As a child of the '80s, I grew up with platformer games. Because of classics like Super Mario Bros., I'm always going to have a soft spot for the genre, even if it's a meta, horror thriller type of platformer.
DERE EVIL EXE for iPhone and iPad is just that, and it's actually a sequel to the original Dere Exe game. However, playing the first one is not necessary, as I have not tried that one out.
If you're someone who loves a challenging platformer that's completely meta and retro, then DERE EVIL EXE is a good option to consider spending some time with.
Story and setting
DERE EVIL EXE's story is definitely one of the more unique tales out there, and totally meta.
At first glance, Knightly just seems like any old protagonist in a platformer game, who must go rescue a princess from some bad guy who's kidnapped her. But there's much more to the game than that.
The actual story of the game's told through the messages the developer left in the background of the stages you're playing through. On top of it all, the robotic AI voice that talks to you as you play seems a bit self-aware, and also adds some snarky commentary or helpful tips.
Eventually, as you make your way through the beautiful pixel world, you'll encounter the game's "creator," which seems to be an anime-styled girl. You'll learn that the dangerous creatures that lurk around in the game world are "corruptions," and they're basically manifestations of the creator's greatest fears.
While the creator seems cute and innocent at first, it turns out that she's just hiding in plain sight to the players and takes joy in watching them play into her traps.
According to other players of the game, there are some jump scares in DERE EVIL EXE, so be prepared.
Even though DERE EVIL EXE's considered a platformer, it turns the genre upside down. Essentially, you'll want to forget some of the stuff that you've associated with platformers in general, such as collecting coins and jumping on enemies to get rid of them.
Why is this? Because oddly enough, coins kill you in this game. So does jumping on enemies in a feeble attempt to eliminate them. If you want to not die, avoid those coins at all costs, and don't jump on the corruptions.
Besides those two things, DERE EVIL EXE plays like other platformer games. You control Knightly, the pixelated knight that's trapped in the developer's cruel and twisted pixel world. You'll need to jump across gaps, make use of the environment to get to places that seem out of reach, avoid spikes and other deadly traps, and get to the end point after a rather lengthy obstacle course that is the entire level.
DERE EVIL EXE only has four levels, but trust me — they're long and super difficult. Fortunately, there are checkpoints (ironically, it's a tombstone) every so often so your progress gets saved, even if you exit the game. The checkpoint markers usually appear after every hard part, but sometimes there's more distance between them — this game is not for the faint of heart.
The game is quite difficult, even for seasoned veterans of platformer games. Believe me, you will die numerous times, no matter who you are. But the game is beatable with time, patience, and practice.
Controls for DERE EVIL EXE are a bit iffy though. Since this platformer relies on precise movement, the controls don't do the best job.
In the bottom left are the buttons for moving left and right. The button in the bottom right corner lets you jump, and tapping it twice performs a double jump. Simple enough, right?
Knightly can move pretty quickly if you have him run continuously. He also ends up slipping and sliding a bit, along with other objects that can be pushed around, such as blocks. I found the touch zones for the buttons to be a bit off at times, so when I needed to jump I'd end up missing it completely or there's a slight delay. Things also get tricky if you need to push a block off but jump off of it at the same time.
Unfortunately, there's no way to adjust the controls to better suit your needs, which is disappointing. There also doesn't seem to be MFi controller support, which would help drastically.
Visual and audio design
If you grew up with the classics, then you'll appreciate the design of DERE EVIL EXE.
The visuals are completely retro, featuring simple yet detailed pixel art that's deceptively bright and charming. The textures and shadows make the environment pop, and animations are smooth.
In terms of sound, DERE EVIL EXE features a chip tune soundtrack or a more ominous PSX era orchestral, depending on the situation you're in. The robotic AI voice that talks to you as you traverse the stages is also nicely done, albeit a tad creepy (but that's the point).
While DERE EVIL EXE looks like your typical platforms on the surface, don't be fooled — the game definitely falls into the horror genre.
As a fan of platformers, I find DERE EVIL EXE to be a nice addition, despite having opposite mechanics when it comes to coins and enemies. While the game appears short, the stages are long and difficult, requiring a lot of time and patience to solve. It's not for the faint of heart and there's going to be plenty of frustrating moments, but the payoff appears to be worth it. I just wish the controls could be improved.
If you enjoy horror platformers, this one is well worth the buck to unlock the other three levels.
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