Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Slime-san (NS, PC) Review

The reviews on SuperPhillip Central for August continue with Fabraz's Slime-san, now available for the Nintendo Switch. Check out my detailed thoughts on the game with my review!

Goo-ed to the last drop.

Poor slime. Just casually strolling about, doing his own thing, and not causing trouble for anyone when all of a sudden a gigantic worm consumes him from behind, completely whole. Now, our slime-tacular friend is in need of finding his way out of the worm's massive insides by running, jumping, and sliding through 100 levels of twitch-based platforming in Slime-san. Released on Steam and recently the Nintendo Switch eShop, Slime-san is a terrific take on games like Super Meat Boy and N++ that does enough to separate itself from the competition and in general just be uproariously good time.

Slime-san's 100 levels are split up between five worlds of 20 levels each. Most levels feature four rooms to them, and completing each room serves as a checkpoint, which is a godsend--or in this case, slime-send-- as it's one hit and your slime is no more. And you will be dying a lot. Thankfully, being brought back to try the current room again is a swift process. Rooms have a set way to move through them, but speedrunners and genre experts can use high risk, high reward shortcuts to slice off sizable chunks of time. It feels so very good to go off the beaten path from the way Slime-san intends for starting players to go through levels and get rewarded for it.

It's not a hop, skip, and a jump to finish levels in Slime-san. It's more of needing a wing and a prayer.
A strict color palette of only five colors is not only an artistic choice in Slime-san, but it is also prominent for gameplay reasons as well. White walls and ceilings are safe to the touch while anything red is generally instant death upon touching it. Meanwhile, our slime hero has the ability to switch between a solid form and a transparent form with the press of the left shoulder button. This allows him to pass through green blocks and walls when transparent. Quite quickly in Slime-san, levels require shifting between solid and transparent forms in succession with great precision to survive.

A general lesson of Slime-san: Red is bad; Green is good.
There are also color blind options, if you have problems distinguishing between colors.
Levels in Slime-san constantly introduce new mechanics, obstacles, and challenges into the fray to keep things fresh, even towards the final levels of the game. From blocks and walls that disappear when in transparent mode and reappear when the slime is solid to gravity segments that flip the slime from running on the floor to skimming along the ceiling, to color-coded key-like doors that unlock gates to vines that allow Slime-san to swing across chasms and up to higher areas, this game is not shy about bringing a lot of variety when it comes to new mechanics to be taught to the player and for the player to overcome them.

Slime-san controls well. One button is there to jump, one to become solid and transparent, and one to dash, either on ground or in midair. Sadly, this is where Slime-san can become a little confusing to play. The neat thing about Super Meat Boy is that the controls are simple; one has but a small amount of things to worry about while playing: running and jumping (the latter in both normal jump and wall jump forms). Slime-san makes it so you have to concern yourself with multiple moves at once. Many times it felt like I was attempting to pat my head while rubbing my tummy. Okay, well, doing those two things isn't exactly tough, but you get my point with the reference there. It can become difficult to do a series of required movements with all of the options available to you, merely complicating the platforming and causing more deaths than I would have liked because of it. Mind you, you'll die a lot even when you have become accustomed to all the maneuvers in Slime-san's repertoire, but being flabbergasted by the controls at moments is annoying all the same.

This early level features boxes to dash into to create platforms to safely cross this hazardous pink goo.
If you wish to run through each level of Slime-san to reach the end of the game, your playtime might last about eight hours or so. For those that desire the most bang for their buck, there are a lot of side content to sink your teeth into. For one, each level, outside of boss battles that conclude each of the five sets of 20 levels, has four apples to collect, one in each room of a level. Not only do these serve as nice collectibles, but they're placed in some pretty crafty locations. I don't mean cleverly hidden or anything like that. Instead, they are situated in precarious spots. Sometimes you'll need to do some dangerous, risky jumping to reach them, others will require you to take the long way or more so, a detour to nab them. While this might not seem so bad, each room in the game has a timer of sorts that when it reaches zero, pink acid starts to move through the room from a predetermined side. Touching it like any hazard in Slime-san results in a swift and slimy death. Also, some levels in particular feature hidden areas that lead to NPCs within, and Slime-san can invite them to the town within the worm.

Yep, there is a town within Slime-san (talking about the game here) that serves as a special site where Slime-san (talking about the character now) can visit to accomplish a number of tasks and see all the sights that the city has to offer. He can use his bravely collected apples to trade with NPCs to do things like buy new costumes and accessories, new slime types that deliver positive and negative powers depending on the one purchased and equipped (such as higher jumping prowess but slower speed, for instance), and much more. The town in question, Slumptown is a happening place where you speak to the townspeople, including the NPCs you rescued from the bowels of the worm beast.

This leads me to talk about what further content is available in Slime-san. There are your standard time trials to earn trophies for beating the record time in each level, of course, but there is also post-game content as well! After beating the initial 100 levels, you can play a New Game+ mode that alters the enemy and obstacle placement of the original levels. Additionally, a Boss Rush option opens, and these boss fights are quite clever, because Slime-san can't actually attack any enemy, he has to use obstacles and other means to bring these baddie bosses down. They're action-packed fights that lean heavily on puzzle-like approaches.

Boss battles require quick thinking, quick platforming, and quick reloading for when you die many times trying to figure out what to do to beat these big, bad bosses!
To me, Slime-san has a polarizing graphic style to it. Obviously it's retro-focused, but looking at the game in screenshot form, the look is a bit too rough on my eyes and almost gives me a headache on the closer-in shots. The more zoomed out ones are much more pleasant to look at. Regardless, Slime-san looks much better in motion, but you really need to appreciate old school styles to get the most out of it. For a further, more authentic retro experience, Slime-san brings with it several visual filters that you can add to the game by purchasing them in Slumptown, whether VHS-styled, CRT-styled, and even a shout-out to the doomed Virtual Boy, an all red aesthetic headache in the making. While Slime-san generally performs well with regards to its frame-rate, on more than one occasion have I died to the FPS plummeting into the single digits. With a patch on the way according to the developers, though, this shouldn't be an issue on the Nintendo Switch version very soon.

You can purchase borders to line the sides of the play field as well from a shop in Slumptown.
Slime-san is a much welcomed addition to the Nintendo Switch's arsenal of indie games. Bursting to the seams with content, packing in 100 levels in both classic and remixed modes, levels themselves consistently providing new hooks and additions to the gameplay, creative boss battles, a hefty challenge, and 5-bit visual delight, Slime-san presented me with a slimy and sticky situation that I didn't mind being stuck in at all.

[SPC Says: B+]

Review code provided by Headup Games.

No comments: