When Slain first came across my web browser I was hooked. The dark and bloody aesthetic served up with the musical stylings of former Celtic Frost bassist/guitarist Curt Victor Bryant were appealing on their own. Follow that with the promise of a Castlevania style action platformer, a Dark Souls like difficulty that rewards patience and learning from your previous mistakes and you have great promise. For anyone who read those points as negative you’re going to have a bad time.
Slain is a Viking-Horror 2-D Action/Platformer with puzzle elements that can at times be brutally punishing. This is where I draw the Dark Souls comparison. This isn’t a game where you can just continue to plough forward with no regard for the lessons to be learned from your constant failure. Checkpoints feel either too close together or few and far between. While traversing very complex and difficult platforming portions of the game you must keep looking at what you’re doing wrong more so than what you are doing right. Instant death also hides in plain site and can easily put an end to an end to a well executed run through a particularly difficult portion of the game.
Bathoryn, a fallen hero from the world’s past is awakened from his eternal slumber to once again rid the world of his nemesis the evil Lord Vroll and his undead horde. Against his yearning for rest Bathoryn dons his battle weary armor and sword once more in the hopes that he can return peace to the land now overrun by the unruly undead that have been summoned by Vroll.
The platforming feels quite responsive most of the time. With all 2-D retro style platformers there are instances where the gameplay does hinder certain actions. However they don’t occur that frequently and are usually rectified with a slight correction of timing or approach. Nothing in Slain feels unfair. Every inch is gained and the player is rewarded when a slow and steady approach is taken vs the aggro approach. There is a portion of the game where you’re in a castle/tower location and have to make your way up towards the top. This particular section took me about 30 minutes to complete. As I progressed higher up the tower a new obstacle would arise and a new approach would need to be implemented. Although frustrating at times it never felt infuriating. I could easily pick out what I was doing wrong and after a few tries I would master that section and move on to face the new challenge that had presented itself as I made my way to the peak.
The game could be helped with a slightly deeper combat system as most enemies are dispatched with parries or a healthy mashing of the attack button with properly timed retreats keeping
The soundtrack is just absolutely astonishing. Being a huge metal fan the music hits all the right notes for me. It sets the tone for the world perfectly. The heavy nordic style riffs fits the dark and dreary viking world covered in blood and death. It really helps set the tone and immerse you in the game as you progress. I would genuinely get excited for the next section more so to hear what new musical tone would be the setting for my next challenge.
This spiritual successor to the NES & SNES versions of Castlevania are spot on. The 16-bit aesthetic is absolutely gorgeous. Pair that with the perfect music and Slain’s art direction matches the game’s tone perfectly. The difficulty level on the other hand could be what keeps this game from being a larger success. As with Dark Souls Slain will find its niche audience of gamers who love to be challenged. And it should be passed on by those who might feel that this would provide more frustration in the process than joy in the accomplishment.
Developer: Wolf Brew Games
Publisher: Digerati Distribution
Release Date: December 7th, 2017 (Nintendo Switch)
Available On: PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Nintendo Switch, PC, & Xbox One
Disclaimer: This game was provided by the publisher for review purposes