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Grim Guardians: Demon Purge (PS5) Review – A Forgettable Metroidvania That Should’ve Taken Itself More Seriously

Grim Guardians: Demon Purge PS5 Review – The library of Metroidvania games keeps growing and growing, with tons of great entries joining the fray to compete for your hard-earned cash. However, for each great one, a handful of mediocre ones pop up. Grim Guardians: Demon Purge is one of the latter.

Grim Guardians: Demon Purge (PS5) Review – A Forgettable Metroidvania That Should’ve Taken Itself More Seriously

You play as the two Kamizono siblings, Shinobu and Maya, who attend Demon Academy. On their way to class one morning, an unruly demon, Kurona, decides to play a prank on the entire school and combine the school’s dimension with the demon realm. This leaves the students either imprisoned or possessed by demons.

You play as both Shinobu and Maya at any one time, free to swap between the two as long as you stand still. Shinobu relies on her submachine gun that grants long range accessibility at the cost of damage. Maya utilizes origami figures to attack at short range, creating swords, polearms, and ninja stars as part of her combos, dealing far more damage than Shinbou.

Grim Guardians wears its heart on its sleeve insomuch that it doesn’t hide what it tries to be: a cheeky anime dungeon crawler. The game makes fun of itself at times with fourth-wall-breaking jokes or goofy writing. It can be fun, if you take it at face value.

Strong Foundation

However, much of the game gets in the way of enjoying that face value. Grim Guardians allows you to choose between two difficulties, or styles: casual and veteran. The only differences between the two are that veteran give you limited lives and knock your character backwards when taking damage.

As you defeat bosses along the way, each of the siblings unlocks new subweapons. These act as either attacks, like grenades or range attacks, or means of traversal. In particular, the traversal subweapons play into the Metroidvania aspect of the game, allowing you to return to older areas to unlock secrets and rescue previously unreachable students.

In general, these all work well and feel responsive and useful in their relative contexts. Use them at the right time and you fly through. Use them at the wrong time, and you take substantial damage.

Weak Construction

Equally so, the game lacks balance across the board. To quote the Angry Video Game Nerd, “This game isn’t too hard, but it’s easy to die.”

The game frequently puts you in situations that either feel like you’re exploiting the game or the game is exploiting you. For the former, bigger enemies have a limited range, which allows you to stand way back with Shinobu and shoot them to death.

For the latter, enemies will occasionally pop up on you as you walk on their invisible spawn point. Then, particularly on boss fights, the attack prompts leading into attacks are either the same or occur off-screen. In several boss fights, the enemy either gets too high up on the screen to properly display what it will do, or the fighting area is too big and forces you to move the boss off-screen. This doesn’t stop the boss from doing its attacks either, leaving you wide open.

The real shame in all of this is that the enemy designs all look fantastic. Especially bosses, they all feel unique and follow their own attack patterns. This game deserved more time in the concept phase, because there’s something here that needs that much more attention to detail.

Wasted Potential

You gain lives by collecting Pride, which enemies drop along the way. Then, when one of the siblings dies, you restart from the last checkpoint with the other sibling. You can then return to the fallen sibling and perform CPR to resuscitate her. You don’t lose a life in doing this.

If you play your cards right, you won’t lose lives, even during boss fights. If you die during a boss fight, the principal is the same. The boss will have a bit more health than when you left it, but you can resuscitate the other sibling and continue the fight.

Going back a bit, Pride also contributes to Secret Artes. These are grand attacks that deal massive damage and allow you invincibility for their duration. Equally so, you only ever find yourself using Secret Artes during boss fights.

Pride drops frequently. Those drops don’t contribute to anything when the gauge is full, resulting in the game giving you a false sense of collecting resources. You either waste time using Secret Artes on basic enemies or hold onto them for boss fights. Either way, Pride and the systems it contributes to lack much refinement at all, resulting in something that feels half-baked.

Please Stop Talking

“No escape,” “your turn,” “you’re Swiss cheese,” and “here we go” are some of many expressions I could now go my entire life without hearing simply because of the sheer frequency that the Kamizono siblings repeat them. These statements are attached to different controller inputs, like attacking or swapping characters.

Since the game requires you use these inputs to progress, you cannot avoid them. There’s no way to turn them off either. Even changing the language doesn’t adjust what the siblings say. Only text changes language. The sound effects for the game sound great, channeling that retro sound, so you don’t have complete incentive to mute the game either.

Too Simple For Its Own Good

All in all, Grim Guardians: Demon Purge is a decent diversion from the ever-growing list of fantastic games, offering something adjacent to what made Metroidvanias popular in the first place. Much of the systems create the illusion of collecting and difficulty, but they all lack the depth needed to stand out in any way, shape, or form. Grim Guardians can be fun if you know what you’re getting into, but I can’t recommend it at full price.

Review code kindly provided by publisher.



The Final Word

Grim Guardians: Demon Purge is a mediocre Metroidvania through and through. It starts with a solid foundation but lacks the kind of all-around refinement and conceptualising to be taken seriously. There's some fun to be had here, but it's not worth the price of admission.