Developer Doinksoft’s Demon Throttle caused a bit of a stir last year when it was announced that the game would only be launching physically. Its atypical release isn’t the only thing that’s a callback to the past, however, as Demon Throttle is an incredibly fun and engaging throwback to the retro shooters of old.
Demon Throttle throws players into the shoes of one of two characters, a gunslinger or a vampiress. From the very start, the not-so-subtle humor of Demon Throttle is on full display, as the main motivation for both characters is to take down a demon that has stolen a random assortment of chalices from the vampiress, while also seemingly being involved in an affair with the gunslinger’s husband. After the brief (and hilarious) opening cutscene that sets the stage, players are tossed into a game that’s ripped right out of classic ’80s scrolling shooters.
Gameplay in Demon Throttle is fairly straightforward, with the main task simply to shoot enemies while continually moving upwards on its auto-scrolling levels. Those playing the gunslinger will be able to shoot two bullets at first, while the vampiress’ weapon has a wider spread, which makes things a little easier. Both also get special moves that act as powerful items that can be used in a pinch. Players can either run through levels alone and swap between different characters or play with a friend in co-op (which works either locally or online), meaning that the duo will be utilized either way.
Anyone who has played titles like Commando, Ikari Warriors, or King’s Knight — which Doinksoft listed as a direct influence of the game — will be right at home here. Demon Throttle has simple controls and gameplay that isn’t exactly difficult, but will certainly has its chaotic moments, especially as more and more enemies begin appearing on the screen and chipping away at each player’s health bar. Gameplay-wise, it’s all about managing the bullets coming in while trying to aim the bullets you’re shooting out, which is an easy loop to understand.
Demon Throttle‘s boss battles draw from these same mechanics, but are bigger in scope. Much like its levels, each boss is unique in its own way, with bosses ranging from giant scorpions with a swinging tail that drops bombs to a standard giant who smashes its fists around. Some bosses hidden away, too, and only accessible via hidden staircases. For example, one hidden area revealed a slot machine boss, which essentially continued to goad the gunslinger character into “gambling,” which just resulted in more bosses coming out each time; a clever touch that hopefully applies to the rest of these big bads.
Taking its cue from those classic games, Demon Throttle doesn’t sport that many levels, with only four main stages found inside of the game, each with their own unique landscape and theme like a grassy field for the first level and a slippery icescape for the second. However, a surprisingly deep game is hidden behind the seemingly straightforward gameplay and short levels. Alongside the weather events that add variability, there are also secret areas, walkways, bosses, and items that are hidden in the breakable parts of the environment that encourage players to look around as they blasting away.
Finding these elusive sections will lead to sub-levels that make stages last longer and also yield access to one of the four chalices found in each level’s secret area. Grabbing these chalices is key, because — much like many classic retro games — Demon Throttle features a variety of endings, the “truest” of which won’t be available until all four of those fancy cups have been discovered. This can make the challenge of Demon Throttle go up significantly, as running out of lives doesn’t simply push players back to the beginning of the level, but, rather, the beginning of the entire game.
It’s tiny twists on gameplay like this, as well as the unlockable harder difficulty, that should keep users coming back for more way after they beat it for the first time. While this obviously wasn’t accessible in the demo, Doinksoft also mentioned that things like remixed worlds, modifiers to stats, and more powerful upgrades to weapons through the use of an in-game shop were also in the game, which will reward players for sticking around and not just powering through the game on one single run.
As far as releases go, Doinksoft is extremely committed to keeping things just like they used to be. After coming up with the game as a way to pay homage to their love of the arcades of old (it was originally envisioned as “just an arcade cabinet“), publisher Devolver Digital stepped in and helped make this game an exclusively physical release. While some might wonder just how well the game will sell in physical formats only, Doinksoft said it isn’t too concerned. It doesn’t sound like stock will ever become an issue, as Special Reserve Games — which is helping to handle the release — has a history of providing physical releases to games. Doinksoft also said this wouldn’t be a limited release, either.
With its retro style and unique release plan, Demon Throttle won’t be for everyone. Games have taken massive leaps and strides since the vertical shooter days of the ’80s and players might not be willing to take a step back and jump into the game. Those that do, though, will be rewarded with an incredibly charming experience that seems like it will hit most or all the proper nostalgia notes while also incorporating a few modern-day touches, as well.