STAFF REVIEW of Diabolical Trilogy, The (Xbox One)

Wednesday, June 15, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

Diabolical Trilogy, The Box art While I don’t normally review bundles of previously released games unless there’s a substantial update or some sort of improvement, there’s always a first for everything. Truth be told, I saw the included games in The Diabolical Trilogy and remembered playing each one, so it was a great excuse to dive back in and get a refresher on some unique roguelikes from developer COWCAT.

This bundle includes Xenon Valkyrie+, Riddled Corpses EX and Demon’s Tier+, and while there’s no gameplay improvements or updates from their original launch, there’s a minor discount for purchasing The Diabolical Trilogy as opposed to each individually ($25.99 CAD for the bundle versus $32.77 buying separately). Given that we here at XboxAddict reviewed each of the three games, portions will be quoted from our original reviews, as after playing each again, I wasn’t able to discern any major changes from when I originally enjoyed them. I’ll also list what our original review scores were per game and then give a new overall for the value of The Diabolical Trilogy as a whole.

Xenon Valkyrie+

Originally a VITA game, Xenon Valkyrie+ isn’t for the faint at heart, as it’s a deeply challenging roguelite platformer, and if I’m being honest, was my least favorite of the three games by a large margin. I was curious as to how the game would translate from the small handheld screen to the large living room TV, but it appeared seamless. Your home planet is under attack from a mysterious moon, so you and your team are tasked with saving the world from imminent doom by stopping an evil witch buried deep within this moon. As you fight through randomly generated worlds each time you play, you’ll unlock new powerful weapons, meet new characters, bosses and enemies.

You begin by choosing one of three characters to play, each with their own visual style and special abilities. It’s been quite a while since I’ve played, so I was hoping there was some sort of reminder or tutorial to jump back in, but unfortunately there’s not. Reading back on my original review, I mentioned that the controls aren’t taught to you at all really, as it took me a while to figure out I even had a gun I could use for ranged attacks. Each character has a sword for up close kills, a gun, grenades and their special ability, so it’s a matter of finding the character that suits your playstyle as they have different stats like defense and vitality.

Being procedurally generated, every time you die and restart your journey you’ll notice that every level is completely randomized when you play. The goal, enemies and everything in between will change each time, so there’s plenty of replayability within. You begin at the top of the stage, aiming to reach the teleporter at the bottom of the stage somewhere. You need to kill enemies in your way, as this is how you level up, able to wall jump and back track when you reach dead ends. Bosses are challenging and huge, easily the highlight of the whole experience.

Multiple endings, hardcore permadeath, great retro pixel aesthetics and some decent chiptune music, there’s plenty to enjoy if you want a roguelite to sink your teeth into. We originally scored it 58% and I’ll still agree with that today, as I simply didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the other two games in The Diabolical Trilogy.

Riddled Corpses EX

We go from my least favorite in the bundle to the best of the bunch with Riddled Corpses EX. A chaotic twin-stick shooter where you fight through hordes of zombies and monsters as you gather and collect gold to purchase new characters and upgrades. Travel through a handful of different stages culminating in a massive boss fight that will surely get you killed the first few attempts. Being a roguelike you’re going to die plenty of times, but you have some persistent progression that comes in the gold you keep when you die and the upgrades you purchase, so you’re constantly becoming more powerful, albeit slowly. While it turns into quite a grind to save up enough gold to make meaningful purchases, knowing that every few runs you get more powerful and make it a bit further each time becomes addictive.

You begin with a regular character with no special abilities, so you’ll need to keep playing to grind away, gather gold from defeated enemies and lasting as long as you can before you lose all your lives and have to start all over again, though you keep your earned gold to that point. Do you decide to save gold for the newer characters that have special abilities like 2X gold earned or acts like a magnet that sucks it in for you so you don’t need to risk running to pick it up? What about using all the gold you have to upgrade your weapons to be much more powerful? The longer you last and further you get, the more gold you’ll earn.

Eventually gold starts to flow more as you become better and can do levels on repeat to defeat the bosses, but some of the characters and upgrades cost 9999 gold which takes a handful of runs to save up for. You’ll become overwhelmed at times, as unlocking a new character means you’ll then need to save up and upgrade their weapons as well. See, I wasn’t kidding about the grind.

