08th Jan2018

‘Slain: Back from Hell’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Emma Rees

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Slain: Back from Hell is a side scrolling, hack ‘n’ slash platformer with light puzzle solving and a gothic, heavy metal theme. You play as a Hero called Bathroyn, who is none too pleased to be disturbed from his slumber. His quest is to free six cursed realms from the evil Overlords who have taken control. Hideous and disturbing creatures now roam the blood soaked lands, eager to slay Bathoryn on the spot. And you will get slain often. You will rage and you will swear but you won’t put down the controller.

The pixel art visuals are reminiscent of games from the Sega Megadrive era, and they look gorgeous. The sprites and the backgrounds are vibrant whilst still emanating a dark and gothic feel. Blood drips from ceilings, saturates the ground and oozes from enemies. Tangled thorns, old stone architecture and crows feeding on remains are just some of the things which make the environments really stand out.

The sprites are beautifully animated and have some truly grotesque designs. Destroying enemies often causes them to explode or melt into a bloody mess. Bathoryn himself can die in some pretty gruesome ways such as getting slammed by a spiky platform, which causes blood and giblets to explode outwards.

Slain: Back from Hell is incredibly cruel and punishing. You will die often but most of the time it’s just a simple case of trial and error as the enemies each have their own patterns of attack and methods for defeating them. It is addictive just trying to get one screen further.

To begin with, you have limited mana attacks at your disposal and a sword with which to carve through the horrors. You can also do a powerful charge attack but the timing needs to be perfect, so it can take some practice. As you progress, you will gain the ability to use elements such as ice, although enemy weakness is something you will discover through experimentation.

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Unfortunately, there are some situations which are more torturous than challenging. These situations usually involve being surrounded by enemies with different attack types, which makes it near impossible to escape without being damaged and almost hopeless to survive. For instance, skeletons fire mana attacks from one side whilst a big, powerful knight blocks your way from the other. The knight can kill you in a few hits but keeping your distance will cause him to unleash his spirit wolves at you.

In the event that you die you will be sent back to the last checkpoint. If the death was due to an unfair battle like the one described above, it can become frustrating to keep replaying the parts leading up to it. To add to the frustration, there are framerate issues in some areas, making Bathoryn feel slower or floatier than usual.

Checkpoints fully restore health and mana and every single one feels a welcome relief. Thankfully, they also save the game so that it can be restarted from where you left off, even if it is in the middle of a level. The distance between checkpoints is quite short but due to the multitude of traps and powerful adversaries, it can feel like they are miles apart. Health and mana restoratives are a rare find making it imperative that you learn how to best fight the enemies and avoid the traps.

The heavy metal soundtrack is by Curt Victor Bryant, an ex-member of a metal band called Celtic Frost. It perfectly mirrors the ferocity of the gameplay and sticks in your head without being overwhelming.

Slain: Back from Hell has a basic, gothic story and the dialogue can be cheesy. However, it’s the kind of cheesy that makes you remember the early nineties, which is what the gameplay is made to resemble. Castlevania instantly comes to mind as does Super Ghouls and Ghosts on the Super Nintendo.

Despite it’s occasionally unfair battles and framerate issues, Slain: Back from Hell is well worth a look for those who are itching for a challenge or want a throwback to the earlier days of gaming.

***½. 3.5/5

Developed by Andrew Gilmour and published by Digerati Distribution, Slain: Back From Hell is out now on the Nitendo Switch.

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