Another day, another retro indie 2D platformer. Does Daggerhood have anything to separate it from the rest?
Actually, it does!
Daggerhood is the latest game from the house of Ratalaika Games who – to give some indication the type of games they deal with – have previously ported Twin Robots, Midnight Deluxe and Shadow of Loot Box.
Daggerhood is no exception to those games: You play as Vincent S. Daggerhood, a thief who was good at thieving. That is, until he was caught. Rather than being properly convicted and sentenced though, his punishment was simply to be thrown into a cavern and forgotten about. Vincent has other ideas though and seeks reclamation in the form of escaping the caverns and stealing the King’s gold!
Daggerhood therefore may not be the most morally acceptable character, but neither is the act of throwing him into a cavern to rot, so let’s get him out of there.
There is a perk to being down there though, and that is the large amount of treasure to be found. Even at his lowest point, Daggerhood knows an opportunity when he sees one. Each level has five pieces of treasure in total and these are placed so that they can be all collected in one run of the level.
Another collectible is hidden away, but for this one, you need to be quick. Each level has a fairy somewhere within it that disappears after a short amount of time. Luckily, this does not have to be gathered at the same time as the treasure. You could do one run collecting all treasures, another for the fairy and then a final one to beat the par time and earn three stars. Slower times reward with two and one stars respectively. Take too long, and you won’t earn any.
All these collectibles sound very run-of-the-mill – and they are – but the way Daggerhood traverses the levels is far more exciting. He has a standard double jump at his disposal, as well as the ability to wall hang and wall jump – but his weapon of choice also doubles as a teleportation device.
Daggerhood’s primary weapon is a dagger – and yes, he also wears a hood it would seem – that can be thrown as a projectile at enemies that start to appear as the game progresses. It can also be used to teleport Daggerhood through the level: if there is a jump too far for his standard double jump or a gap too small for him to run through, by throwing his dagger using the X button and pressing it again providing the distance isn’t too great, Daggerhood can teleport to where his dagger is. This simple feature completely turns the game on its head, allowing for clever level design and becomes a speedrunner’s wet dream as they are left to constantly try to beat their personal best. Had there also been leaderboards present to compare against the world, this would have been the icing on the Daggerhood cake.
But one aspect that lacks any creativity is the accompanying soundtrack. It seems to be the same track on loop for the levels, with the only alternative music occuring during the boss levels. But your first death on the boss levels will then glitch the music and then you are faced with deafening silence, save for the sound effects of Daggerhood’s dagger being thrown around.
Getting to those boss levels is one thing, completing them another entirely. Daggerhood features a steep difficulty curve; it lulls you into a false sense of security in the first few levels as you can get all treasure, the fairy and still beat the par time in one go. But soon after you will realise you are targeting only one of these three methods of completion, and it isn’t possible to complete all in one go in many of the levels.
The boss levels appear every 20 levels. There are five in total, as Daggerhood has 100 stages. Here, your patience and will to continue will be tested. It would be less trying if Daggerhood was a great game but – aside from the dagger teleportation – this is a game you would have played hundreds of times before, and it is because of that which we see this starting to feel tired.
Later levels introduce powerups such as hammers and flowers to keep things moving, but these don’t ever introduce anything fundamentally game-changing.
It could well be said that many people may have already given up by the time that first boss comes around though. See, Daggerhood on Xbox One has 15 achievements and you can earn them all within the first 12 levels, which should take you no longer than an hour to do. As long as you collect all treasures and fairies on ten levels, complete the par time on three levels, die once, kill an enemy and make it to level 1-13 then you will have this completion in the bag. And with a price tag currently at £4.99, who says you can’t buy Gamerscore?
Daggerhood has one terrific thing going for it (two if you count easy Gamerscore): the dagger teleportation mechanic is brilliant and does make for some interesting level designs. It is unfortunately then bogged down by everything else, feeling like every other 2D platformer on the market. If you manage to stick it out with Daggerhood past the flood of achievements drying up, I would be very surprised.