There’s more than meets the eye in this intensely challenging, but satisfying platformer.
At a quick glance, Slime-san looks to be a cute retro-styled platformer. But taking a deeper dive reveals that this quirky game packs a serious punch. Offering excellent platforming, puzzle solving, and a bizarre world to explore, it has an immense amount of content that will keep even the most seasoned platformer fans busy for hours. While it isn’t without a few faults along the way, namely occasional frame rate issues and some lackluster puzzle elements, the good far outshines the bad in this eShop game from New York developer Fabraz.
The story starts off with a lone slime minding his own business, and then he’s swallowed whole by a huge worm. From there, the adventure begins as you are tasked with helping him find a way out. The exit is reached after five worlds with 20 stages, with each world culminating in an excellently crafted boss battle (seriously, these battles rock). Each stage consists of four screens of varying platforming and puzzle elements.
While initially, you’re introduced to platform-heavy tasks, the game continues to ramp up the challenge by bringing more puzzle solving into the fray, which helps to keep each stage feeling fresh. Disappearing blocks, slick surfaces, and raising platforms are all things you can expect, but collecting keys, shifting gravity , changing sizes, and even taking control of a ship are introduced. The more esoteric ideas work really great. What I found incredibly satisfying was even during the later areas, new ideas were being introduced that continued to push the limits. Not all the elements work perfectly, as slow-moving barriers in front of paths become tedious through boring dodging and waiting. While this was annoying, it’s an irregular obstacle.
The most vital aspect of any good platformer are the controls and Slime-san delivers in a big way. Movement is tight and feels immaculate, which as you progress becomes increasingly important as your level of precision will be tested. The skill set is pretty basic consisting of three abilities: jump, dash, and slime. Jump is your standard jump ability, but dash and slime have some unique traits. Dash sends you flying with the ability to smash through objects, but also slightly speeds up time. Slime gives you the ability to bypass certain walls and actually slows time down, which is incredibly useful when dealing with enemies. You can use these skills in conjunction with one another to overcome what might at first seem impossible, like getting some extra height by jumping and dashing at the climax upward.
Having such excellent controls makes the difficulty of the game feel especially fair. You will die a lot because a single hit results in a death, but you get right back into the mix with very little downtime and I rarely felt it was the game’s fault I died. The outlier being one instance where the frame rate slowed me down and I ended up missing a jump. The frame rate dipped a few times throughout, but it didn’t affect my gameplay aside from the one time and it was usually quick to correct itself.
The beauty of Slime-san’s levels is in the different ways you can approach a given level. If you just want to beat the level, you can concentrate on getting to the exits, but each screen features an apple to gather if you’re a completionist. Sometimes it’s not too far off the beaten path, but sometimes you’ll be forced to take a completely different route to snag the apple and retreat back to finish the screen. What generally makes this difficult is the soft timer each stage possesses. After a brief period of time, a wall of acid appears and slowly creeps across the screen, killing you with a single touch.
In addition to collecting apples, secret exits are scattered throughout the 100 stages and finding them will net you a coin as well as a new character unlocked in town (yeah - there’s a town inside this giant worm). Using apples and coins as currency, you can unlock cosmetic items for your slime, side panels for the UI, mini-games in the form of arcades, and even different slimes. The most intriguing is the different slime types as each one offers a different play style. Some jump higher, walk faster, or dash further, but with their added ability comes the downside of another skill such as smaller jumps, slower movement and weaker dashes. It’s really fun to play around with the 10 different styles to see what suits you best. As if that wasn’t enough reason to replay levels, trophies are collectable by beating time trials for each stage. Going into the stage trying to achieve the trophy time means you’ll have to forego any collectibles and get to the exit ASAP. Needless to say, the deluge of content here can eat up hours and hours of your time.
Developer Fabraz elected to take a five-color pixelated approach for the world and it turned out superb. Using a limited color palette helps easily articulate what poses a threat and what is a safe spot without needing to be filled with tutorials. When in the town, it’s hard to believe the level of detail achieved and how lively it feels. The characters are over the top and strange, but in their own weird way, very charming. The soundtrack is a great complement and features a number of highly touted composers, which makes the inclusion of the intolerable pause music even more confusing. It feels as if I’m being punished for pausing the game and thus the mute button was needed, but aside from that one track, it does nothing but enhance the overall experience.
I tend to get frustrated with twitch-based platformers where you end up dying an unimaginable amount of times, but with Slime-san, it’s different. The controls feel so good that I know if I die, it’s on me and not a fault of the game. Couple that with fun and interesting level design to make a foundation for a great game. Pile on a massive amount of stages littered with extra content and it’s hard not to recommend this game to fans of the genre looking for a challenging but fair experience.