Review – Damn Dolls

Like many of us, around this time of year I like to play something spooky to get more in the Halloween spirit. Having already recent played Visage, Resident Evil Village, and Little Nightmares II, I decided to try and find something newer and lesser known. That’s when I stumbled upon Damn Dolls from solo developer, Rodrigo Riquetto. To be fair, I had no illusions that this was going to be a masterpiece by any means, but I was surprised by just how terrible it is.

Right away I knew I was in for a bad time when the game gives you its premise with a wall of text rife with grammatical errors. The “story” of Damn Dolls is that you are someone named Suzi and your best friend Ana has gone missing.
All you know is that Ana was seen near an abandoned house in the forest and the former owner of the property was killed by local residents for allegedly kidnapping and killing a girl.

Damn Dolls Premise Text Wall

I knew things were going to be rough from the very first screen.

That’s it, that’s all you’re given. What’s even more bizarre is that none of that seems to have anything to do with your experience. It’s like the developer made the game and realized he should probably have some sort of story to go along with it. Then he tacked one on at the last minute with that that first screen of text to give is some semblance of a plot. In reality, all Damn Dolls is, is a game where you go from room to room trying to figure out how to get past some dolls and make it further into the house.

Damn Dolls Clown Doll

A cartoony clown doll chasing you while moving its arms around like a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tubeman is more adorable than it is terrifying.

In terms of gameplay, it’s exactly what I mentioned above. Damn Dolls is a first-person “horror” game that has you going from room to room trying to find ways to make it past obstacles, primarily the various dolls around the house. You’re armed with a gun and a flashlight, but your ammo is very limited and can only be used on enemies. It’s never made clear which enemies are vulnerable to gun shots, so you’ll have to rely purely on trial and error.

In fact, that pretty much sums up the whole game: try to get through the house alive through lots of trial and error. You will die… a lot. Thankfully, anytime you die in Damn Dolls, any progress you might have made during previous attempts will save. For the most part, at least. You’ll still have to recollect your ammunition every time, but at least once you’ve discovered something or eliminated an enemy threat, they’re gone for good.

Damn Dolls Sad Gingerbread Man

I think the sad gingerbread man is probably my favorite enemy of them all.

Unfortunately, that’s about the only positive thing I can say about Damn Dolls. This game can be incredibly frustrating at times because there’s no clear indication of where to go or what to do. During one part, I knew I needed to find something and I had scoured every available area of the house I could numerous times trying in vain to find the object I was missing. Then, by a complete accident, I stumbled upon it when trying to avoid touching a candle caused me to find a hidden room when the bookcase moved slightly. The level designs aren’t clever, they’re just annoying.

Bookcase

I only discovered this room by accidentally touching the bookcase.

The graphics fare no better. The best thing I can say is that some of the assets look alright from a distance and a few of the death animations from the dolls have clean textures. However, the rest of the game is a horribly muddied mess. Much of Damn Dolls looks like something you would find in much older generations of consoles. My favorite example of this (because it’s so dreadful) is the spirit that pops out at you as a jumpscare after touching a candle. I think it’s suppose to be a charred corpse, but it just looks like a rudimentary torso covered in mud.

Burned Spirit

Is it a charred spirit? Is it a mound of dog food? You decide!

The sound department also has some very odd design choices. For example, the soundtrack does absolutely sound like someone is trying to play a trumpet for the first time. Not only that, but it only consists of one short melody that’s played in a continuous loop. The jumpscare sound effect sounds like an electronic doorbell losing its batteries. You’ll also hear nonstop giggles from the dolls, which sound like dolphin calls sped up. Like just about everything in this game, it’s more effective at making you laugh than scaring you.

I was expecting Damn Dolls to be a bad game, but I wasn’t prepared for just how atrocious it would be. In a way though, it’s almost charming how terrible it is. I feel bad ripping on it because I know it was made by one person, but the scares fall flat in every conceivable way. I wouldn’t recommend Damn Dolls if you’re looking for a genuine horror experience, but if you want to play a game that’s entertaining in a “so bad it’s fun” sort of way, then feel free to check it out.

Graphics: 2.5

Some of the assets don’t look too bad from a distance, and the death animations are alright, but just about everything else is a hilarious mess.

Gameplay: 3.0

Technically, the game works, but the controls are awful, there’s absolutely no indication of where to go or what to do, and the hit detection is unreliable at best.

Sound: 1.0

The soundtrack is a continuous loop of one short obnoxious melody, jumpscare sound effect is laughably bad, and you’ll here high pitched giggling the entire time.

Fun Factor: 2.0

As an actual horror game, Damn Dolls is awful in every way. Only play it if you want to play something that’s so bad you can laugh at.

Final Verdict: 2.5

Damn Dolls is available now on PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Damn Dolls was provided by the publisher.