PEGBRJE: Daemon Detective Gaiden II and Realm of the Ghost King

More pixel fun times, but this time with a lot of familiarity.

Yes I am a penguin. Yes I saw the option to be a penguin, and I took it.

Daemon Detective Gaiden II is an action platforming title made by Yal, a solo indie dev with a massive library of works ranging from games to tools. In this one specifically, players follow a variety of characters chosen to investigate a bizarre incident in which the New Magma City Art Museum is the source of a massive disappearance. In their stead, unregistered paintings rest in the museum that are mesmerizing to those who watch them. Like any good detective group, it’s time to dive in to these paintings and see what is going on. Literally.

While thematically differing, Daemon Detective Gaiden II plays extremely similar to an iconic title, one Super Mario 64. Players dive into paintings found in a large ornate room to which they will platform across dangerous areas, destroy enemies and find the finish line. Accessing new paintings requires finding hidden paintings within each zone, and each painting has an overarching theme to it that sets the tone for each level found within. The player will find power ups throughout each level that can add a variety of powers to their arsenal, as well as give them the ability to find hidden areas by breaking objects or finding a secondary path.

So that does sound quite similar, but there are some stark contrasts between the two. Starting at the obvious, the game is a lovingly crafted 2D 16bit experience rather than the 3D of Super Mario 64 which I greatly prefer. Rather than being spit back out of the painting after completing each level, DDG2 follows the older format of action titles with paintings acting as the entrance to a string of levels. Finishing a level will bring the protagonist to an ‘overworld’ of sorts, to which they will move to the next level and await the player’s command to start. The final level in a painting is usually a boss fight, feeling more like a Metroid boss with it’s health bar and need to utilize different techniques hinted at throughout the level to succeed.

The big difference, however, is in the multiple protagonists — at the start of the title, players will decide who they will take this journey as between the private detectives and a singular penguin cop (spoilers, I picked the penguin). This also allows for up to four players to play in a local co-op, so if there are others wishing to adventure into paintings then by all means grab them and jump in. These different characters all come with special abilities and unique passives, such as the penguin cop’s ability to have two of themselves so that death didn’t always mean dying. There are some with active specials as well, and all of these can be upgraded for coins that are collected, so ensuring money acquisition is important. Along with choosing characters, players can also ‘bank’ a power up so they can use another instead. They can switch between the two, although it is done via throwing the banked one a little distance to be careful not to throw it off a cliff.

It has enough interesting variation to keep things fresh and exciting, and adding the ability to play co-op allows Daemon Detective Gaiden II to play as a fun platforming adventure. I know little about the original DDG, but this was an enjoyable experience even outside of knowing the original. If you are looking for local co-op 2D Super Mario with demon powers, or just an adventure to venture forth on with penguins, then this is one that might be worth checking out.

Realm of the Ghost King is a turn-based roguelike made by Mantis-Eye Labs, a web designer and solo indie dev working on bite-sized games to try out. In this one, players are attempting to dethrone the Ghost King himself as the new leader of the realm. To do so, we’ve got to go fight through his dungeons to reach him, and unfortunately if it were easy people would’ve done it already.

True to it’s headline, Realm of the Ghost King focuses primarily on keeping everything within a quick loop to easily pick up during some small downtime. Actions are all done in a turn-based economy system, something that has been highlighted before in the bundle, as after every move the player makes the enemies perform their move. Defeating enemies is just as simple, for moving into them will deal damage to them — with a small twist. One of the caveats of this system is that it usually involves trading blows, but instead with this title any enemy attacked will be ‘stunned’ and unable to attack back. This doesn’t stop them from utilizing a special ability, but it does help in confirming kills rather than trading blows, especially since there aren’t many hearts for the player character. Defeated enemies drop souls which can then be used to purchase a singular item at the shop before it disappears to the next level. These souls are multipurpose however, as they also allow each character to activate their special ability, which can range from the ghost’s double action or the bat’s drain. These characters can be gained through different challenges and are all highlighted on the starting screen as additional motivation to beat the Ghost King to unlock them as players go. Technically, players will get a preview of all of these characters, seeing as they are the enemies trying to destroy the protagonist.

Make no mistake, there will be dozens of opportunities to unlock these other characters as while Realm of the Ghost King is quick and simple, easy isn’t entirely what I would consider it. Thanks to turn-based nature of the title, it is entirely possible to be stuck in a gridlock with an enemy, running in circles hoping to bait them into a better position but they refuse to relent. Sometimes there will be an extra heart to spare, other times there’s only one heart left without any souls to power a special. Thankfully, there is a singular last resort: the bombs. An external resource from health and souls, these bombs are used to blow through walls in the hopes of accessing items, portals, and other mysteries. They can also be used to destroy anything within 1 square of it in the cardinal directions, making it a fantastic way of removing the enemies that have been running in circles. It gives some counter-play to the traditional problem that many grid-based movement systems can run into, namely that infinite loop where neither can get in close to hit the other without destroying themselves. Do be warned, however, that bombs also effect the player, and it goes off in two turns; get stuck in its blast radius, and the run may just be over.

Mix and match which character may be right for you to see if you can take on the Ghost King at the end of 8 possibly grueling levels, and take your place on the throne as the new ruler. Then do it all over again, and again. If you were a fan of Nuclear Throne but wished for something smaller and less fast, this is definitely a title to try out.

Links

Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.