I almost feel like Doors of Insanity sells itself a little short, you know. The Steam store page is plenty humorous and offers up a brief taste of what the game has to offer – a zany voyage across the realms of purgatory, amassing forbidden powers and twisted allies as you battle through a never-ending series of doors. The cover art features a buxom lass on a horse, when really it should have focused a bit more on hulking skeletal cat-beasts and big-nosed demons filling your hands with poo.
Doors of Insanity is mad, and I mean that in the best possible way. The art seems to take significant inspiration from Cuphead and Adventure Time, with splashes of Ren & Stimpy. Enemies bop along to the soundtrack, bringing momentum to every fight. Rewards are lavished upon you at regular intervals, slowly buffing up your health and damage potential, tricking your deck of cards out with new and interesting abilities (occasionally peppered with pop culture references). Doors of Insanity is always moving forwards, and the battles it offers are such intoxicating little chunks of quickfire fun it’s extremely easy to get caught up for hours on end.
OneShark state on the game’s store page that it’ll be in Early Access for about six months. They plan to use that time to fine tune cards and powerups based on player feedback, weeding out any game-breaking combos, but I hope that we’ll see some general quality of life updates too. Some of the art is a bit rough around the edges, and the same goes for the UI – I think these are two things besides balance that really need a bit of a polish before the game leaves early access.
Quite possibly one of my favourite things about Doors of Insanity is the way you progress between runs. Right now I can breeze through the first world almost regardless of which cards I get, but I regularly hit a brick wall in the second. Enemy damage output ramps up quite quickly, and as a result most of my mana every turn was spent buffing up damage absorption and hoping my minions could do my dirty work. But here’s where it gets interesting – your character levels up, and those levels persist after death. Before launching a new game you can buff your starting health, damage, crit chance and so on – incrementally beefing up to take on those harder challenges.
The balance still feels a little bit off, though. Even with a pretty handsome set of gear, artifacts and a card rotation I’d got down to a fine art I simply couldn’t survive some of the harder energy configurations later on. Sure, a lot of roguelikes are dominated by luck, but Doors of Insanity’s gameplay might be relying a bit too heavily on that persistent level up system, and that’s going to make for a lot of grinding in the long run.
Visually, it’s lacking quite a lot of polish. The game’s distinct visual flair does not shine through in the menu or character creator, which are as basic as they come. For every awesome piece of art, there’s another lazy one, and this is especially apparent in the player character and equipment. It seems a bit amateurish compared to some of the environment and enemy design, and stands out like a particularly poop-smeared thumb. In my experience I tended to notice this less and less the more I played, more occupied by the fantastic card art and bizarre random room scenarios.
Doors of Insanity Early Access: Is it worth it?
If you loved Slay The Spire and thought it could have been improved with a mental sense of humour, my answer would be an undeniable yes. Beyond that, it’s still hard not to recommend Doors of Insanity – it’s fun, it’s crafted a unique visual identity for itself even with clear influences from other media, and every problem I found with it is something that can easily be fixed throughout the next couple of months. This is actually quite the complete experience as it is now, to be honest – but it’s good that they’re taking the time to balance out the gameplay a little before a full on launch.
All in all I don’t think you’d really lose out on anything by investing in Doors of Insanity now – if it looks like it might be up your street, pick it up. It’s only going to improve over the next few months, and it’s already diverse enough to feel fresh every time you play. This has all the potential to be one of 2021’s cult indie hits if balanced and polished properly – don’t sleep on it.