Slain: Back from Hell Review

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Game Title: Slain Back from Hell
Developer: Andrew Gilmour, Digerati Distribution
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 785 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: No

The art of difficult platformers was first shown back in the NES era, which housed countless difficult platformers.  A lot of today’s platformers, however, lack that sort of tough-as-nails difficulty.  Some more nostalgic gamers wish for more experiences like the NES Ninja Gaiden Trilogy or even the original Ghosts n Goblins.

Just because not many platformers these days in the AAA world are difficult doesn’t mean there aren’t any difficult games out there.  There are actually a lot of difficult platformers when you look past Mario, Kirby, and LittleBigPlanet and look towards the indie world.

What we’re going to talk about today is a difficult side-scrolling platformer that’s not only difficult, but is also quite gory.  Originally from Steam, here is my review of the PS Vita version of Slain: Back from Hell!

Story

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In Slain, you play as a warrior that died in a Gothic world, only to be resurrected and sent on a new quest.  Six evil overlords have taken over 6 different lands, and you must liberate these lands by brutally slaying these overlords and their countless minions of monsters.

The story I found to be a weak point of Slain because, while there is a decent story here, it’s shown to you in such a way that makes you feel uninformed.  Reaching event dialogue on a loading screen and brief scenes once you actually find each Overlord makes it feel like you’re in the dark for the majority of the game.

Gameplay

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Slain is a 2D Side-scroller with heavy combat elements thrown into the mix.  Imagine it like Castlevania with swords instead of whips (and without the RPG elements from Symphony of the Night).  Throughout the entire game, you will be exploring worlds in the form of long stages, where you must fight off waves of enemies, make it to the end, and duke it out with a Boss.

Progression will typically go between a hub world and gateways that will lead to each world, but this doesn’t unlock until you’ve played through a few areas and gotten past the game’s first major boss.  Once you unlock the hub world, though, you’ll always go back there to choose what world you’d like to go to next.  The nice thing here is that some of them don’t have to be done in any particular order and you can choose where to go first.

Then you’ve got in-stage progression and combat.  The game is pretty linear in the sense that there is always typically one and only one direction to go.  You just keep going to the right or go wherever there isn’t a dead end.  Typical side-scroller stuff, but without the exploration elements normally seen in Castlevania.

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The main hurdle will be obstacles and monsters.  Slain is a game of learning and retrying.  Each enemy will have a combat pattern to be learned and used when fighting them again.  Some enemies are as simple as running up and slashing with your sword while others you may need to imbue your sword with a particular element , do a perfect guard to perform a counter, or use your sword to deflect projectiles in order to stun them and perform critical hits to finish them off.  This goes for both bosses and normal enemies.

This element of learning is where the difficulty and the game title comes in.  In Slain, you will be Slain, a lot.  For this reason, there are multiple checkpoints in every stage you can respawn to.  Many waves of enemies require a specific strategy from distance with attacking, using power-ups gains from critical kills, or simply knowing to jump over traps that would otherwise result in instant death.  The game is in no way easy and if you’re looking for an easy game, you won’t find it anywhere in this game.

As far as length goes, you can expect to get several hours out of the game.  From the actual game, learning, and retrying bosses and sometimes even normal enemies, you shouldn’t expect to spend any less than 5-6 hours across the entirety of the experience.

Controls

First off, this game is not compatible with the PlayStation TV, and the developers have publicly stated on Twitter that they are not going to support it.  The game however, does not use any of the features the PSTV cannot do (Motion, Camera), so there shouldn’t be anything keeping it from being playable.  I am hopeful that I can inquire about a patch, but PSTV owners shouldn’t hold their breath.

Moving around is done with the D-Pad and/or Left Analog Stick and the Right Analog Stick is used for altering your elemental sword powers.  X is used for jumping and Square for attacking.  Triangle is used to guard, and the shoulder buttons are used for backsteps and using your MP pool for magic attacks.

That side of things is pretty simple and all of that is explained on-screen during the tutorial level.

Presentation

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The graphics and art style of the game are one of the highly-praised aspects of the game.  The game does present a very interesting and disturbing gothic world, but the Vita version’s graphics aren’t quite as refined as it is on other systems.  Many of the text areas have jagged and blurry areas on them and it all around just looks jaggy.

The music is done well, and it gives me a big “Heavy Metal meets Castlevania” vibe, so that’s something Metal fans should look forward to.  It is a really nice groove for a gothic game like this.

As far as performance is concerned, the only complaint I have are the load times.  Loading sequences can take anywhere from 12 seconds to 25.  They’re pretty long and someone waiting to re-challenge that last boss may find themselves a little impatient upon waiting that long.

Summary

Slain: Back from Hell is fun for those that like gothic scenery and difficult platformers.  It isn’t all fun and games with a story that isn’t told with a good flow, jaggy visuals, and long load times, but it’s definitely good for someone who wants a challenge 

7/10

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