If I’m going to be exploring a world with countless secrets and routes in a MetroidVania, then I’m going to want getting from A to B to feel really good. Some games manage to do this simply by having tight controls and handy movement upgrades to unlock throughout, others shake things up by basing a whole game around a specific movement system like 2020’s Kunai with its grappling hook gameplay. Doomblade manages to make exploration a joy by giving you a sword that can fly through the air and slice shit up, and if that doesn’t get you excited I don’t know what will.
As the last of an oppressed species called the Gloomfolk, our protagonist Gloom Girl isn’t really in the best position in life. It seems to mainly involve hiding in dank caves from her oppressors, at least until a voice calls out to her from the depths. The voice is that of the Doomblade, a sentient red sword that’s been sealed away due to its destructive power. Destructive power is what it’ll take to overthrow the Dread Lords, so “Doom and Gloom’ team up and embark on a journey of slicing and dicing.
Before you make friends with your stabby new pal, moving Gloom Girl around feels slow and sad, but that all changes when you’ve got the Doomblade. By moving the right stick you can aim the blade at any enemy visible on the screen, and with a push of the right trigger you’ll dash straight towards them and ruin their day. Before long you’ll be bouncing from enemy to enemy to get around at breakneck speed, and it is glorious.
In earlier sections of the game most ledges will have handy respawning enemies on them so you can climb up them easily, but it won’t take long for you to realise that new powers will be needed if you want to overthrow the baddies. Gloom Girl’s jump isn’t particularly useful in most situations, but an added air dash will help you reach places without enemies and make bouncing across the screen even easier. You’ll then get the ability to fire out an electric ball that activates certain contraptions, and powers that help you cut through vines or smash through weird blocks made of eyeballs. All the new powers you unlock are extremely useful, and will make sure you have plenty of new (and old) areas worth exploring.
I want to mention one other upgrade specifically too, because when I unlocked it (fairly early in the game) I couldn’t believe how much it changed everything. The Shadow Form ability allows Gloom Girl to travel through walls to attack enemies, which means as long as there’s an enemy placed on the other side of a solid object then it’s no longer a problem for you. Suddenly every area that had you stumped will be totally accessible with your new power, and you’ll have a whole lot of new routes to explore. Designing this world with all these different powers to keep in mind must have been a hell of a task, but Muro Studios nailed it.
Outside of these main powers, there are plenty of handy collectibles to find in Doomblade. Heart pieces will (as you might expect) give you more health after collecting four of them, there are also artefacts that boost your power and different relics and artefacts that you’ll be paid in bones for destroying in a big furnace. These bones can be used at the shops throughout the world for more handy but less essential upgrades, like the ability to absorb health pickups from a distance. There’s a constant feeling of progression and power gain as you play Doomblade, and you’re really rewarded for checking every nook and cranny with new abilities.
You’ll need all the help you can get against the enemies of this miserable world too, because they are armed to the teeth and happy to send you packing back to your last save point. The majority of the bad guys in Doomblade have projectile attacks, and you’ll probably get sick of them pretty quickly because dodging them is a chore. Since Gloom Girl is pretty sluggish when she isn’t zipping around with a big demon blade dodging bullets with her isn’t ideal, but often sword dashing towards an enemy to move out of the way will just send you straight into the path of more bullets. It can get pretty frustrating, and you just don’t have enough health to be able to shrug off a few hits.
While the regular enemies didn’t do a whole lot for me, I found the bosses in Doomblade to be a lot of fun. These more structured fights against massive monstrosities always have a specific strategy you’ll need to beat them, but once you know what you’re doing then whittling down that health bar will be totally manageable. Using your slashing powers to dodge screen filling attacks always feels fantastic, and I can’t think of a single boss I didn’t enjoy fighting.
Although I really enjoyed my time with it, there are a couple of other issues with Doomblade worth mentioning. Some of the environmental hazards (I’m looking at you lightning barriers) are just plain annoying to deal with, and when combined with the bullet shooting baddies can lead to some really frustrating sections. The story is also a bit on the dull side, with loads of walls of text to read about the Dread Lords that get a little old. None of these issues are deal breakers, but they do distract from the sheer joy of slicing.
Doomblade is a wonderful MetroidVania with fantastic locomotion and a whole lot of new abilities to shake up the game throughout. Exploring the world is a joy thanks to the Doomblade, and there are plenty of collectables to make it worth your while too. Some of the enemies and hazards can be a bit of a chore to deal with, but not so much that they ruin the fun of slicing shit up as “Doom and Gloom”.
A fantastic Metroidvania with a great way of getting about
New abilities are always meaningful and very unique
Exploring the world is fun and worthwhile
Boss fights are banging
Dodging enemy projectiles can be frustrating
Some hazards are annoying to deal with
The story is a bit dull