World of Demons preview - Hands-on with the first mobile game from PlatinumGames

Yokai watch

World of Demons preview - Hands-on with the first mobile game from PlatinumGames
| World of Demons

World of Demons is a new mobile offering from Platinum Games, the quirky Japanese developer behind such hardcore favourites as Bayonetta, Nier: Automata, The Wonderful 101 and Vanquish.

This is a developer with serious pedigree when it comes to creating tight and distinctive action games. Which explains why we're so excited that Platinum is making its mobile debut this summer with World of Demons.

The game recently soft launched on the App Store in Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore, and I've been playing around with it. So how is it shaping up?

Yokai the new

World of Demons is a third person arena action game that sees samurai protagonist Onimaru slicing his way through waves of brainwashed yokai (Japanese spirits) in a bid to bring down a nasty oni (demon).

The controls are an interesting hybrid of classic virtual buttons and more modern mobile inputs. You move Onimaru with an invisible virtual joystick to the left of the screen, but he attacks automatically when you get close to an enemy.

Swiping the right side of the screen causes Onimaru to dodge in that direction. The basic goal in combat, then, is to watch for cues and openings in your opponent's movements, dodge their attacks, and then move in for a flurry of slashes.

Dodge immediately prior to a heavy enemy attack, and you'll be rewarded with the opportunity to initiate a powerful special by drawing a symbol on the screen.

Gotta bust 'em all

There's much more to the combat in World of Demons than simply staying on your toes, though. Pretty soon you'll start recruiting some of those yokai to your side.

Just like Pokemon, these yokai have their own elemental attributes. You can select from one of three yokai with a tap of their button on the right side of the screen, which will imbue your attacks with their element (fire, wind, ice etc.).

Each element has an opposing one that it will be particularly effective against, and one that it is weak against. Helpfully, the most appropriate element for your current auto-targeted enemy will flash at you.

Besides these elemental attributes, each yokai has their own recharging special move that can heal you or damage your opponent with a swipe up from the appropriate button.

You can also call in an AI-controlled companion from time to time, which seems to be based on the profiles of fellow World of Demons players.

Painting quite a picture

World of Demons looks beautiful. This is a game that eschews the two typical approaches of realism and cutesiness in favour of something else.

Platinum has used an art style that resembles classic Japanese paintings - a kind of Edo period cel shading, if you like.

Console gamers might recognise this effect from Okami, a brilliant
Zelda-a-like made by a previous iteration of PlatinumGames.

While it calls to mind static artwork, this graphical style is even more impressive in motion, its brush-stroke paintings brought to life with fluid animation. It really is a treat for the eyes, and some imaginative character design adds to the effect.

Your oni hope

If I were to name one lingering concern for World of Demons based on my time with the game so far, it would be the level of freemium clutter that it seems to have accumulated.

There are systems upon systems presented in a confusing jumble of a hub screen, and seemingly all geared towards spending virtual currency. This will inevitably feed into spending real money for a small portion of dedicated players.

It's way too early to determine what sort of long term impact these will have on gameplay. All I can say for now is that it seems a little messy at this point.

Menus aside, World of Demons has a mixture of tight combat, stunning presentation and a general sense of freshness that's instantly beguiling. Those annoyed by the cynical approach to mobile games from major developers at E3 should bump this to the top of their wish list.

Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.