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Another Steam Next Fest Demo Review: DEVIL’S LIMINAL

NOTE: This review is of one of the demos that were available at the Steam Next Fest, 2023 (check our post on that here) that went from June 19th to 26th. If you still want to play the game, you can go to Steam and see if it’s still available post-event.

DEVIL’S LIMINAL (Hata)

While all my colleagues have fulfilled their duties well and covered a whole lot of the titles at the event, due to Fuwanovel management-related obligations, I could only examine one of the titles. The title I picked was DEVIL’S LIMINAL by Gaiascope and Renee Blai. I felt it would cure my itch for horror well enough with its design reminiscent of theWORLD OF HORROR game which I remember quite fondly.

Story

DEVIL’S LIMINAL puts the player into the perspective of Margo, who returns home after graduating from a private school. Her hometown is located somewhere deep in Arizona, towards the western side of the United States. She settles into her summer internship at the social services department where war veterans are being cared for.

As she goes about her rocky life — living in an abusive household with her mother, her ex-boyfriend Lee still chasing her skirt, and a difficult job demanding her to focus — she comes across a mysterious cat that speaks to her in her dreams. This is when supernatural events begin to occur all around her.

One day, she traces the cat back into an abandoned car and discovers an occultic puzzle inside. What will happen should she commits to solving the puzzle? What exactly is lurking inside the cat?

Will her soul be in danger?

Personal summary (actual plot description here)

Personal Thoughts

Initial Hook: Dithering effect

What first drew me towards DEVIL’S LIMINAL was the artstyle, because I prefer this noisy, pixely style for my horror games, ever since I picked up ebi-hime‘s Lynne.

In particular, this kind of filter technique is called “dithering” and it gives the game the look of an old piece of media. The characters’ outlines are black and thick, which clearly make them stand out in the foreground layer on the left side of the textbox.

Monochrome, except when it is not

Paired with an abundance of pure black UI boxes, it feels like nothing in the background sticks out — intentionally. The entire setting blends together into a single gray world. This makes sense: the protagonist’s life in this rural down isn’t exactly full of excitement. The big exception is the new friend she meets in Bec, who she can have a nice time with, leading to one of the few rewarding CGs in the demo. Solely the use of the color RED (the title font itself is red) is significant and sticks out like a sore thumb.

Margo’s Suffering

It’s clear that Margo’s life after returning to her hometown isn’t great. Her mother is heavily abusive, not letting her shower and eventually locking away food plates from her. This eventually causes situations where Margo struggles with herself not to physically assault her.

On other occasions, her mother also takes reign over her freedom and privacy. Once Margo meets Bec and her mother finds out, she throws toxic and snarky comments at her, implying her to be a lesbian.

Cat got your soul?

Going about her less-than-stellar life, Margo comes across a cat that seems to exude a mysterious aura. It appears in her dreams, wishing for her to commit to a ritual concerning her soul and set free whatever is locked away inside the cat. Margo struggles with her task, but eventually she gives in. And what follows leads the demo to a close.

Getting around town

Every transition of location or time is introduced with white text on a dimly lit bar, never once making you lose track of where you actually are. This helped me swiftly create a mental map of the area, since you’re often taken to different spots when a character wants you to visit them.

No need to befriend everyone

Instead of committing, you can also refuse them. This can be done through the average choice system — either visually depicted by choosing from a set of replies on your phone or through normal choice boxes. There are a lot of interconnected scenes which require a certain choice order. While everything leads to a common ending — the attention-grabbing cliffhanger — a plethora of extra scenes can be unlocked. You can get some CGs as the reward for the further exploration. This is especially surprising for its short runtime.

Inoffensive Music

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The game’s music features a variety of looping tracks using soft drums and guitar pulling sounds. This makes it repetitive but in no way annoying. It’s no music that you would remember for long. Instead, it’s background tracks like these that create an uplifting or ominous atmosphere. The guitar riffs reminds me somewhat of The Binding of Isaac. There is one track that sounds a little like a beach-surfing track; it’s used for a roadtrip scene in-game.

There’s a bit too much utter silence during tense moments. I honestly think some ominous tunes would have done wonders.

Is it scary?

I have definitely played much scarier things, though you have to applaud their efforts at creating the atmosphere. The sound design here definitely contributes to the game’s grim setting — and personally, music boxes scare the crap out of me. Jumpscares exist, but they’re easy to anticipate. This game will not give you any heart attacks in its demo, not to worry.

Verdict

DEVIL’S LIMINAL is an ambitious little horror title that could turn some heads for its presentation, but will neither leave you scared shitless nor thinking much about it. The story is fairly cliché — the strong points being the buildup of emotion while you follow Margo’s increasingly dreadful life. I recommend you to go through at least one playthrough of the demo to check whether it makes you feel something or not.

Lengthwise, I anticipate this to be around 4~8 hours in the full version, depending on how much content they manage to add. A proper release isn’t determined yet.


If you liked this one, check out our other reviews!

HataVNI

Once a writer for German site VNinfo, now the guy running the show (we're trying to save him from Hell okay). His energy is infectious, his passions strong, and his attachment to Nanahira manifestly unhealthy. He likes Sayonara wo Oshiete, long walks on the Internet, and excels at koolaidmanning.

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