Slain! is a hardcore metal platform side-scroller with badass graphics and half-arsed gameplay. Not even half-arsed, it’s practically unplayable in it’s current form. Wolf Brew Games have designed a gorgeous world of hacking, slashing and pixels. On the surface, it’s a fantastical adventure that demands attention and promises entertainment from the start. But despite the beautiful graphical quality and satisfyingly intimidating storyline, fundamental flaws in the controls and the gameplay make this a title you need to leave on your download list until some major repairs come along.
I’ll get the combat stuff out of the way – it’s the only major factor bringing this game so close to the violent death it portrays. Supposedly, it’s being fixed with updates as we speak, so I’m not going to keep thrashing at the issue. Swordplay is messy, and not in the gory, blood-bath way we’ve been promised. With a lag that feels like its sole purpose was to destroy my keyboard, and an enemy set up that reduces fighting to redundancy once you’re attacked the first time, you’ll only be seeing a few enemies split open the first dozen attempts.
Often you have to actually be among enemies to be able to do any damage with the attack you’re attempting to pull off, and even then your advances are blocked for some reason and you are unable to move. This effectively ends your experience there and then. Basically once the attack starts, the game seems to forget that you have control over this character and ignores anything you attempt. It makes for headache-ingly frustrating gameplay, to the point where in order to get any further than the first section to get this review out, I simply opted for jumping over enemies and just running for the end goal. And that took about four hours of rage quitting.
Aside from this crushingly devastating flaw, the game stands up as a solid artistic experience. Though any sound effects are bizarrely absent from gameplay, the soundtrack itself serves as a driving force behind your will (the will that exists in the first 10 minutes of gameplay) to succeed through a series of piercing guitar riffs and head-bangingly satisfying rhythms.
The pixelated art is a graceful throwback, and holds an element of raw fierceness that stands like the staunch hero you control. A magnificent world of magic and badassery is constructed around Bathoryn, as he is woken by a spirit in need of his help to save the seven great towers of his world from the deadly forces that control them. The personas of the bosses is what truly stood out for me as a redeeming quality of this title. The Banshee Queen, a bloodcurdlingly terrifying apparition who glides above you as you slash away shocked me into a state of total panic at our first meeting, as did the Thorn Beast. The plot in general is a fairly standard one of clear minor enemies in each tower and then the big boss, with little further deviation and reluctance to build on the characterisation of your protagonist.
Slain! is essentially a game put into the market before it was completed. The developers have come forward since the game’s release, and after a hell of a backlash from players, to say they are working on everything they can to get the game up to scratch. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more common for games to be released in this unfinished way. Until they have fixed the problems, developers are urging players to use controllers with the game – advice not being taken well by the PC community.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.