Slayin 2 (NS) - ReviewEvan Norris , posted on 06 May 2020 / 3,042 Views
Slayin 2 is a sequel done right. It takes the fast-paced, score-based 2D action of the iOS/Android original and inserts it into an RPG framework with multiple classes, upgrades, and secrets. Then it adds a layer of charming pixel art and plugs in some rocking tunes courtesy of Matt Creamer (Retro City Rampage). Not everything is perfect — a few difficulty spikes require a bit of grinding and the twitchy combat mechanics aren't especially deep — but overall Slayin 2 represents a smooth and successful transition from mobile to console.
There's a story in Slayin 2, but developers FDG Entertainment and Pixel Licker don't tell it with much urgency. Monsters have sacked the kingdom's castle... the royal family is missing... there's something about a coven of witches. It's all background noise, until after the final boss battle. Only then do we understand what was going on and the high stakes. It's a somewhat backward way of storytelling, but never mind; discovering new areas, finding secrets, and unlocking new gear will push you forward regardless.
Slayin 2 is divided into two modes: Story and Arcade. The latter is based on the endless rogue-like mobile game. You'll select from eight total heroes, then fight your way through waves of enemies and bosses, leveling up and collecting treasure — which a traveling shopkeeper will accept for new gear and other boons. If you die, the game records your high score and kicks you back to the very beginning. Had Slayin 2 included only this mode, it would be a passable experience.
Luckily, there's Story mode. While it employs the same level layouts and mechanics of Arcade mode, it adds a story, a town filled with shops and quest-giving NPCs, branching paths, and secret stages. Several of the town's residents provide riddles which may lead you to a hidden object or a secret exit. Others will join your crusade (and become playable characters) for a price. Still others will sell you charms, new weapons, or enhance your "spark" bar, which allows powerful special attacks. If you score well enough in the game's many stages, a local bard will even write a song in your honor. This RPG framework elevates the Slayin formula. It gives you purpose and direction, and things to ponder outside hacking and slashing.
This is essential to the success of Slayin 2, because its gameplay loop can be simple and grindy. As in the original iOS/Android game, here you'll take down enemies simply by running into them. By pushing left or right you'll extend your weapon — sword, mace, lance, magic orb, bow and arrow, etc. — and by making contact with a monster you'll do damage. It's an uncomplicated set-up that surely owes something to its mobile origins. FDG and Pixel Licker add plenty of enemy variety and special moves unique to each hero in order to keep things interesting, but the twitchy, left-right-left-right combat remains.
Slayin 2 isn't totally without strategy however. The development teams have mixed up the action with dual planes, so that players can jump from foreground to background by pressing the R button. This makes the momentary gameplay more dynamic and allows players to chain together combos and avoid enemy contact by bouncing back and forth between each plane. It's especially useful for boss fights (try facing a boss in Arcade mode with only one plane enabled and you'll see).
Speaking of bosses, they're all unique and present tricky-but-identifiable attack patterns. You'll start with a giant green slime and graduate to tree monsters, minotaurs, killer plants, and gargantuan crabs, among many others. You may see some more than others, as a handful of stages are unduly difficult. You'll need to replay easier levels multiple times to earn enough treasure to buy weapon upgrades and charms, which will allow you to survive in the more daunting levels. This irksome need to grind begins to evaporate towards the end of Slayin 2, as you amass a fortune and max out your weapons, but it does flavor the first third of the game.
If you do hit a wall, you can always invite a friend in couch co-op to share the burden. Local multiplayer is a great addition to the franchise, although it seems like Slayin 2 was balanced with a single player in mind.
Graphically, Slayin 2 represents a noticeable improvement over the premier mobile game. Its charming pixel art leaps off the screen and its detailed backgrounds grant each level its own personality. The driving soundtrack by Matt Creamer also stands out, thanks to heroic tunes and plenty of anachronistic electric guitar riffs that pair well with the game's non-stop action.
FDG and Pixel Licker could have replicated the original Slayin experience, slapped on a new coat of paint, published on Switch, and called it a day. Instead the studio transformed the rogue-like template into a more substantial role-playing adventure complete with story, side-quests, secrets, unlockable characters, and upgrades aplenty. The core combat mechanic still lacks nuance and a handful of difficulty spikes slow the game down, but in toto Slayin 2 is a solid sequel.
This review is based on a digital copy of Slayin 2 for the NS, provided by the publisher.
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