All good fantasy world heroes should engage in lots of monster vanquishing if they’re worth their salt in the slightest, and to that end the champions of Pixel Licker Games’ Slayin’ (out now, $0.99) are certainly no slouches. In fact, these pint sized vigilantes of justice are so busy with their monster defeating activities that they don’t even have time to deal with things that only get in the way such as towns or plots. If everything goes their way then they’re not going to stop this orgy of heroic massacre until they kill the ominous Dragon Lord himself, and possibly whatever lies beyond that accomplishment as well.
In line with our heroes’ simple – yet violent – goals, Slayin’ in turns features an equally simplistic control scheme that lets players control all of the on screen action with a scant three buttons. On the left side of the screen are the left and right buttons that control the direction your currently selected hero is facing (walking forward is otherwise automatic), and the right side of the screen contains a singular action button. What exactly the action button entails will depend upon which of the tiny champions you are currently controlling, leading to each of Slayin’s three different heroes being more than just different graphic sets.
The knight – for example – gets a big ole sword that he keeps in front of him at all times, but his action button actually controls when he jumps instead of making him swing his blade around (enemies are vanquished whenever he walks the pointy end into their squishy parts). Meanwhile, the mage – who can’t jump to save her life – instead can temporarily turn into a whirling tornado to attack (during which time she can also phase through projectiles launched at her). It’s because of major differences like these that Slayin’s three available characters play radically different from each other, despite the fact that the game otherwise only has three buttons of input.
While Slayin’ might at first appear to be an endless runner from the various screenshots currently available on its iTunes store page, the game actually features classical old school single screen arcade action (as well as content that is never randomized). The edges of your iDevice’s screen marks the boundaries in which your tiny hero – as well as all of the opposition – is confined to, meaning that Slayin’ is a game where your dodging skills need to be far more tactical than the reactionary avoidance abilities that are normally rewarded in endless runner games (pro-tip: the game will rarely just let the knight charge unscathed across the screen in a straight line, despite his sword being held straight out at all times). Since each of the three heroes are wildly different in how they go about avoiding taking damage from enemies, the dodging mechanics is another part of Slayin’ where the game changes substantially based on whom you select.
Another tactical element of Slayin’ is how players choose to spend the gold and silver coins that are occasionally dropped by the various forces they will find themselves obliterating non-stop. While these pint sized heroes may be too busy to ever stop by town to rest and upgrade their gear, they are more than willing to avail themselves of any merchants that happen to wander through the battlefield. As there will never be as much money as the player might otherwise prefer, they will have to constantly decide which new weapons they spring for – which they skip entirely – and when they dump precious money into health restoration.
When a hero finally does succumb to the forces of darkness – which is inevitable, since these guys are too busy for things such as towns or inns – the player will be awarded an amount of fame based on how well they bashed in the many faces of evil, with bonus points rewarded if they also accomplished any of their current three optional objectives. With these points players can unlock access to more kind of heroes to play with, skins for the on screen controller interface (such as one designed to look like an NES controller), additional gameplay modes, as well as – and I am not making this up – decorations for the tombstone that chronicles their most successful deceased hero so far. While extra fame points can be bought as IAPs, the fame otherwise flows more than freely enough that players should have no trouble unlocking all three heroes in due time (and there furthermore are no winning supplements for sale in Slayin’ to punish those who don’t opt into the game’s IAP options).
All in all this makes for a very satisfying and complex fast paced arcade style experience, complete with three radically different ways to play the game based on which of the three heroes the player selects. However, for players who were hoping for things such as a plot – or gameplay where they aren’t endlessly replaying the same bosses and enemies over and over – will find that Slayin’ might not be their cup of tea. Despite the game’s claim that it is an endless action RPG, playing it is far more akin to be spending time with something like Pac-Man rather than a more traditional action RPG such as Diablo.
With the matters of how Slayin’ controls now completely covered, I would like to take a moment to close off this review by discussing the presentation accompanying this game of heroic monster slashing. The retro arcade style action contained herein is displayed via an appropriately charming bevy of sprite based artwork that will immediately recall visions of later games from the Wonderboy series (or at least it will for those old enough to remember such things). Furthermore, the game features a very accomplished array of high quality 8-bit inspired chip tunes (rather than just the generic beepy noise that most such ‘retro’ games tend to include).
iFanzine Verdict: Slayin’ features simple and tight controls, three characters each with vastly different styles of gameplay, and high quality sprite based graphics as well as 8-bit inspired chip tunes. The only down side of the package is that – since the content is never randomized – players will be expected to retread the same material multiple times while they save up the necessary fame to unlock the Mage and Knave, which may quickly wear thin for some. Still, it’s a very solid old school arcade style package that will please any who want an Action RPG that plays in many ways more akin to a round of Pac-Man than something like Diablo.