This is a truly remarkable game. A comment on Evil Dog's website suggests that it was originally released as an April Fool's joke, but honestly I think that the concept has a lot of potential. Having to zero in on your opponent in first-person like this, without any visual feedback and only having stereo sound to guide you, is actually a great idea, and might even be way ahead of its time. This could actually work really well in VR, and I'm not even being sarcastic; its use of location-based stereo sound as a core gameplay element might just make it perfect for the new era of gaming.
The game eases you into the concept with easy fights, first introducing the basic mechanics, then getting you used to enemy attack patterns, and finally getting you used to fights with multiple enemies. At no point during the process did it feel like the game had pulled a new trick out of nowhere; everything feels like a very natural progression from the previous levels, and the difficulty curve couldn't be more smooth; it's very well-designed. Granted, I've only played up to the ninth level, so that might change during the tenth and final level. More on that in a bit.
The game can be a little unrelenting. Despite it being a game designed to be played blind (and versions specifically for blind users available on the dev's website) it does not go easy on the player at all. It is a _little_ more forgiving than you think it is, but it's still challenging you constantly to be better, to play better than you did in the previous levels. That in and of itself is a good thing, but some of the levels can be very long, especially later on in the game when you start facing off against multiple enemies at once. It can be immensely frustrating, especially when you don't know how many enemies you have to defeat in order to progress, when you die.
Some of the death moans last way too long as well. I know that sounds like an odd criticism, but on the tougher fights I really wanted to get to the game over screen so I could see the hints the game would give me and try and get some idea of what I did wrong, and having to wait for my character to die was annoying in its own unique way.
Then there's the horseman. Oh, the horseman. I swear to god this is an enemy that could only have been designed by someone who had been playtesting the game relentlessly for months. It requires such precision in order to beat! Not only is he significantly faster than any other enemy in the game up until that point, but the mere fact that he's on a horse makes him ever so slightly more difficult to pin down in combat, and he has a special move in which he attacks, then changes position slightly, then attacks again, and you're supposed to be countering his attacks while this is going on, and it's at this point that I start to wonder why for the love of God and all that is holy you can not parry and move at the same time. I can't think of a single reason, whether technical or mechanical, that this should be disallowed, because it makes a game in which you are already deprived of the ability to SEE that much more clunky.
So yeah, I still haven't beaten the horseman. He's just too punishing. And yet you may have noticed when you started reading this review that I still gave the game full marks. Why? Because it's the best kind of difficulty. The game is not unfair. It really isn't. In fact, I think it's actually really forgiving at times. But it is challenging. It makes you feel like a badass when you defeat an opponent, but by God do you have to work for it. The game makes demands of you. It taunts you. It dares you to try to win. Every single time I die in this game I go right back into it more determined than I ever was before. Even as I'm typing this review I'm still chomping at the bit to go back in and beat that horseman. You can't get that kind of experience from AAA games anymore; they're too afraid of losing their audience. Only in indie games, and deceptively simple games like this especially, do you get that sense of determination and triumph from a real nail-biting challenge.
This is why I play video games, to be entertained and to be challenged, and this game does both in such a unique way that I am forced to praise it and give it five stars even as I'm cursing it and its developers. Fuck you, Evil Dog. You will not beat me!
I WILL beat this game. Just you wait. Just you wait...