It has been about three years since AppSir Games released an instalment in their horror platforming DERE series, but this is all set to change on September 19th as DERE Vengeance takes to the stage, and it is an incredibly welcome and worthy return to form.
DERE places you in the shoes of small semi vampire-looking protagonist named Knightly as they play a game in a bit of meta magic. You will be accompanied by the Dev, who shares some background as you go through the levels, and by the ever-present AI A.I.D.E, whose job is to give you helpful hints and tips. These two characters become incredibly important driving forces when things start to go from normal to weird.
Before you start to play, you need to know that sound is vital. You will be told when your best friend AIDE is speaking in the cutscenes, but she will also be making some comments as you go along. They add quite a lot to the story, especially later on, so it is important to always be listening. This does have two big drawbacks, though. One, whilst the music is quite nice and atmospheric, some tracks get a bit annoying after listening to it loop a lot after getting stuck on a tricky puzzle. Second, there are no subtitles, so those hard-of-hearing won’t get the full depth of the game. Hopefully, this will be added in a later update.
Something DERE does early on is test every one of your ingrained gamer senses. We have been trained for years to pick up every shiny we see, and when AIDE tells you not to collect those coins, you will, of course, ignore them. And when she tells you not to open that chest, you will ignore her, because treasure. It doesn’t go well, but even then, there's that something inside you that makes you constantly keep testing it, because we want those coins. It’s hard to get over, but it makes you trust AIDE unconditionally, for better or worse.
The key thing here though is that it never gets too frustrating. Yes, you are going to fail, but none of the puzzles feel particularly unfair. They are so interesting I found myself starting to relish challenging myself to get that perfect jump or waiting for that precise time to hit jump to reach that platform but avoiding the saw. It's frankly incredible how Appsir has made such a compelling set of levels with such simple controls.
As you move forward, there are plenty of empty spaces or long platforms where you are expecting a bang, but they never come, so you are instead left with this perpetual sense of dread whilst trying to not fall foul of those tricky tests of skill. It is so much more effective than constant scares and gives the game an incredibly eerie atmosphere, and, let’s face it - there's so much more genuine fear in that compared to jump-scare tactics.
Since 2023 has been fertile soil for mobile games, we can recommend looking at the Lost in Play review if you're looking for something lighter with a great story, or the Usagi Shima review, if you're eager to die of cuteness!