Slain! was originally released on Steam to a disappointed audience. After numerous delays, developer Wolf Brew Games decided to launch the game in a semi-unfinished state. It was kind of a mess. The game was filled with cheap deaths and framerate hiccups. After a few months, and numerous fixes, they decided to re-release the game as Slain: Back From Hell. This is the version that we have on the Nintendo Switch.
Despite having the better version of this game, it still has some issues. “Cheap” deaths are still a thing, but it seems to be by design. I vowed that I wouldn’t write this review until I managed to beat a specific section that was giving me a particularly hard time. I had to fight off two small hordes of skeletons, including some skeletal mages that shot fireballs across the screen at me. After that, I had to fight both a giant skeleton and his plague dog. The giant skeleton could kill me in three hits, as could his dog, but the problem was that in order to get to this part of the fight, I had to get through the two waves of skeletons, preferably without taking any damage. Most of my attempts didn’t go quite so well, but even when I was able to get to them relatively unscathed, I hadn’t had much chance to see their patterns, and thus figure out how to fight them, so I’d have to start all over again. I wasn’t turned off by this challenge, but after completing it, I was thrust into another difficult situation. I still enjoyed the game, but had to take a short break after that.
So what even is Slain? To put it simply, it’s an action platformer with a lot of metal culture thrown in for flavor. You play as a resurrected slayer of evil who carries a massive sword and has a magnificent white beard and long white hair. After beating a boss, you’re prompted to press a button to celebrate with some headbanging. Why this shit is so cool is a mystery to me, but it really is cool. I’d have to say that growing up on metal puts me front and center as this game’s prime target audience. In addition to these visual cues, there is also a great soundtrack, written by Curt Victor Bryant, that feels pretty metal. It’s not something I would listen to outside of a game, but it fits the game quite well. You can check the soundtrack out here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/slain-back-from-hell-original-soundtrack/1259734278
As much as I enjoy the game, there are some glaring flaws. One that stands out to me is elemental weaknesses. As you make your way through the game, you’re given access to different elements that you can imbue your blade with. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to tell if something is weak to a particular element. No special sound effects, no reaction from the enemies, no nothing to indicate that you did something different. To make matters worse, the elemental damage is only about 20% more damage than normal which ends up being one less attack most of the time. Some enemies are simply easier to kill with your non-elemental sword.
Slain isn’t a perfect game, but it is fun and aesthetically pleasing. It offers a considerable challenge to those who desire it.