Over the next few months, there are some really great looking and very intriguing indie games being released. I’ve been keeping a beady eye on quite a few and have built up a bit of a list. Ravenous Devils from developer Bad Vice Games and publisher Troglobytes Games, is one of those games.
Now, I actually gave this a little preview a while back and since that tasty amuse-bouche, I’ve been hungry for the main course. Well, here is that main course in all of its gruesome glory.
A horror cooking simulator where the secret ingredient is crime. Improve your shops, buy new tools, expand your menu, and above all, make your customers happy.
Ravenous Devils tells the story of Percival and Hildred, who move to a new city and open their own business. You play as the couple of entrepreneurs to help them grow their new venture. Yup, this is very much a business-sim type of game. Only… it’s not exactly a 100 % legal business that you will be running. Ravenous Devils is very much inspired by the whole Sweeny Todd and penny dreadful styled stories of the 1800s and is dripping in a very authentic 19th century-like aesthetic. As you’ll be responsible for the murdering of innocent people and then turning them into tasty meals to be sold to the public. Oh yeah, human flesh is your main source of income that you’ll be managing as you try to expand and develop your tailor shop and pub.
The game is really split into two playable areas. Percival takes care of the killing, whilst running the tailor shop upstairs. Hildred does all the mincing, dismemberment and cooking of the bodies in the basement. To then sell her meals in the pub that sits between the upstairs tailor shop and basement of horrors. Kill someone as Percival upstairs and throw their body down a chute, that leads to the basement kitchen. Here, Hildred gets the most out of the corpse, before turning it into several tasty meals. Which are then sold to the public for you to make some profit, which you can then put back into the business and upgrade your equipment. That is really the bare basics of just how Ravenous Devils works and what you will be doing for the majority of the game. Kill people, turn them into food, sell food to make profit and spend those profits on your business.
When I did my preview a while back, I played the game on my laptop. A game like this is perfect for PC playing, what with the fact that you control the game via the use of a lot of clicking and mouse pointing. However, for this review, I played Ravenous Devils on the Xbox. I wanted to see how the controls translated from the relative simplicity of a mouse pointer to the (usually) more awkward and frustrating use of a gamepad. I mean, we all know that these mouse-driven games always work best on PCs but perhaps don’t fare so well on consoles. I have to say that the controls actually work really well here. What Bad Vice Games have done is, they have left it simple. When you have a dozen or so buttons to press on a gamepad, devs often feel the desire to use as many of those buttons as possible when it is not needed. Here, you use the shoulder/trigger buttons to select one of the two characters/a floor of the building, the left stick is used to move the cursor and then you have a button to select items and equipment for use. The right stick moves and zooms the camera but to be honest, I hardly did that once I settled on a comfortable setting.
Honestly, I was not expecting the controls to be as fluid as they are, when compared to playing this on PC. Yet, I felt very confident with everything within a few minutes. I’d still say the prefered method of playing a mouse-driven game like this would still be on a computer. But hey, I still need to applaud Bad Vice Games for keeping things simple and very effective when using a gamepad.
Outside of all the murder and cannibalism that is going on here, there is a story. Now, this bit isn’t a spoiler as it happens at the start of the game. In fact, it is the entire setup for the plot but… Percival and Hildred receive a letter that says the sender of the letter knows who they are and what they are doing. The mysterious letter is simply signed Mr J. Who is this Mr J and what does he want? Well, who he is remains a mystery until the very end of the game and I’m not about to spoil that here. What he wants, he tells you as much himself. In exchange for his silence and not turning you over to the police, Mr J wants you to kill some very specific people… and cook them up for a special banquet for him to eat. Yeah, this Mr J is as fucked up as Percival and Hildred are.
The story is told to you via several of these letters as Mr J writes to you regularly to ensure you keep up your end of the bargain as he updates his hitlist with his latest meal request. In terms of the story of Ravenous Devils, I have to admit to really enjoying it. With every letter that Mr J sent, I kept looking for clues as to who he could be. Reading and re-reading each letter, I pored over every word to see if I could work out who Mr J was before the end of the game.
I guess I had better quickly go over just how Ravenous Devils plays and works, I mean, this is a review and all. So, as covered, the controls are simple as are the game’s mechanics. Someone comes into Percival’s tailor shop and goes into the backroom to be measured up. You click on them to kill them. When the deed is done, you then click on the body to pick them up and then on the chute to drop the body down to the basement. Still playing as Percival, you can repurpose your victim’s clothes to put on display in your tailor shop to make some coin. You’ll also need to clean up the blood before another customer comes in for a ‘measuring’.
With the body now in the basement kitchen, as Hildred, you pick up the body and take it over to the mincer. Once you have some minced meat, you can combine that with flour on a work surface to make the pies. Then the pies need cooking, so you pop them in the oven and wait. Once cooked, you take the pies upstairs to the pub for customers to walk in and purchase.
Ravenous Devils starts out very basic and gently eases you into the killing, making human-based food and selling it. You’ll be continually switching between Percival upstairs and Hildred downstairs, trying to maximise the time you have to get as much done as possible, so you can make as much money as possible before the day ends. As Hildred is mincing up a body, flick to Percival and have him repair some clothing to be sold. Once that is done, switch back to Hildred and have her make some pies and put them in the oven. Then as she waits for those to cook, back to Percival and kill a new customer for more meat, etc. See, each in-game day lasts only a few minutes. So you really need to work fast to make the money you need to buy some upgrades.
