Grim Guardians: Demon Purge feels like a lost Castlevania game. That is, until it takes a weird turn.
It’s just a normal day for sisters Shinobu and Maya, but then their school turns into a giant demonic castle. They’re not worried though, as they’re demon hunters. Springing into action, they enter the castle with the aim of finding the demon that calls it home. And so begins Grim Guardians: Demon Purge, an action platformer that Castlevania fans are likely to adore. At least for a while.
Honestly, it cannot be understated just how much Grim Guardians: Demon Purge looks and feels like a Castlevania game. As you make your way through its stages, which each have branching paths, you’ll feel a sense of deja vu come over you regularly. From its grand entrance to its clocktower, this castle could have been inherited from Count Dracula. And while many enemies are original, you’ll find some familiar foes such as bone-throwing skeletons and floating heads.
Mechanically Grim Guardians: Demon Purge is similar to Castlevania too. Not being of the Belmont clan, neither Shinobu or Maya use a whip to attack their enemies. Instead, Shinobu uses a rapid firing gun, allowing her to attack at range, while Maya prefers to get up close and personal with melee attacks. In addition to these basic weapons, however, a number of sub-weapons are acquired throughout the game, unique to each sister. Many of these offer new traversal options that can be used for free, but when it comes to using them to attack, they require weapon points. You’ll need to destroy things like light fittings to refill those.
Related: The Best Metroidvania Games on PS5
As you’d expect, at the end of each stage there’s a boss lying in wait, and these are perhaps the highlight of the experience. To master them, you’ll need to study and learn their attack patterns, employing your abilities to your advantage. Emerge victorious and you’ll rescue one of your school friends. Later in the game they’ll become valuable allies.
A few things might frustrate you when playing Grim Guardians: Demons Purge though. It can sometimes feel a little cheap, for example, on both sides. Sometimes hanging back and shooting larger enemies as Shinobu is the best option, but it feels like cheating. On the other hand, enemies sometimes appear right in front of you, giving you little time to react.
But it’s the dual character nature of Grim Guardians: Demon Purge that leads to what is perhaps its biggest irritant. Playing alone, you’re able to switch between both sisters at any time you wish with the push of a button. If one of them dies, however, you’re taken back to the last checkpoint as the survivor. If you can battle your way back to the fallen sister you can revive her, and carry on your merry adventure. But if you fail doing so, you’ll lose a life. Playing on Casual difficulty, that’s not a problem as they’re infinite.
The trouble arises when you’re facing off against a boss. Die as one sister and you’ll be removed from the boss room, and when you re-enter you’ll have to sit through their preamble once again which can be pretty tiring. They’ll restore some of their health, too, which can be irritating when you’ve whittled them down to a tiniest amount. Play in co-op with a friend, however, and these issue aren’t likely to cause a fuss at all.
Just when you think you’ve completed Grim Guardians: Demon Purge, it throws you a curveball which some will appreciate but others will hate. Basically, it expects you to play through the levels again, but with your newly acquired sub-weapons and more. It’s at this point that things become a bit weird though, with you tasked with acquiring items that will get a teenage guy hot under the collar. Never did we think we’d be exploring a demon-infested castle in search of things such as a swimsuit, an adult magazine and stockings.
Still, if you can get on with Grim Guardians: Demon Purge‘s frustrations and eventual weirdness, you’ll like get a decent kick out of it, especially if you’re a Castlevania fan. The platforming and combat are pretty solid, and replaying stages isn’t as dull as it sounds thanks to their branching paths and hidden areas. Complete the game, and you’ll also unlock an additional difficulty level, and a Boss Rush mode, adding further replayability.
Those looking at Grim Guardians: Demon Purge expecting a metroidvania might be disappointed when they realise it’s more of a straightforward platformer, like the original Castlevania games. And while it is derivative of Konami’s classic series, it does just enough to give itself a character of its own. If only its revival mechanic didn’t cause issues in single-player, and it didn’t get a little weird in its later half, then it would be a pretty enjoyable jaunt.