Wriggly worms. Stomach acid. Partially-digested apples. Delicious platforming challenges. It could only be Slime-san, squirming its way onto Nintendo Switch after a successful Steam debut back in April.
Hailing from big apple outfit Fabraz, Slime-san is the tale of a slimy creature who must survive being swallowed by a giant worm, jumping, dashing and sliding through 200 levels of fast-paced platforming action.
The backstory might be unusual, but the level of challenge on offer here is anything but; modern platformers that evoke the atmosphere of eighties 8-bit classics while challenging every last reflex and nerve are almost ten-a-penny. Slime-san is challenging at its easiest and maddeningly difficult at its hardest.
In fairness, Slime-san doesn’t look difficult. The five colour palette and chunky 8-bit pixels are reminiscent of any number of platformers from your childhood (or before). Run a little, jump a little… what could be hard about that?
Plenty, as it turns out. Add barriers that can be bounced on or slimed through with a button press, jumps that need to be modified horizontally or vertically with a dash, fiendish – occasionally downright evil – level design, and a roiling wall of stomach acid that will dissolve your hapless protagonist should you delay for more than a handful of seconds.
Those levels are the stuff of nightmares. Any number of things will kill you – there’s no energy meter here, this is old school. One touch means death – and all must be navigated at beak neck pace. There’s no time to plan, work out your moves, measure your jumps, or plan your route. Just go. Don’t think. Trust your reflexes to leap, slide, dash, bounce and climb from one side of the screen to the other.
There’s frustration in spades, and the Switch is an expensive bit of kit to be hurling against a wall when it all gets too much (kids: don’t do this). But if you can step back, take a breath, and really look, you’ll see level design that is clever and tough, but always just this side of unfair. Well, almost always. There are flaws; small ones, but in a game as tough as this even the smallest bump in the road can feel like The Wall, complete with Castle Black. Perseverance, in colossal amounts, is needed to progress.
It takes a certain kind of person, a certain level of masochism, to really appreciate Slime-san’s mechanisms, and this reviewer just isn’t quite full enough of self loathing to clutch the game to his bosom and proclaim it a classic (this reaction is not, as the very excellent @DomosaurXX suggested, because I’m old with the reaction speed of a house brick. Honest.)
But if you are looking for a tough, challenging platformer with a distinct visual style and a very definite sense of (dark) humour – all for a tenner, – you could do much worse than give Slime-san a shot!
Release Date: 5 April 2017
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (Slime-San enjoyed a PC Steam release in April 2017, with Xbox One and PS4 versions on the way)