And about those upgrades. There is a lot to unlock like a better mincer so you get more meat per body and a faster oven so you can cook more quickly. You can upgrade the sewing machine to repair clothes faster and add more mannequins to the tailor shop so you can sell those clothes. As the game progresses, more and more upgrades become available. Add a sausage maker so you can turn the bodies into other meat and open up more recipes. Get a massive chopping station and you can turn your victims into steaks. Upstairs, Percival can get a garden up and running, where he can grow various vegetables. Tomatoes, onions, potatoes and even eggs. But for these to grow you need compost and the best compost you can use is… yup, more dead bodies. All of these extra ingredients mean you have more and more recipes to follow which then makes managing your resources and time increasingly more tricky.
By the time the game gets to the mid-way point and you have a few of the upgrades, the pace picks up as more and more people come into the pub wanting more, varied food. You can hire a helper to serve customers so you don’t need to worry about that anymore and can concentrate on all the bloody food preparation and cooking. Get tables put in the pub so you can then do table service, which pays better. By the time you get to the latter part of the game, you’ll really need to keep your wits about you as you juggle Percival, his tailor shop, the garden and all. Whilst also playing as Hildred and dismembering the bodies, turning them into various meat products, adding vegetables, cooking food and meeting your customer’s orders. It all gets much more hectic the more you play and that easiness of the opening of the game, to the tricker latter part of the game is a (for want of a better word) perfect difficulty curve.
Then, don’t forget about the mysterious Mr J and his blackmailing you to kill certain targets for his banquet. While the gameplay mechanics of Ravenous Devils are easy, very ‘pick up and play’, the game slowly builds and builds to become increasingly more manic as your pub gets busier and busier. The game keeps you very busy even though its mechanics are devilishly simple.
But before I get to my final conclusion, I do need to cover the graphics and animations. As I previously mentioned, the game takes place during the 19th century and is inspired by the whole Sweeny Todd story. So everything is very period and has a dirty, grimy aesthetic that looks and feels like a Hammer Horror production from the 1950s. The animations don’t shy away from the bloody horror either. From Percival stabbing people with his tailor scissors and the pool of blood that forms, to Hildred mincing bodies or turning them into sausages. This game is bloody, detailed and massively macabre. My favourite bit is turning a body into steaks for cooking. The animation used is wonderfully grotesque as Hildred chops off the victim’s head, their arms and legs, removes the meat from their stomach… before just casually sweeping the torso into the basket to be used for meat. The details in the graphics and animation are disgustingly amazing. There is so much blood here that even the most hardened of horror fans will be satisfied.
Now, Ravenous Devils isn’t exactly a huge game. I got my review code last Friday and I saw the end credits by Saturday… and I only played for a few hours each night. Yeah, it won’t take you too long to get to the end of this game. You can keep playing after the credits, just for fun or to get any upgrades you missed. Oh, and you also get a good selection of unlockable costumes for both Percival and Hildred. Then there is the fact that we are talking about a game where you really just click on stuff to make things happen. There is a possibility that some gamers will be put off by how simple the gameplay is here. But, I will be addressing both the shortness of the game and the simplicity in my conclusion.
So then, onto the big decision and judgement. Is Ravenous Devils worth the asking price? As I mentioned in the review, it is a relatively short game and whilst I didn’t time myself, I’d say it’ll take somebody fairly competent at these cooking/business-sim games around 4-6 hours to see the end credits. There’s really nothing to keep you playing afterwards either, the endless mode is fairly redundant if you get all the unlocks before the end credits, as I did. I would’ve liked to have seen something at the end with a bit more meat on the bones. Perhaps some kind of challenge mode or a mode that starts off slowly and gets increasingly faster and faster and you have to see how many days you can last? I don’t know, just something to add to the experience and a reward for all of your killing up to that point in the game
Ravenous Devils is very much a ‘one and done’ type of game, but it is a great ‘one and done’ experience. The game mechanics are simple and there is a lot of repetition here that may grate on some players. For me though, I loved every second and got into a rhythm of switching between Percival and Hildred’s jobs to keep the place running as smoothly as possible. I’d love to see a sequel that builds on this idea more. Having more control over your business, being able to decorate, design your rooms and move the equipment where you want it. Maybe even expand outside of just running one pub and have several of them in different locations? Honestly, Ravenous Devils is short but very, very sweet and I can’t wait to see what the team at Bad Vices Games have in mind next.
Weighing up the gameplay against how much the game costs could’ve been a massive negative if Ravenous Devils had a stupid price point… but it doesn’t In fact, it has an amazing price point. This little gem will only set you back less than £5. As of writing, Ravenous Devils is £4.19 on Xbox and £4.49 on Switch. It’s only £3.99 on PlayStation! That is a brilliant price for this game. For less than £5, Ravenous Devils is a must buy, get it now… or when it is available within the next few hours on Steam. It may be short and perhaps lacking in depth. But what is here is still well worth playing and with such a low price that’ll hardly bleed you dry, I say get this bought now for some gloriously gruesome gratification. In fact, even though I got my review code for free, I’m going to buy it on Steam to give the devs some support.