Adorable and difficult are a tricky combination to get within the world of video games. Things that are cute tend to be viewed as inherently childish and, as such, are automatically assumed easier. Making a cute game hard, therefore, sometimes goes too far in the opposite direction, almost as an excuse for the aesthetic. “Sure, this is a kawaii temple girl, but the sheer number of bullets on screen will make you pray for death!” Balancing the two can lead to some truly enjoyable moments, and it’s something that Slime-San seems to get just right.
Slime-San is a speed platformer that comes to us by way of development team Fabraz, and the concept is fairly simple. You, a cute little slime, have been swallowed by a massive worm and are now facing potential digestion. However, rather than simply wait patiently for death (which would be a boring but potentially unique game) you decide to race against the coming wave of stomach acid in order to make your way back out the worm’s mouth. I don’t know the biological logistics that make this work, but I’m not one to question reality in this case. You have a few on-screen hints that help, plus a surprisingly diverse cast of characters who’ve also been swallowed and want to give you some pointers as you race for freedom.
Slime-San, as I’ve mentioned before, is pretty cute. The slime hops and bops along with fluid movements, I like the various birds and other worms you encounter, and you’re sometimes treated to cutscenes of what’s going on in other parts of the stomach (like a “hot spring” that you encounter early on). There’s a good variation of tones and colors throughout, but everything is decidedly low-fi in the graphics department. The closest comparison I could think of was Downwell, which also used a lower number of colors and bits to provide a vehicle for the game without focusing too much on how it looked. Slime-San even admits (between levels) that there’s only a five color palette, but that doesn’t take away from the experience overall. Not to mention a pretty stellar soundtrack that reminds me heavily of my arcade days and suddenly you’re presented with an atmosphere that makes you want to shove quarters into your console (note: please don’t do this).
As a speed platformer, controls are absolutely key. I’m very pleased to report, therefore, that Slime-San is tight. Besides the usual running and jumping, there are a few extra mechanics that both make the game more enjoyable and also complex. As a slime, Slime-San can stick to walls, allowing for unlimited jumping up a safe surface and, at times, the only way to reach an exit. The ability to dash not only acts as a time and space saver, but it breaks through some barriers and moves other obstacles to become new platforms. Dashing can be key to cut down on precious seconds, and might also fling you to your death if you don’t time the length and potential abrupt ending of a dash. There’s also the ability to morph, which creates two effects. For one, you can now pass through green tinted objects, which include walls, shots and even other creatures. But the morph ability also slows down perceived time, which is a double bladed blessing. On the one hand, slowing down the movements of traps and monsters makes it much easier to get your timing down, and is critical in some stages. On the other, however, it only slows down time as you see it: the timer on the level itself keeps cranking along, so morphing too often will severely affect your overall performance for the level.
As weird as it sounds, Slime-San is a solo speedrunner that is genuinely fun. I’ve played my fair share of time-attack themed games across many platforms, and something that always sticks out to me is that it becomes a matter of precision and borderline mania to shave off milliseconds and achieve a higher and higher time. After a while, it straight up stops being fun and becomes more like playing a lengthy, mean math problem. There are probably some out there that view Slime-San as their new champion project, and I’m not going to hold that against them. For me, however, just being able to play through the levels was enough to keep moving forward. I didn’t feel totally compelled to go back and cut down on my deaths, my jumps, my missed opportunities. There are apples that are present on each stage which are often difficult to get, so they become a point of necessity for completionists. Initially, I felt bad that I kept missing them. Once I let go of that nagging “catch-em-all” guilt, I enjoyed myself SO much more. Slime-San just wants to get out of the stomach, and I can help him do that. I doubt he cares if I get out two hundredths of a second sooner, as long as I get out before he catches acid burns.
That might be an issue for some players, however. A lot of the replay value of Slime-San becomes personal accomplishments and bragging rights, at the current time. Those apples that I mentioned previously do serve a purpose, but it’s to unlock different screen frames and characters. Don’t get me wrong, the characters have different play styles, and that, in and of itself, is a huge pull, but they are either a little mundane (the Slime family) or require a ton of apples. Once you get through the replay of doing it from a different perspective, it’s up to you to consider if you want to re-invest time into going further, doing more, being the very best slime you can be. This seems like such an obvious thing: video games, for decades, didn’t have online leaderboards and left players to only achieve based on their own merit and drive. But, considering how many games we’ve seen on the Switch that do have online leaderboards (to say nothing of Steam and other consoles) this is a bit of a sticking point for replay purposes. Serious runners may not be as interested without some way to compare against other players, but that’s one of the few flaws that I found.
Slime-San is a wonderful fit onto the Nintendo Switch. No, it doesn’t use HD rumble, but it feels perfectly at home on the hybrid console/handheld. The response from the controls is everything you could hope for from a game that demands accuracy. The game looks great on the big screen and surprisingly crisp in handheld mode, albeit a bit small. It can be great for short bursts, can definitely suck a few hours away without you realizing it, and has a lot of heart inside a sticky green package. Given that Slime-San got a relatively small response with its Steam launch (Humble Bundle aside), I’m hoping that this massive console release gives Fabraz the commercial success to match with their accolades from game conventions around the globe. I’m personally hooked, and I think I’ll see how I fair with the rest of the Slime family right now.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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