has a made-in-a-bedroom feel to it – the title screen, the menu, the graphics – it’s like playing something from a ‘90s PC, using keyboard letters to move. None of this is necessarily to Diabolic’s detriment, it’s just very noticeable.

Dark And Moody

So, what is Diabolic? It’s an isometric hack ‘n slasher with some light RPG elements. You play as a knight, very small compared with the environment, which is handy because soon you’ll be surrounded and chased down by teeming hordes of equally small undead enemies, so you’ll need plenty of room to manoeuvre. The world is dark and fantastical, with treasure chests, wolves, arrows, undead, dragons, and the like.

The visuals match the dark fantasy vibe with a grimy colour palette. It might not be to everyone’s tastes, but I like the style. Everything looks sharp and behaves itself technically.

The music is delightful and unexpected. It has piano arrangements like from a Studio Ghibli film. I was happy to leave it on while I took a break for a cup of tea.

10 Levels, 0.5 Stories

The whole game is structured around ten levels, or more appropriately, maps. There is no over-world or deep story tying any of them together, you just have to play each level in turn. The levels are presented on the menu in a list – once you beat one you open up the next. Nice and simple.  

The first level sets the template. You arrive, wander around a village until the first person tells you their village has been ravaged by the undead and you need to find a portal. So, primary mission: find a portal. The onscreen text is perfunctory and to the point; there’s no dilly-dallying with emotions here. Levels may also have secondary objectives too, for example in the first level you can gain extra rewards by helping a villager eradicate packs of pesky wolves. But, if you’re after a story, look elsewhere.

Hacking And/Or Slashing

The gameplay is tight and fun. Your knight has three main combat options. Slash with a sword, project fire with magic, or fire arrows with a bow. You definitely feel overpowered with this arsenal for the first few bouts of combat. But later, as the hordes grow in size and complexity, you’ll find that you need all of it to win, deftly combining ranged magic attacks with sword slashes. 

Get ready to run around a lot. Most of the combat scenarios surround you with tiny enemies whose goal is to pound you into oblivion. You’ll definitely need to do some weaving alongside some targeted attacks to break the lines. There are a range of enemy types but nothing that requires anything different than a barrage of slashes and fire. I think an opportunity has been missed a little bit here. Given that the game starts you out with all three attack types from the outset, it would’ve been a nice touch to differentiate the enemies’ weaknesses to make the combat feel more tactical. Also, with hordes, a dash button would’ve been welcome too. That being said, the combat is enjoyable enough, it’s just a little bit simple.

My favourite aspect of Diabolic is its level designs. The game does a smart job of setting up the combat set pieces. I won’t say anything else as it’d be a bit of a spoiler, but there’s some cool stuff with coloured keys and bullseye targets. There’s also a handy, albeit invisible, midway point for each level – die and you don’t always return to the beginning.

Short on RPG

The game is relatively short, even for an indie. It’s not going to take you longer than a few hours to beat. Even if you get stuck facing down a particularly persistent cohort of undead, it’s really simple to grind for more money to spend on upgrades. 

Earlier I mentioned ‘light RPG elements.’ That’s the upgrade system. As you progress, you’re breaking chests and killing enemies, all of which rewards you with coin. A nice feature is the teeny tiny coins get automatically sucked up as you run past, which is great, because did I mention they’re teeny? All these coins can be spent on improving all the combat integrals of your knight; increase your health, boost your fire magic; it’s pretty standard stuff. It must be said, though, this is the ugliest interface I’ve ever seen – it’s so bad it’s actually a little bit delightful.

Diabolical or Heavenly?

All in all, I’ve enjoyed my time with Diabolic. It’s priced at £4.49 and at the time of writing there’s a 50% sale on; I think that’s about right. The developer describes the game as “a fun break” and that feels about right too. It’s a diverting few hours with some tight and entertaining combat. It doesn’t try to be anything more. I hope the developer, MyDreamForever, earns enough to build upon these strong foundations.

Pros

  • Fun combat
  • Nice retro appearance
  • Solid level designs
  • Lovely music
  • Feels indie

Cons

  • Appalling user interface
  • Combat a bit simple
  • Feels indie

Verdict

A diverting hack ‘n slash, Diabolic is short, dark and as indie as it gets.

3.5/5

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