Dire Vengeance Review – Old School Action Platforming Combined With Modern Updates

Developed By: Magic Shot Games

Published By: Magic Shot Games

Genres: Action/Platformer

Thank you so much to Magic Shot Games for providing a review code.

Halloween is fast approaching and I’m looking forward to writing some spookier reviews. Today I’m going to be looking at a game that I wouldn’t necessarily consider spooky but one that I would say nails the haunting atmosphere very well. Dire Vengeance is a love letter to the old Castlevania games found on the NES and SNES. The developers of the game sought to recreate a bygone era in gaming history, and by doing so they created a fantastic entry into the genre.

Game Summary

  • Dire Vengeance puts you in the shoes of Pandora a warrior that journeys into the depths of hell to try and stop the invasion of demons into her world known as the World of Light. The story definitely isn’t the focus of the game, but its there to at least provide some motivation for Pandora’s quest.
  • Dire Vengeance tasks you to take on 8 stages each driving you further into the madness of hell and escalating the tension and difficulty. However, in a more modern take on the old school genre, each stage only needs to be completed one at a time.
  • Every stage is linear in its progression and is made up of 3-4 levels. Each level can range anywhere from 3-10 minutes long. You begin every stage with 3 lives and if you lose these 3 lives before finishing the stage you’ll have to restart from level 1. If you beat the entire stage then you unlock the next one and you can select any unlocked stage at any time from the level select in the main menu.
  • There is, however a few checkpoints in each stage depending on how many bosses you have to fight. Each stage has 1 or multiple bosses to square off with and once you reach one, you’re checkpoint is set to it. That means if you lose all your lives you won’t have to redo the entire stage as long as you’ve made it to a boss.
  • These bosses range from magicians, to giant heads, to some generally creepy abominations. Should you lose all your lives once you have made it to the boss you will restart not from the beginning of the stage but at the boss.
  • Gameplay in Dire Vengeance can be boiled down to three things, run, jump, and slash. Pandora is equipped with a sword that she uses to attack enemies and trust me you’re going to be doing a lot of it. Enemies spawn in large amounts and it wouldn’t be rare to see more then 10-15 on the screen at a time.
  • Luckily, many of the enemies that appear in large clumps can be destroyed with one hit of your sword, and the blade has quite a bit of reach.
  • Some enemies however, are a bit different from the others and won’t simply throw themselves at you. There’s tons of unique enemy designs such as giant fire ball throwing demons, one eyed giant octopuses that summon little octopuses, and more. I wouldn’t call these monsters mini-bosses, just stronger enemies that are differentiated from the average cannon fodder.
  • Monsters aren’t the only worries you’ll have to contend with during your quest. This wouldn’t be a throwback to old school platformers without the platforming of course.
  • In usual platforming fashion you’ll be spending lots of time jumping onto tiny platforms hovering over bottomless pits and climbing ladders praying you don’t plummet into the lava below
  • There’s many different types of obstacles that will get in your way, but they shouldn’t be too difficult for you since Pandora has a trusty double jump right from the beginning.
  • To add more depth to the combat Dire Vengeance allows players to find and equip one sub-weapon at a time. Sub-weapons are essentially spells that you can use to unleash magical attacks onto your enemy. Using a sub-weapon will deplete your mana part at the top of the screen which can only be refilled by finding a mana potion or by killing enemies.
  • The variety in sub-weapons is huge, ranging from a fireball, to a boomerang disc, a barrier that hurts anything around you and many more. Some of these sub weapons are actually only available by finding them in certain levels via secret passages.
  • While levels are very linear, you should always be on the lookout for breakable walls and other objects that can drop health and mana potions, or some of these secret sub-weapons.
  • On the surface Dire Vengeance seems to play it fairly by the books, but it has one gameplay mechanic that’s very much different from any other in the genre. During each stage you will pickup small magic orbs from defeating different enemies. These magic orbs fill the bottom of your screen where six different meters are shown; them being Speed, Power, Jump, Magic, Life & Mana.
  • As you collect orbs your meters will fill in the previously stated order. You can choose to use your orbs on any of the filled up meters to increase the strength of one of your stats. For example if you want the most immediate reward you can power up your speed twice and become really quick. You could also save your orbs and upgrade your jump once instead so that you’ll have higher jumps making platforming easier.
  • This unique system adds a nice level of customization to Dire Vengeance along with some risk and reward mechanics. You can always choose to try and save for a better upgrade but you may die before getting to use them. On death any abilities you had are reset so you’ll have to start over collecting your orbs.
  • Besides the main 8 stages there’s also a boss rush mode which is unlocked from completing the 8th stage. Boss rush is as the name entails and due to how enjoyable each of the bosses was to fight I would say its worth trying.
  • Dire Vengeance also comes with a myriad of achievements. There’s 90+ many of them gained from defeating bosses after a certain number of tries or defeating a boss with a specific sub-weapon.
  • Visually, Dire Vengeances offers tons of variety in its designs. Every stage looks completely different from the others and comes prepared with its own unique enemies.
  • Some of the enemy designs are downright disturbing to look at (I’m looking at you Stage 5) and the atmosphere of the stages are genuinely haunting. I think overall, the visuals compliment the game well.
  • Sound design is made up of multiple hard rock/metal tracks that will definitely keep you awake and alert.

