Originally, I was trying to think of a Rocky and Bullwinkle-esque title for this review – like
“Slayin your free time or Slashing Slaying Stabby Super Retro Insanity”, but that seemed a bit long and silly. Although you know, now that I think about it, that kind of fits the style of the game perfectly.
Slayin is a retro-pixel-styled action game, where you take the role of one of three adventurers that typify fantasy tropes:: The highly-defensive but balanced Knight, the high-damage Mage, and the dual-bladed “Knave” (think a swashbuckling-type rogue character).
The game starts you off with only the Knight unlocked, and the rest can be unlocked with fame points earned through either in-app purchase or gameplay. The game’s controls are perfectly suited for mobile devices and deceptively simple. Tapping the left or right arrows causes your chosen warrior to advance in that direction, only stopping at a wall or when you tap the opposite arrow to change direction. Tapping the action button causes you to jump as the knight or the knave, while the mage briefly transforms into a whirlwind of death and destruction, but cannot jump. To defeat an enemy as a knight simply run into it, if you are the mage you have to do your whirlwind, and as the knave you behave similarly to the knight, but have the added bonus of a second weapon behind you, which gives a nice defense against any enemy attempting to attack from behind.
As you defeat the hordes of pixelated monstrosities, experience coins and other valuables will drop from time to time that allow you to upgrade your character with better armor or more effective weapons (or spells in the case of the Mage). When you finally succumb to the hordes and begin again, you revert back to having no items or upgrades and start the cycle over and over.
After each game, you are given a fair amount of fame points (FP in the game) based on your score and any missions you completed on that attempt. The fame points come pretty consistently, but at times it can feel that they aren’t proportionate to the amount of time you spend playing. This is where the whole “time-sink” comes in. Before unlocking different characters, the game can feel incredibly grind-y and that may put people off, but sticking with the game really pays off in how different each class plays.
Your fame points can also be used to unlock other goodies like skins for your on-screen controller, or upgrades to your grave stone’s appearance. While this may sound like a very odd unlockable category, it works for Slayin. When you go to the leaderboard section of the menu, you get to see all of your Game Center Friend’s high scores, displayed in the form of a grave stone showing their total and the character they reached that score. It certainly does a good job of pushing me to beat my friends’ scores and showing off my cool grave, strange as it is.
Slayin has a lot going for it in the form of, fantastic vibrantly colored pixel-graphics and a wonderful chiptune soundtrack by the same Matt Creamer who scored the awesome Retro City Rampage. The app icon even exudes tons of retro charm by taking the form of a Genesis (Megadrive for you overseas folks) cartridge. These little bits of detail
The only real complaints I would have is that there aren’t enough unlockables that actually do more in the game at this point. Even new skins for existing characters would make me play it more than I already do. There are unlockable modes such as boss rush and an advanced mode that starts you at a much higher level, but the fame point costs means you are going to be playing quite a bit more than you would normally expect.
The other “complaint” isn’t really much a complaint but is a symptom of these checkpoint-less games on mobile devices. As you get a great score chain going, and are getting closer to that high score, you quickly realize that you have been playing for 15 or more minutes. While that doesn’t seem like much, you eventually will need to dedicate some uninterrupted time to Slayin to push those high scores higher. Sure you can always switch out of the app, but the action gets so frantic at times, that when you start the game up again, a quick demise is all but certain. It would be nice to have a save option after every boss battle for those looking for a quick 5 minute fix, but it is what it is.
As a relative newcomer to the iOS arena, Pixel Licker Games really has a great first entry to the app store, and I hope to see many updates and additional features that keep people addicted as time goes on.