Damocles Gaze, the latest offering by French developer duo PUNKCAKE Délicieux ties up the story of the Sword of Damocles with tarot reading. Players have 12 minutes to battle their way through an increasingly difficult rougelite as their avatar traverses the sanctums of their soul.
For those who do not know Damocles — he was a courtier attempting to pander to his king Dionysus (not to be confused with the Greek god of the same name), for Dionysus had riches and luxuries beyond compare. So the king soon acquiesced his throne to the latter for a day, and Damocles was soon feasting on the finest of foods and wines, and riches as far as the eye could see. Damocles Gaze takes this story and fuses it with self-introspection.
Soon spotting a sword held above the throne by a single hair of a horse’s tail, Damocles soon understood that the power of Dionysus came at the cost of constant anxiety. To be where he was, he would have to be cruel, and gain nothing else but surface wealth because his power and fame was only through borrowed time and great care.
Tarot reading, on the other hand, had long been used to divine fates and fortunes. So to me, it was apt that attempting to understand what lay within oneself was the goal of Damocles Gaze. It becomes a 12-minute rougelite, with more and more suits to face. One could also choose a card from three Major Arcana cards to determine the game’s conditions until you are made to choose again.
As I travelled deeper in, Damocles Gaze besets me with increasingly maze-like dungeons, and as enemies drop stronger weapons, Pentadrangle’s music thumps against the frenzy of pixel enemies rushing at my character. Who happens to have an eye for a head. Takes seeing into your soul to a new level then.
Also, the laser gun was the best.
Enemy design made fighting the suits fun — enemies in the Cups suit were assorted eyes, noses, and mouths that spit tear projectiles, an apt representation of Cups being a suit associated with emotion. If you’re wondering why I care to explain so much — I leave you with the fact that I’ve ordered three tarot decks at once to start my reading journey.
As the timer draws to the 12 minute end, Damocles Gaze leaves me thinking about what I may face next. What will I find within the depths of my soul? I only have to jump in again.