After playing the the demo at last year’s PAX West, then playing the same demo again at this year’s PAX East, and then playing it a third time from the comfort of my own home as part of this year’s LudoNarraCon, I think I’m slightly obsessed with Demonschool.
I’ve had a blast beating up supernatural weirdos with a group of misfit college teens. Together with its soundtrack of absolute bangers that combines dramatic church choir chorus with pulsing synth wave beats (please put the OST on Spotify, Ysbryd), and a slick art style that makes me dribble like a brain-hungry zombie every time I see it, I’m thinking that Demonschool might very well be on its way to being be one of my favourite games of 2023 when it releases sometime this year. What can I say? I love punching freaky demons in the face.
At its core, Demonschool is a turn-based tactical RPG where you play as demon hunter Faye and her gang as they try and protect their island from becoming prime real estate for a demon takeover. There are horror elements, naturally, but it’s spooky rather than scary. Playing as the rag-tag teens, you’re tasked with investigating and then stopping a whole bunch of supernatural nonsense from slipping into the human dimension.
The demo’s story is centered around the teens investigating a group of possessed kids who’ve been performing rituals at night, which is a big no-no. After obtaining photo evidence, the group finds out that it’s not just the local gangsters that are behind the rituals, but the school’s dean and potentially the peppy school president, too. Oh, snap! I love this kind of drama. It feels like the campy mysteries you see in Scooby-Doo or Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It’s fun and a little bit goofy, and it means that Demonschool doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is great.
As part of your investigation, each in-game day is split into daytime and nighttime sections. During the day you get to chat with your group in cute character events, complete mini-investigatory side quests, plan your gang’s school schedule to enhance their skills and snoop around the school and the surrounding town looking for clues to progress the story. Then, nighttime is when you get to throw down with the ghoulish nightmares that haunt the island.
“It feels like the campy mysteries you see in Scooby-Doo or Buffy The Vampire Slayer”
Demonschool is very Persona-like in this way. I like the daytime busywork of exploring each area, chatting with locals to find leads, and getting to know members of the group with character events. During one such event with buff boy Dustin, I found out that he actually likes his milk warm and lumpy, which would be totally unforgivable if he wasn’t such a dumb, loveable himbo, bless him. The banter between the characters is funny and playful, and although you can gain new teammates in the game’s full release, I’m actually really feeling the current squad in these demos. Balancing your school life with your demon-hunting side gig is all part of helping your team grow into an all-kicking, all-punching demon-busting machine that’s so efficient it would make Devil May Cry’s Dante sweat.
Often you’ll be thrown into Demonschool’s brawls, a common occurrence as you’re dealing with creatures of the underworld. These encounters have all the hallmarks of classic turn-based fights – action points, area attacks, party combos, buffs, debuffs, etc – but everything looks and feels very slick. The music is a glorious chorus of upbeat synth, environments are bathed in a luminous pinky, purply glow, and the 2D sprites in an isometric 3D space really make the characters and enemies pop within it.
There are also moments of wonderful flair during these fights. When you use a combo attack – like how I used Namako’s switcheroo move to swap places with a demon, stunning them but also placing them in the perfect position to be met with Faye’s powerful roundhouse kick – two comic book portraits of the characters will slap onto the screen before the characters unleash their moves.
The demo only has a handful of enemy types, but they’re all kinds of nasty abominations. There are your classic zombies and gangsters, sure, but also disembodied humanoid torsos that pull themselves across the floor and fleshy monsters with giant, toothy maws. There’s a parade of gloriously grotesque creatures that look like they’ve just slithered out of a Junji Ito manga.
Speaking of those horrible nasties, one thing that wasn’t in the recent LudoNarraCon demo (but was in the PAX builds) is the boss fight with a giant, chompy skeleton. Its arms wrap around the entire arena as it tries to crush your squad with its huge boney fingers. I didn’t defeat it during my playthrough back then, but if you do manage to whack its health down to zero, the skull opens up and a gross brain flops onto the ground, blood spurting everywhere like some gory firework celebration.
I want more of Demonschool. More fun characters, more supernatural shenanigans, more hideous bosses, and more slick fights. There’s currently no release date according to the game’s Steam page, but after chatting to the Necrosoft team at PAX East (which is now available to all), it should be out sometime this year.