Its a strange time to be a video game reviewer – a fun little side job I have stumbled into thanks to my buddy Andy Burns here at Biff Bam Pop. I’ve spent the last several years of of video gaming playing games with my kids and marveling at just how far graphics, sound and production had advanced since I was a kid. I’ve even spun a few “back in my day…” stories chronicling the struggle that was passing 2D side-scrolling platform games. Games where you were limited to where you could go to left, right and sometimes up and down. Games that involved instant death from falls into pits, cheap damage from nuisance floating enemies and over the top dialogue all typed out with no voice overs or animations. Ah, those were the days!
And here they are again with Slain: Back From Hell for the Nintendo Switch by Wolf Brew Games.
If you ever played Castlevania or Altered Beast or other “dark” side scrolling adventure games as a kid, then Slain: Back From Hell will be like spending the night at your parents house and sleeping in your old room. Comfortable, familiar, but also somewhat small and restrictive. Which is how it feels to turn back the clock on video game progress and play this game.
To start with some good stuff, Slain is a fairly tongue in cheek homage to the games I mentioned above and I’m sure loads of others. The “resurrection” scene that prompts our hero to action is pretty funny and definitely in the spirit of the games it is paying homage to.
The gameplay is simple enough as you walk around, swing a big sword, jump over stuff and shoot fireballs out of your hands. Enemies increase in size, float over head dropping goo-bombs on your head and explode rather spectacularly when they die. There are big, over the top boss battles to be had and plenty of ways to die over and over again just to restart at the last check point.
While I have no real objections to this game, it is a strange thing to think of going back in time like this to recreate an 8/16 bit style platformer. Am I only one that was pretty bad at those as a kid? There is nothing I like less in a video game then missing a floating island thing and falling to my doom before being transported back several platforms and having to do it again… and again… and again.
Okay, so I was really, really bad at these games as a kid.
I will say that it is somewhat refreshing, for the first few minutes, to not have to navigate a huge, completely realised world within a game. No open ends, no getting lost in a forest, just straight ahead, maybe down, maybe back up again. No puzzles, no chance of getting lost, just you, your sword and patience enough to keep trying when enough cheap hits take you out.
So what is my final word on Slain: Back from Hell? I guess the word is: alright. The game is alright, the concept is alright and the execution is alright. I’m willing to bet that for any retro gamers out there, this game would be several hours of entertainment. However, for those of us that still wake in a cold sweat imaging poor Mario plummeting to his doom after missing one of those impossible single brick towers, it’s a step back in time that we don’t necessarily need, or want.
Bleeps and boops everybody, til next time.