Pinball's pretty simple, right? Left flipper, right flipper, ritual magic and demons crawling all over the table. Playing Demon's Tilt is a mesmerising exercise in filtering order out of chaos and trying to parse what exactly is going on across its single (but large) three-tiered table. Entering early access today and developed by Adam "Wiznwar" Ferrando, it's a loving, maximalist tribute to Naxat's mostly forgotten Crush series of pinball games which started back in the 80s. There's swarms of bullets, huge combo multipliers and demons all over the place, and a trailer lurking below.
One of the best things about Demon's Tilt is a sense of escalating chaos, backed by a meandering FM synth prog-metal soundtrack. The three-tiered table is relatively peaceful at first, but after a successful ten minutes it'll most likely be swarming with monsters, projectiles (which slightly alter your ball's trajectory) and a cycling array of boss baddies. There's a heavy focus on maintaining combos, so it's sometimes better to just shoot for anything and try to clean up after rather than trying to line up a perfect skill-shot.
Reminding me a little of Sonic Spinball, nudging the table is key. The gauge in the bottom-right shows you how far you are from tripping the tilt sensor, but it drains quickly and every nudge gives your ball a generous boost in that direction. Even when everything on the table feels like it's descended into bedlam (especially once you get a multi-ball going), it's something you can rely on, and probably for the best - you've only got three balls. I feel I've still got a lot to learn, too, as I'm sitting outside the top fifty on the scoreboard and the top players have scores ten times mine.
So far, my only problem with the game (other than it making me feel like I've been dunked in a bucket of sparkling Vimto) is that it misbehaves on my Gsync monitor a little. Nothing that can't be worked around by setting my screen to a fixed 60hz refresh, but if I don't it runs at nearly double speed, which is fun for a minute but probably too hard for most humans. If it runs faster than you see in the trailer above, you'll know what the issue is, and how to deal with it. Hopefully that problem will be patched, but it's been smooth sailing otherwise.
The current early access release is a functionally complete game, but the developer hopes to add more bosses, systems and unlockable goodies over the course of the year. The game will be in early access until the third quarter of 2019, so there's plenty of time for tweaking and tuning. While it's a bit of a hard sell, being just one table when every other pinball game has what feels like dozens now, I can see myself sinking a bit of time into this one, slowly clawing my way up the scoreboard.
Demon's Tilt is out now in early access for £10.25/€11.24/$13.49 on Steam. It's published by Flarb, who sound made up but are totally a real publisher.