July 30, 2021

Death's Door review - wonderfully honed Zelda-like with a soulful edge

I keep coming back to rhythm with games like this. Rhythm's always had a part to play in action games, where good combat is a dance, and bad a little out-of-step. It's all in the one, two, dodge, the little passive mental counter ticking over from that boss' second smash to the third, the half a beat between the third and the jump.

So it is with Death's Door, a sumptuously beautiful Zelda-like about the immutable beat of time, the rhythm of life and death. Except there's something else, hard to place, that seems to give it something extra. Death's Door has something, like a flavour that maybe isn't actually a flavour, more of a sensation. Umami. What's the umami of dance?

Acid Nerve's last game was Titan Souls, which came out way back in 2015. Titan Souls is one of those games that's all about simplicity - you get one arrow, you die in one hit, you have a world to explore and quite a few bosses to kill, off you go. Its cleverness is the classic indie creative cleverness, where you give yourself an arbitrary restriction to keep things focused, keep the concept pure, and then you just build outwards from there. And it's important context here, because build outwards from Titan Souls and you'll arrive more or less exactly at Death's Door, a game with no restrictions but plenty of restraint. Bosses, combat, a mysterious overworld, some lightly puzzling environments - the totality of the first is the foundation of the next, and so the impression is one of clarity: as a studio, Acid Nerve comes across as having a clear plan, a clear trajectory, but then as a result of that so do its games.

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