Slain is a 2D side-scrolling metal (the music kind)-infused old-school romp through the most dark, evil pixel art lands you will see in quite some time. It was released earlier this year on PC, and after some revamps to the game to improve, it’s back with a new title to add to the name – ‘Back from Hell’. I am a huge fan of 2D games and a fan of difficult games to name a few, so you can imagine I’ve been watching Slain for quite some time. With Slain: Back from Hell now released for consoles for those that missed out, plus a free PC update for the original owners of Slain, I was able to sink my teeth into this game after patiently waiting all this time.
You play as Bathoryn, awoken from eternal slumber begrudgingly to vanquish the evil around him. He does so equipped with a large sword and magic that consumes mana – both attacks being chargeable for stronger attacks. You have a backwards dodge and can block, and with perfect timing you can counter your enemies – and that about rounds out your arsenal to vanquish all that crosses your path. No need to worry about leveling up Bathoryn or your weapon or magic, you’re ready to take on every as is since there is no leveling progression.
The world is set to a heavy metal album mood – hard guitar riffs for the background soundtrack, skeletons, winged angels, demonic creatures, and your hero decked out in metal-inspired clothing complete with long white hair, optimal for head banging as he rocks out. All of this in a beautifully-drawn and animated 2D world, which was what sold me on Slain many months ago through lovely gifs of the game created by the developer. From walking animations to light reflecting on Bathoryn as he walks the light sources, to the loads of gloriously-made death animations, the game is a sight to behold and experience and, you can see that plenty of time has been put into the art and animations.
The death animations, especially, have incredible detail to them, which is a good thing because you certainly will be dying in Slain: Back to Hell, even if you are an experienced gamer like myself. There are so many great and varied death animations to see ranging from burning to death, melting away from green acid, impaled by triggering spike traps and dissolving in a red pit of what just might be boiling blood just to name a few. There’s plenty more, and you will surely see them all, death comes easily here.
As a matter of fact, if you’re familiar with the Dark Souls series, which is one that I love myself, you can easily consider Slain a 2D version of Dark Souls, minus the leveling progression. There is quite a bit of trial and error when encountering enemies and levels for the first time, there is no difficulty setting as it’s just how it is – hard. Checkpoints are for the most part pretty spaced out – not so far apart, but far enough to encourage you to play carefully so you don’t have to do over a sizable section that you got past. You have a hub to choose levels and the game doesn’t do much to hand-hold you on your way. All fundamentals that both games share, so if you’re a fan of Dark Souls, this is a no-brainer to buy.
Timing is an important key to success in Slain: Back to Hell – mashing attacks or the block button to counter, or jumping carelessly and your deaths will rack up real fast. Learn your timing and observe, and you will succeed, so that you can rock out by head banging after each victory. The simplicity of the arsenal and combat may not be for everyone but it is well-appreciated by me as the controls are tight. Deaths will occur when arriving at new places and meeting new enemies, but not every game has to be easy.
Slain: Back to Hell was worth the wait for me on console, and if you love a challenging game with tight controls, awesome 2D art, details and animations and aren’t afraid to die, pick this up right now. A must-have for all the reasons mentioned above if you’re a fan like me.
Review by Lenny Runnings. Thanks to Xbox for the review code!