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Slain! Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Slain has the right look, but isn't as deep as it needs to be. The pixel art is gruesomely detailed and is reminiscent of the action horror games found on the Super NES and Genesis in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, the experience is plagued by shallow gameplay and broken keyboard controls. It's not exactly to die for, but a fun return to the days when The Legendary Axe and Ghouls 'N Ghosts ruled the scene. Rating: 64%
Slain! Slain! Slain! Slain!
  • Review Score:

  • B-
The 16-bit era had the best action horror games. From Ghouls 'N Ghosts to Chakan: The Forever Man to Super Castlevania, the early 1990s was a golden age for hack-and-slash action games starring powerful men with a serious death wish. But as technology switched from 2D sprites to 3D polygons, horror games moved from action-packed to suspense-filled. Suddenly it was more about surviving haunted mansions than being a monster-killing badass. Slain is the debut release from Wolf Brew Games, and it promises a return to the days when men rose from their graves just to kick serious ass.

You play Bathoryn, a long-dead warrior resurrected to fight through a series of painfully difficult towers in hopes of freeing his "children" from demons. This is clearly not the first time he's been called upon to save the day, and he begrudgingly picks up the sword in order to finish the fight. This sends him on a straight-forward mission through terrifying castles, the wolf-filled forests, the old town sewers and more. It's all lovingly created using the type of gruesome pixel art that would have been a perfect fit on the Sega Saturn.

Like the 2D action games that inspired it, Slain is a frustratingly difficult sidescroller where death is always right around the corner. Bathoryn hacks and slashes his way through all kinds of unfair terrain, rewarding players for taking a slow and steady approach and memorizing trap locations. The good news is that each area is filled with convenient checkpoints, but it's going to take a lot of patience and persistence to make it to each one.

The gameplay is a throwback to a time when action games were action games and nobody expected role-playing elements. Bathoryn only has a few simple attacks, a fireball to throw and not much else. The good news is that he will pick up new weapons along the way, including a flaming sword and ice cold ax. Unfortunately, these cool looking weapons don't do much for the gameplay. He doesn't learn a bunch of new tricks or suddenly become a wall-jumping action hero; Bathoryn methodically makes his way through some of most frustrating dungeons of the year.

Slain! (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

For some, the extreme difficulty is a selling point. This is a tough game, there's no doubt about it. Every level is filled with cheap deaths and checkpoints that feel like they are just out of reach. It's a punishing game that will turn a lot of people off, but there's something about the old school challenge that invigorates me.

Unfortunately, the extreme difficult is made worse for people using keyboard controls. For whatever reason, this set-up is plagued by awful lag that makes the game nearly unplayable. This is made even worse when you don't even know what each button is supposed to do. The game will offer hints and suggestions, but never educates the player on how to do what it's looking for. Thankfully, the game is compatible with a number of controllers, which handle much better than the keyboard counterpart. This is a hard skip if you don't have a compatible game pad.

Slain! (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Visually, Slain is an absolute masterpiece. If the gameplay is a little shallow and the design unpolished, chances are it's because the developers were too busy creating the richly detailed world. The gothic look is gorgeously conceived, with real attention put on lighting and weather effects. It's like the heavy metal take on Castlevania I've been waiting three decades to play.

There's a good chance that the breath-taking graphics will suck you in, only to leave you disappointed in the shallow gameplay. This is especially true for people planning to play the game without a controller. But even with a number of imperfections, I found a lot to like about Slain. I was sucked into the atmosphere and look of the world, even as I yearned for better level designs and deeper combat. It's not exactly to die for, but a fun return to the days when The Legendary Axe and Ghouls 'N Ghosts ruled the scene.
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