Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review: Slime-San


While it’s appearance is unassuming, Slime-San isn’t a title that anyone who enjoys classic platforming challenges should ignore. Far more meticulous and puzzle-like than the likes of Mario and far less outright brutal than the likes of Super Meat Boy, I think it is in a sweet spot just at the fingertips of mainstream accessibility. While Slime-San’s thoroughly retro looks could give some people pause its level design, progression of challenge, and avalanche of collectibles, secrets, and unlocks really make it something special.


Jumping into the game for the first time can be a bit overwhelming with how busy the main screen is but once you get your bearings you can get down to business. In general you’ll either be working on completing levels or going to town to spend the apples and coins you can accumulate within the levels. One apple is always present per stage, sometimes in an easy spot and sometimes requiring you to throw yourself into the jaws of death many times to earn. Coins, on the other hand, are rare and only found in secret areas you’ll find in a cave that will show up in very specific levels once in awhile. Of course there are also trophies available for the speed runner types, meaning you’ll generally want to ignore distractions like apples and get to completing everything as efficiently and quickly as possible.

The 5 Worlds in the game are broken down into groups of 20, with sub-groups of 5 levels a piece usually sharing a common theme or new mechanic to play. Some examples of introduced elements include levels with water, a slug you can ride, portals, areas you need to unlock, balloons, changing your size, and many more. These new ideas can vary pretty wildly but in general they’re introduced politely on the first level of each group and then each subsequent stage will then ramp that challenge up. Each World then culminates in what’s usually a pretty challenging boss battle that will require you to leverage multiple learned skills.


Your core moves never change (jump, slow motion/phase through specific walls, directional dash), though by using some apples to buy different members of your slime family you will be able to make choices to better suit your play style or even your objective. I personally came to prefer Kawaii-san who is able to jump higher but who then falls more slowly in a “floaty” way. Since my focus for the first run-through has been on getting the collectibles this makes sense but for people looking to get speed run trophies there are likely better choices. The nuanced changes this allows you to make can result in very different-looking runs in many cases and you should experiment to be sure you understand what’s available to you if you find the default Slime-San isn’t quite moving the way you’d like.

What probably brings me the most joy in the game is the almost-constant string of surprises it throws into the mix. With the oddball cast of characters and locations you’ll discover, some very unusual and revealing secret characters and areas (Sheeple is breaking the fourth wall, alert!), and the goodies that can be unlocked if you invest in finding and collecting apples and coins the game is full of little touches that make it stand out as very hand-crafted and unique. Whether it is the custom side art you can give your screen, the ability to alter the filters applied to the game visually, or hitting the arcade to play some simple-but-fun variations on well-known classics there are extras that help the game shine everywhere you look.


Right now on the Switch there’s just nothing else quite like Slime-San. It’s a challenging action/platforming title with a fair amount of puzzle-solving required and speed running roots thrown in to boot. As is necessary with this style the controls are tight and responsive and there are a number of choices in Slimes that will help you tune your experience closest to your liking. The duration of individual levels tends to be quite quick so it is excellent as an in-between doing things experience, allowing it to be played similarly to a mobile game in some regards if you’re often on the go. Finally, it is a terrific gateway to platforming challenges that venture past the familiar boundaries of the Mushroom Kingdom, turning the difficulty knob higher without necessarily breaking it like a few other titles of its kind tend to insist on doing. Recommended!

Score: 8

Pros:
  • 100 Levels of challenging (but generally fair) platforming action!
  • Stage length is generally short enough that it is great for pick-up-and-play on the go
  • Plenty for completionists and speed runners alike to obsess over
  • Well worth mentioning, at least here: A great soundtrack


Cons:
  • The main menu is a bit overwhelming/confusing
  • While not as brutal a challenge as some in the overall genre it’s still pushing the upper limit of what more casual gamers may be looking for
  • The art style, though wonderfully unique, won’t be for everyone

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