Slime-San is a classic example of a pixel perfect platformer where tight controls and a super difficult stage fit together in perfect harmony. Lots of checkpoints, lots of deaths. If you’ve played games such as Super Meat Boy, VVVVVV or Electronic Super Joy, you’ve basically played Slime-San before.
The story is practically non-existent. You, as a slime, have been swallowed by a giant worm and of course you’re supposed to get out. Along the way you occasionally meet up with fellow swallowees who like to say a line or two of dialogue which is supposed to be funny but often falls a bit flat. It’s a shame it’s not particularly well developed since, what is here, doesn’t add anything to the game at all. But that’s not really why people play pixel perfect platformers is it?
The meat is in the gameplay, of course. Controlling your slime is pretty simple as not many buttons are used, but using them in harmony can be a bit of a challenge. You have the standard jump with A, which can also produce a mid-air jump if you walk off a ledge. In classic Super Meat Boy style you can scale walls by constantly jumping up against one to reach higher and higher ground. Then there’s the right shoulder button which provides you with a dash, either to traverse gaps or destroy blocks in your way. Lastly there’s the left shoulder button which allows you permeate through select green objects which otherwise would be used as platforms. That’s not the button’s only trick up its sleeve as it’s an input of many talents. It also gives you the benefit of slowing down time which really does help with such a quick thinking, high speed game. It also makes alternating blocks appear or disappear.
If that’s not enough to be thinking about, you have zero time to stop and think about what actions you need to take. Within literally seconds of the stage starting, the worms stomach acid rises from one side of the screen to consume you if you don’t reach the exit fast enough. To make matters worse, pausing the game brings up a separate screen blocking the view of the layout, so even that can’t help you. I really like the tension this brings to the game.
To give the game credit, in its generous 400 rooms in 100 levels, there’s usually always something new to face. Every other level there’ll be something different, a new gimmick, a new challenge such as switching the gravity, riding on balloons, spring pads; even the unexpected boss fights at the end of each world are quite well thought out.
Slime-San has a lot going for it, but there are some issues. While you may retort with “Well, it’s supposed to be difficult!” I personally think at many points it goes the wrong way about it. At times it feels like you need to pat your head, rub your belly and do sit ups at the same time. If you try enough times, eventually you’ll get one motion exactly right but a lot of the times you just have too many things to do and think about. And that’s what Slime-San is like on occasions. You flail about enough you’ll eventually get there just by sheer chance. The checkpoints are very generous and restarting the stage is instantaneous which does mediate the pain somewhat, but it doesn’t completely make up for it. When you fail at the same stage seven or eight times, you just give up caring at that point and zone out until you pass it. Slime-San is best when it keeps it simple. That doesn’t mean easy though, even the simplest stages can pose a real challenge but at least they don’t overwhelm you.
As an aside from completing all of the levels there’s Slumptown to visit when you need a rest from the chaos of platforming. It’s full of a surprising amount of things to do. There’s lots of shops to buy things from, using the optional apples you collect from the stages. You can customise your appearance, buy filters for the game’s screen, border artwork. There’s a lot here, there’s even mini games to play should you find enough secret coins in hidden exits in some levels, which considering the fast paced nature of the game, are pretty easy to miss.
One thing that’s quite striking about Slime-San is the visual style. With using only five colours at its maximum, it’s on a whole new level of basic, this isn’t NES style, this is ZX Spectrum style. It’s certainly unique. Whether I like it, I’m not sure. The over use of white for the ground and environments wouldn’t be my first choice for sure, and the overall colour palette isn’t particularly appealing to my tastes. I suspect opinions will be divided straight down the middle as to whether others like it or not.
For me, one of the stellar points of Slime-San is the soundtrack, there are some excellent chip tunes all-round and suits the game perfectly. From what I can tell, there’s plenty of it too as you’re never listening to the same song over and over again.
If you’re worried about content. Don’t be. Slime-San is packed with things and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth for the £10 they’re asking for. There’s the main game, the remixed New Game+, beating the levels time records, unlocking everything from Slumptown, Boss Rush Mode, all the speedrunning challenges… it’s almost exhausting, and it’s probably the largest game, content-wise for the genre that I’ve played. This is not just a couple of hours, this is tens of hours.
Overall, Slime-San is a little hit and miss for me. It’s a good game for sure with a lot of heart and an overly generous amount of content, but it’s slightly too frustrating for its own good at times, mostly down to how many things you need to do and think about at one time. It’s not the simplified perfection of VVVVVV, not that most games are. It’s definitely a better game than something like Electronic Super Joy, but it’s also more frustrating. For me, the visual style doesn’t work either. But it does sound great and when it’s not overwhelming you with 4 different actions to do at once, it can be a fun and exhilarating game. I recommend it, but only to those who can sustain frustration.
Game provided by Headup Games