When I caught a glimpse of Slime-san at GDC in March, I told myself not to jump to conclusions (by now the dangers of getting excited about a game before it comes out are pretty obvious to everyone, I think) before sitting down to talk with a developer from Fabraz and giving it a brief try. I spent those few minutes trying to hold back actual laughter from enjoyment as the game and its developer explained themselves – needlessly, for the most part, since the game plays so well – and left the booth with high hopes that Slime-san would deliver a fleshed-out experience upon release. It’s a great pleasure to say my hopes weren’t in vain; Slime-san is a properly challenging, rewarding and quirky game marked by a level of pure fun only achieved by talented and passionate game makers.
Everything about Slime-san oozes class: it’s pretty, but it doesn’t force you to peruse the scenery; it’s deep and sophisticated, but by no means pandering. In short, the game doesn’t take itself too seriously – which is a feat in itself, considering how much attention to detail has obviously been paid to every moment of its gameplay and flexibility. Taking a step back, the game starts with a tiny cinematic wherein our slimy protagonist is eaten by a massive worm. He falls a modest distance and is suddenly part of a seemingly inescapable worm-world, where dozens of creatures have setup a network of homes and shops. My exact thoughts 10 seconds into Slime-san were, “This makes no sense. I like it.”
Using an appropriately high-contrast color scheme, the game quickly teaches the player about the delicate platforming and wall-jumping systems before introducing the first major mechanic: the slime ability. The player can phase through sheered-looking materials or use them as surfaces depending on their state, and using the slime ability also slows down time. This threw me off immediately, because my perception of platformers has always involved obstacles and enemies that are positioned and timed in such a way that provides a lot of a given level’s difficulty. Because Slime-san lets you “control” time a bit, entity positions are more easily dealt with – which makes room for more difficult levels than I’m used to. The dash ability thrusts the player in a chosen direction, while also compensating for the movement by speeding up time for that split second. This also took some getting used to – I’d sometimes think I was jumping past bad guys only to have them keep up with me and kill me – but ultimately gives the ability a very powerful feeling that makes me want to use it all the time.
Slime-san encourages button-smashing (climbing up a wall takes approximately 1,000 presses) and repeated failure, and offers what any speed-focused platformer should: detailed score-keeping, casual deaths and lightning-fast restarts. Every unfortunate fall, splatter, burn and death-by-flying-thing only welcomes another grueling attempt, and minutes turn into hours very easily.
The brilliance of Slime-san‘s addictive quality, I think, comes from its pacing. You’ll only pass a “level” if you complete a short series of them, so once you’ve started you might as well keep going. Level transitions and menu interactions are so quick that you probably won’t notice you’ve finished a series and moved onto the next – so you might as well keep going! The currency system is also painfully wonderful: apples are earned as pickups throughout levels, and they’re only awarded on successful plays – that is, if you die, you’ll have to pick up your apple again and beat the level if you want to keep it. The same goes for series of levels, as apples are only actually credited to you at each series’ end screen. Apples can be exchanged for other characters, cosmetic items, side art (the game is effectively 4:3) and even shaders! All of these are just for fun except the unlockable characters that dramatically alter gameplay. For instance, one has higher jumps but slower movement speed. The one I currently prefer, “Son-san,” moves slower but can use two consecutive dashes. And Slime-san just keeps scaling up from here!
With a base game featuring 100 finely-crafted levels, blissfully retro art in a 5-color palette, a soundtrack with over 20 songs that’ll amp you up and give you serious nostalgia, downright goofy dialogue, rigid hit detection and score tracking for online rankings, unlockable mini-games, local multiplayer, and tons of secrets hidden throughout the worm, Slime-san is a gold mine of play possibilities. It has done more than left its mark on fast-paced platformers; in several ways it’s redefined the genre for me, and I think it will do the same for you.
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