Demon’s Mirror is a clever fusion of deck building and puzzle game | Hands-on preview

by on June 10, 2024

With a lovely array of deck builders on the market currently, fans of digital cardboard are eating good. With so many of these wonderful video games to choose from though, it’s getting harder and harder to stand out in this bustling genre. Deck builders are doing all sorts of creative things to shake up the genre in this trying time, be it by replacing cards with dice, or using traditional poker hands instead of cards with monsters and swords on them. Demon’s Mirror has decided to take this one step further, by adding a puzzle game grid into its deck builder.

At first glance Demon’s Mirror looks like a totally familiar deck builder. Your hero of choice (although in this preview I only had access to one character) starts with a deck of cards that deal damage and block incoming attacks, and you’re presented with a horde of colourful fantasy creatures who want to beat you up. You can see incoming attacks which allows you to plan accordingly, and if you’ve played any game inspired by Slay the Spire before this will all feel incredibly familiar. That is, until you learn about the grid of colourful gems on the right hand side of the screen.

Demon's Mirror

You have a set amount of energy you can use each turn to play the cards you draw, but you can also use this energy to draw a continuous line through gems in your puzzle grid. Different gems have different effects, like the fairly obvious attack gems which deal damage and shield gems that block it. In some situations your cards will be more effective at this than the board, but if you’re clever and manipulate your grid accordingly you can make it just as helpful.

Focusing on only the puzzle grid or your cards will only get you so far, as these two methods of play work particularly well when used together. My deck started with some cards that cost zero energy to play and would destroy the gem type of my choosing in a 3-by-3 grid, and if used in the right situation they’d set up some particularly powerful combos. Other cards in my deck were powered up significantly by collecting green gems from the grid, and so switching back and forth was necessary to deal the maximum damage possible.

Unfortunately the enemy can also take advantage of your grid in Demon’s Mirror, and use it to deal massive damage to you. When a bomb gem is placed into the grid a timer starts on a bomb tile which usually has a particularly high damage number on it. The only way to prevent this damage from taking out a hefty chunk of your health is by making a high enough chain through the bomb to destroy it, and unless you’re able to finish a fight before it detonates, that’s exactly what you’ll do if you want to succeed. It’s a really clever interaction with the puzzle side of the game, and not something I’ve ever seen done in the genre.

Demon's Mirror

Outside of the fantastic battles, there are all the other genre staples we know and love waiting in Demon’s Mirror. In each area you’ll have to choose your path carefully to improve your deck, be it by fighting battles, resting and upgrading cards and campsites, or popping into shops with our hard earned cash to buy extra consumables and relics. There was nothing I hadn’t seen before while traveling between fights, but if choosing your path in a deck builder isn’t broken then Demon’s Mirror isn’t going to fix it.

Getting to play through the first area of Demon’s Mirror was a wonderful experience, and it looks like its clever fusion of deck building and puzzle game elements is going to make for a seriously compelling game. I can’t wait to check out the later levels and other characters when I cover the game in full when it releases, and if you’re a fan of making the perfect stack of cardboard to save the day then it’s a game you should be excited for too.

Demon’s Mirror is “coming soon” to PC via Steam. You can play a demo here.