To help you from dying quickly you’ll randomly find clocks and dynamite from enemies when you defeat them, which I suggest figuring out the best time to use them. The clocks will stop time for a few moments, allowing you to shoot any enemies on screen as they and any projectiles are frozen in this short period of time. It’s a great way to ‘catch up’ when you’re becoming overwhelmed and need some breathing room. The dynamite does exactly what you’d expect, clearing the whole screen save for the larger enemies and bosses that have much more health.

For a top down retro twin-stick shooter, I quite enjoyed the visuals with each of the enemies looking distinct and no slowdown when your screen is practically overflowing with enemies. The chiptune music is equally as good, able to choose from classic MIDI style music without any processing applied, or a newer ‘smoother’ style of audio. We originally gave Riddled Corpses EX an 80% and even replying it all these years later, it holds up.

Demon's Tier+

The final game in The Diabolical Trilogy is Demon’s Tier+. While I didn’t enjoy this as much as Riddled Corpses EX, I’d choose to play this over Xenon Valkyrie+ if given the choice. Seemingly a blend of both of the games above, Demon’s Tier+ is a twin-stick dungeon crawler that has some persistent progression to always be working towards.

Set in underground dungeons, you move with the Left Stick and shoot with the Right as you fend off against skeletons, bats, wizards and more. There’s no dodge to avoid the onslaught of enemies, but you have a barrier you can sporadically use to block projectiles with the Right Bumper. You start out as a simple Knight, tossing your swords in all directions as needed, able to unlock other characters along the way that each have their own stats and abilities to suit different playstyles.

As you explore dungeons, defeat enemies, bosses and open chests, you’ll earn two types of currencies; gold and D-tokens. Gold is only used for your current playthrough in the dungeons to improve your stats. When you complete a dungeon level, before moving onto the next floor, you can spend your collected gold on upgrades to any of your stats. Do you get hit a lot? Maybe you’ll want to upgrade your health. Want to kill things quicker? Then increasing your damage may be the way to go. It’s completely up to you how you want to upgrade your character for each run.

D-tokens on the other hand are the main currency that you’ll want to be careful with. These can only be redeemed in the village and is the currency to purchase new characters, weapons (once you find their blueprints from bosses) and items like ropes, potions and keys. If you die in a dungeon you lose all your progress, gold and D-tokens. So to make use of what you’ve currently earned you need to use a rope to crawl out of the dungeon pit. These of course cost D-tokens to replenish, but as long as you escape before dying, you can spend your currency as you wish.

To pass a dungeon within its five minute timer you need to complete the objective given to you. This may be defeating all the enemies, blowing up all the explosive barrels, defeating a secret enemy, opening all the treasure chests or something else. You’re only given 5 minutes per dungeon to do so, as once the timer runs out the undefeatable Grim Reaper comes to take you away if you don’t escape in time. This makes for a frantic balance of wanting to spend as much time to kill and loot everything you see, but also being mindful of your remaining time and escaping before the Reaper comes. Just always keep in mind to use your rope to escape before dying and you’ll never have to worry about losing those hard earned D-tokens.

The pixel art is great overall, as enemies vary and are unique, my only problem is that sometimes action can become a little too frantic with so much going on at once. Also, because the dungeons are randomly generated, sometimes you’ll be surrounded right as you enter and can quickly die while you try and center yourself on your surroundings. The later dungeons, such as the lava filled ones, I found to be a little too chaotic, as it was hard to distinguish certain elements. Spike traps were notorious for me, as I died many times to do them since they are hard to see when trying to fight off a horde of enemies. The artistic style is retro pixel art, as is the quality soundtrack that consists of chiptune music. The music is decent overall, but because you’ll be in the same beginning dungeons numerous times, it can become a little tiresome over time. Our original score was 77%, and while I may have scored that slightly less today, Demon's Tier+ can be addictive once you figure out its intricacies and the best way to survive each run.

The Diabolical Trilogy packs three games that were decent when they originally released. While they all have some similarities, especially with their roguelike elements and twin-stick gameplay, each is unique enough that this bundle has just enough variety depending on what you are in the mood to play. Check out the three games included, and if two of them interest you at all, paying the extra buck or two for this trilogy collection is a no brainer.

**The Diabolical Trilogy was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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