Muramasa: The Demon Blade - hands-on

The demo consists of bits of the whole game stuck together to give you a full taste. As such, we’re able to cut through a dank, knobbly cave (the platforming reminds us of the recent DS Castlevanias), climb the branches of a lofty forest (very House Of Flying Daggers) and run across creaking bridges and muddy, rain-soaked paths. The beautifully multi-layered backgrounds create a compelling sense of movement, with more of that brilliant parallax scrolling in action.

Quick pause to work out how to use more health. We’re told that the power of the demon blade is constantly drinking our hero’s health – represented by an ever-burning candle. As the wax drips, our health falls. Munching health cakes should keep you on your feet. We never thought a wheat field could give us sweaty palms, but in Muramasa’s inky style the swaying stalks of bread-to-be are gorgeous. In 3D, individual plants would have to be individually rendered, making it difficult to give the crop a suitable density. Here, the wind-rustled wheat is a bounteous harvest. Perfect for recreating Russell Crowe’s end-of-Gladiator wheat-rubbing antics, and without having to sit through two hours of CGI Oliver Reed. Bonus!

Ninja gangs subside for supernatural foes. What look like bouncing umbrellas turn out to be deadly geisha-types masking their murderous intent behind their fans. Meaner still is the giant dust ball that splits into 20 or so fluff balls whizzing through the air. And don’t get us started on the massive, gleaming, red demon boss, seemingly based on South Park’s take on Satan. Grabbing us by our robe he dashes us on the cobbles below. It leaves us looking a bit sketchy. Quite literally. Ha!

Sprinting towards our final seconds we spot multiple exits from a cave level. In keeping with the explorable RPG vibe there are several routes around the stages that dot the map. The journeys of Momohime and Kisuke will also differ, doubling the size of the game. And so the demo ends. Left with a parting shot of Kisuke riding the crashing ocean waves (as gorgeous as the bamboo multiplied by the wheat), our peepers blink a sad goodbye to what could easily be the finest-looking game of the year.

Feb 3, 2009