When we were kids and we put a baseball through a neighbor’s window, we got a smack or a date with the corner. When demon children fall out of line, however, they attract some powerful enemies: The kind that wield axes and swords.
Dark Shrine is a 3D action game with RPG elements. You play as Leinhart, a wisecracking young demon boy who’s invoked the wrath of underworld assassins, to say nothing of poisonous bunny rabbits. Leinhart and his flying eyeball buddy must escape their fate by scaling a huge tower, floor by floor.
It’s a pretty deadly slog. Enemies constantly respawn, and they’ll back you into a corner if you don’t watch yourself. Leinhart advances by collecting gateway gems and assembling a gate that will take him up or down a level.
This is why you shouldn’t let your kids read Harry Potter.
Sometimes collecting gate gems is as easy as finding a freebie lying around, or more often Leinhart has to fight boss-type characters and pluck the gems from their carcass. Leinhart can also collect potions to restore his health and skill points.
Skill points are necessary to cast magic, which is the key to any hope for survival in Dark Shrine. Earth magic summons stalagmites that spear unfortunate enemies in a nearby radius. Lightning fries baddies, and Blood magic absorbs their power. Leinhart gains experience points by piling up a body count. When he gains a level, he can distribute points to unlock new spells, power up old spells, or increase his hit points or skill points.
The powerful “fork in electric socket” spell.
Dark Shrine has a lot of neat features– slashing enemies with your finger is just one of them– but it might take a while before you start enjoying yourself. The game controls quite well, though there are a few instances where Leinhart will stroll away from an enemy you’re trying to wreck.
Attack combos can be performed by tracing certain patterns on the screen, and though they take some practice, they’re great for taking down bosses. Finishing a level earns you a grade, and most levels have an optional subquest as well.
Leinhart, the enemies, and the spells all look pretty good, even though the dun-colored tower backgrounds don’t offer much excitement. You won’t have much time to look at them, since you’ll be positively swarmed with enemies throughout most of your playtime. There’s minimal slowdown even when Leinhart is under an undulating sea of monster flesh, which is great, except for being under a sea of monster flesh and all.
Dark Shrine is probably too much monster for anyone who isn’t into constant action. But if you enjoy organizing RPG stats and making with the kill kill kill, buy this game and start working your way up through hell.