Pros

  • Tight controls. Pandora moves exactly where you want her to and you’ll rarely find the controls ever give you a hard time
  • Sub-weapons are genuinely useful and each one works better in specific stages and levels
  • Level designs are well thought-out and never get repetitive
  • Fantastic enemy designs with loads of variety
  • Unique system to level up abilities that allows for customization and adds a nice risk/reward element to the gameplay.
  • Secrets to find in each stage
  • Enjoyable & Diverse Boss Fights
  • Checkpoints at bosses are a godsend
  • Level select is a nice addition allowing easy replays for each stage
  • A solid amount of content from the 90+ achievements and Boss Rush mode.

Neutral

  • The sub-weapons can be a little too easy to spam. Your mana bar is quite high and although it refills at a slow rate from killing enemies, some stages were very easy to beat just by using my sub-weapons.
  • The soundtrack’s heavy metal feel may appeal to some players, but not everyone. A nice variety in the tracks would have helped further differentiate each stage
  • There’s not much in the way of being able to adjust the difficulty in Dire Vengeance. However, I’m hesitant to call this a negative aspect because, the developers goal in mind was to create a tough platformer inspired by older titles.

Cons

  • Spikes that instantly kill you if touched are a somewhat archaic obstacle designs
  • A few technical issues, mainly the game freezing after attempting to select a game mode on the menu screen. This happened to me a total of 4 times during my playthrough.
  • Stiff enemy animations. Many of the enemies particularly in the first 3 levels have some stiff designs with not much animation to them.

Final Thoughts

Story
Gameplay
Visuals & Sound
Accessibility
Bang For Your Buck
Unique Game Design

My Purchase Price: Buy at $15-$20 (Note prices are in USD)

8/10

Dire Vengeance absolutely nails what it’s trying to accomplish and goes above and beyond its predecessors in many ways. It replicates the entertaining and tough gameplay of older action platformers while introducing some QOL improvements that make it even better. The unique upgrade system is probably going to be what Dire Vengeance is remembered for the most and I think that’s a fantastic legacy to leave. In all honesty, I’m not a huge fan of games that try to replicate the older NES & SNES feeling, because I didn’t grow up then and they have never been my cup of tea. That being said, I’m happy I played Dire Vengeance and I hope true fans of the genre see this review and get to play Dire Vengeance as well. Yes, there are a few issues with the game, it’s not perfect, but remember this love letter of a game was developed by 2 people. Halloween is fast approaching so if you want to play a game with tons of monsters & ghouls then give Dire Vengeance a shot.

Steam Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1682030/Dire_Vengeance/

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