Inspired by horror infection movies like The Blob, Demon Spore is a top-down roguelike where you try to stop a failed experiment from spreading.
The main antagonist of the game, a mutated spore that spreads in tentacle-like patterns, is absolutely brutal in its advance, constantly attempting to surround the player while also mutating into smaller creatures with different behaviors.
It speaks volumes to the game’s hopelessness that every enemy kills the player in one hit, and there’s no way to remedy that. Perhaps the developers maybe went a little too hard on this demo, because the game is quite tough, bordering on unfair at points.
The player is armed with a simple melee weapon that takes multiple hits to kill most of the enemies, but with the help of a fire extinguisher that freezes enemies in place it becomes your bread and butter for most encounters.
That said, becoming too complacent will absolutely get you killed, as the fire extinguisher has limited ammo and is largely ineffective against the spore’s more evolved form.
There are a few weapons that can be found in specials rooms which help you with dealing with the spore’s larger body, but things can escalate very quickly once it starts spreading.
The main body of the spore is always in the center of the map, and will slowly try to spread itself based on what path the player is taking. Not every route will lead you to an exit, so backing yourself into a corner is an absolute death sentence, as you’ll be forced to backtrack to a room in which the spore has already spread, which feels impossible to survive.
The spore will also attempt to break into the room you are in if it’s sitting on an adjacent tile, making it an ever-present threat. Some enemies can also mutate into the larger spore, which quickly gets out of control if you don’t immediately take care of it.
The main method of stopping the spore from breaking into the room you are in is to attack the door it’s trying to make its way through, which is very difficult and ammo-consuming, so it’s best to avoid being adjacent to it as much as you can.
The balancing for the demo feels a little out of wack, as the game becomes almost impossible to manage, most of the time not by the player’s own fault. It takes a single second for everything to go wrong, and at times it feels like the game is actively conspiring against you.
The map generation can lead you into encountering the larger spore as soon as your third room room, and depending on your luck with the weapon rooms and fire extinguishers you may simply be incapable of defending yourself.
The spore also breaks into rooms in record time, essentially making it so you have to ignore the enemies which kill you in one hit to go tend to the door. Saying this game is stressful doesn’t even begin to describe it.
The player isn’t only dependent on weapons when it comes to dealing with the spore and its offspring, as the rooms are usually littered with throwables that can help you deal with the monsters.
Vials of acid and explosives can be thrown directly at the monsters, and are pretty effective at killing them. Throwing water gallons and electronics together also creates pools of electrified water, which help when dealing with hordes of smaller enemies.
That said, a lot of the throwables are just chairs, which don’t even seem to deal damage to the smaller enemies, so you find yourself picking up useless objects quite often. Most of the objects are easy to differentiate when taking a closer look, but the heavy static filter that the game possesses makes it difficult to do so most of the time, as you’ll be often making split-second decisions.
When it comes to stealth, the player can sneak through certain enemies, like the blood pools, but the ones that are guided by sound will hear you as soon as you start walking. To progress, every enemy in the room must be either dead or inactive, the latter being quite rare, as not every encounter seems to be avoidable.
Even then, the player does have alternate methods of escaping, usually by playing around with the doors and power. The security system only lets you progress when all active enemies are killed, but turning the power off gets rid of that restriction. It also leaves you in the dark and unable to use your map, but it may be worth it to escape the current situation you are in.
Pretty much every room has a panel to turn off the lights, meaning that in theory you could clear a run without fighting a single enemy, although you’d have to memorize the map and make some good guesses as to where the spore is spreading to.
Overall, Demon Spore is shaping up to be a brutal title, although it doesn’t seem to hold its own as a roguelike. There are three weapons aside from the fire extinguisher you find in most rooms, and the game seems quite limited on passive upgrades.
Demon Spore‘s Steam description mentions being able to cobble experimental weapons together, so it could be that the game is shooting for Noita‘s gameplay loop, where combining different weapons and seeing what happens is the main roguelike aspect, although that element is not present in the current demo.
It’s difficult to imagine what the game’s unlockables will be, as it currently feels really tight but lacking in replayability once you clear the game once. Unlocking an even harder difficulty option after beating a run sounds incredibly masochistic, but maybe that’s the route the game is going for.
Demon Spore is set to release at some point in 2024 for Microsoft Windows (through Steam).