Tuesday, February 26

Review: Daggerhood [Nintendo Switch eShop]

More than ever games that are meant to be challenging are engaged in what seems to be a real tightrope walk. You have games like Super Meatboy that demand precision and control nearly flawlessly and others like Celeste where a very different route was taken, throwing serious challenges at players but then offering Assist mode options to make them accessible to everyone. While their approaches may be different, the emphasis is roughly the same. If titles are able to find a great balance of frustration and thrills they can be exhilarating, but if they rely on cheap deaths or don’t leave the player feeling fully in control of their fate they can go downhill in a hurry. Unfortunately, for me, Daggerhood falls into the latter category, with far too many deaths that feel cheap holding back what seems to be a reasonably good core gameplay hook.

The controls in the game are fairly simple, you’ll have the ability to wall jump, double jump, and then throw a dagger. Not only will the dagger help you dispatch foes, it’s also a means of teleportation, and that’s the hook that helps set the game apart. The levels are laid out in ways that will continuously test your skills of execution, though you have a degree of control over how you want to play them. In general you can count on them being relatively brief, and this does make the game work well on the go, but the length of time they take depends on what you’re shooting for.

Aside from simply completing stages, which can be challenging in itself, there’s always a fairy present that you’ll need to grab quickly if you want to check them off the list. There are also 5 pieces of treasure to collect if you’re a completionist. Finally, your level time is given a score from 0 to 3 stars depending on how quick you can be. It quickly becomes obvious that if you want to do all of these things it will require multiple runs, especially since if you die you lose credit for the things you’ve grabbed. I suppose this versatility is nice as you can choose your approach, and have reason to return if you’re a completionist, but given the annoyances you often will run into I’m not so positive many will go that route.

I can understand and even enjoy games that are challenging, but there needs to be some genuine element of fun driving you. Whether that’s feeling like you’re in the flow of things, some narrative hook, or the promise of some reward to get to the next level there should be something more than “because it’s there” keeping you engaged. That, and an abundance of cheap deaths from spikes or situations where you have a minimal margin of error chained together, is really where Daggerhood comes up short for me. Somehow it wants you to be fast and precise at the same time but your character feels just a bit too chunky and the tendency to touch spikes that aren’t even pointed in your direction for stupid deaths is infuriating. Speed works when the action flows and the controls feel precise, in Daggerhood the need to change up your timing or make odd throws that are somewhere randomly in the middle of your jump makes everything feel stilted and a bit awkward.

While I have no doubt that there will be a crowd out there who’ll enjoy Daggerhood, despite its issues, I find it hard to recommend. It has some decent ideas and smart level designs but rather than getting into the zone and feeling at one with the game it felt like it was actively working in the opposite direction, pushing me away with too many cheap deaths and quirky elements of design that kept me from getting immersed in it. If you’re down to be tested, it may work for you, but I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone else.

Score: 6

  • A relatively simple and smart core set of mechanics
  • Well-suited to play on the go
  • A variety of ways to encourage replaying levels

  • Prone to cheap deaths
  • The difficulty is all over the place from stage to stage
  • There’s too often a demand on speed paired with very narrow precision that can be aggravating