The Venture to the Vile demo feels like the metroidvania equivalent of Pandora's box, and even though I've only cracked the surface I already can't get enough

Venture to the Vile protagonist facing a monstrous enemy
(Image credit: Studio Cut to Bits)

Venture to the Vile immediately piqued my curiosity once I laid eyes on its Little Nightmares meets Lies of P appearance. There was something haunting about this metroidvania that immediately captivated me, which I put down to the dank environments brimming with enemies to explore and the hidden identity of the deer-masked protagonist. I wanted to know more and scratch the itch that was now starting to consume me since even its trailer gave very little away, and luckily its demo let me do just that even though it's a very small fragment of what's to come. 

When you start you don't have a huge amount of skills—which is pretty typical of a metroidvania. Your main focus is on movement, how to attack the various vile-infested enemies coming your way, and how to parry their assaults. To shake things up, you are given a tentacle-like grapple that can bring you closer to enemies to land a few close attacks before stepping back. But outside of combat, this tool is also vital for a number of platforming sequences later, acting as a grappling hook to help you cross larger gaps.

As I learned pretty quickly during my time with the demo, avoiding a quick trip to the bottom of a pit can be tricky. You can't jump toward the platform you're trying to grapple onto and flawlessly pull it off. It's a precise maneuver, even though sometimes the icon just doesn't want to appear and initiate the move. But after a few attempts, I got the rhythm of these jumps—and I really needed to, given how frequently they begin to pop up the further I delved into the starting area. 

Once you've chipped away at the first stage of the boss, a rather intimidating millipede, you start to see the platforming element really shine. In a tense upward chase, you have to throw yourself across various platforms in a desperate attempt to flee from your encroaching enemy. As I learned after getting a little too close for comfort, the only damage this boss will do if you accidentally fall is reduce your health by one heart, before conveniently firing you back up to the closest platform. But, paired with the soundtrack, this chase does feel pretty epic. 

It also serves as an effective way to quickly get to grips with what you've learned. With that said, I definitely found myself panicking about missing a jump that was far closer than it initially seemed, leading me to dash over the top of a platform before falling off and having to start again. But, after a few runs and making the same mistake a number of times, I learned how to pull certain tricks off—which is always the nature of a metroidvania. It's always a learning curve. 

One thing I particularly loved about Venture to the Vile was the amount of depth and detail each area had. While traveling between the background and foreground to solve puzzles and face more enemies, you start to pick up on the details embedded within the environment that help add to its slightly unsettling nature. Dark spaces occasionally feel like two eyes are watching you, and you can never really tell if walls have been coated in red due to the Vile infestation or by anyone who might've come before you. 

Because of how the game looks, and the ominous music that plays in the background, Venture to the Vile consistently kept me expecting something to spring out at any time and I found myself sweating at the idea of exploring the next section of the map. I questioned whether or not I had missed an integral part of my adventure along the way more times than I like to admit, whether that was due to a hidden puzzle or a possible secret carved into the wall. But it's a good sign that I felt so compelled to fully explore the half-hour-long demo in spite of my encroaching fear.

I left with more questions than I started with which would usually frustrate me, but instead it's got me more excited for the full release and to explore more of Rainybrook and its inhabitants. Despite its brevity, Venture of the Vile's demo is still full of tension and deftly tapped into my wanderlust. I'm looking forward to finding out if it can keep this up when it launches on May 22., In the meantime, I cannot recommend the demo enough for metroidvania fans. There's still a huge amount of Rainybrook to explore and I feel more prepared than ever to perfect my precision platforming skill and face whatever's to come.

Kara Phillips
Evergreen Writer

Kara is an evergreen writer. Having spent three years as a games journalist guiding, reviewing, or generally waffling about the weird and wonderful, she’s more than happy to tell you all about which obscure indie games she’s managed to sink hours into this week. When she’s not raising a dodo army in Ark: Survival Evolved or taking huge losses in Tekken, you’ll find her helplessly trawling the internet for the next best birdwatching game because who wants to step outside and experience the real thing when you can so easily do it from the comfort of your living room. Right?