Developer: Andrew Gilmour & Stage Clear Studios
Publisher: Digerati Distribution
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: Arcade, Action, Adventure & Platformer
Release Date: 7th of December, 2017 (EU & NA)
Ever wanted to fight monsters and horrific beings whilst listening to heavy metal? Well Slain! Back From Hell aims to do just that as you have to hack and slash your way through hordes of evil creatures as you navigate your way through a series of levels that have been cursed. It’s Time to send these monstrosities back to where they came from as we review Slain: Back From Hell.
Originally released in March 2016 under the title Slain! It was given negative reviews across various Media outlets. The developers of the game, have since givenSlain! a complete overhaul and relaunched it as Slain: Back From Hell. This time it was favoured with more positive reviews from professional critics. Slain: Back From Hell takes the Metroidvania formula but gives it a more linear approach as opposed to going back through previous levels after finding key objects or special weapons that can unlock secrets or other passageways that were inaccesible before. Its Gothic setting is very much reminscent of the original Castlevania games and has a music track that keeps your blood pumping as you play.
You control the fate of a Doomed Hero called Bathoryn, who has been resurrected from his eternal slumber by supernatural beings in the hopes that he will quash the evil that has fallen on the world and slay all demonic beasts and abominations that have plagued the earth. Bathoryn must use his skills with a sword and magic spells to eradicate Skeletons, Werewolves, Hellbeasts and other netherworldly creatures. His quest will have him journey to six realms that have been covered in darkness to defeat the evil overlord and remove them from their reign of terror. You will have to ascend and descend into the very pits of hell on earth through dungeons filled with not just monsters but vile traps and fiery pools just waiting for the opportunity to give you a very gruesome end.
Inspired by games like Castlevania, Ghouls N Ghosts and Slaughterhouse with their difficulty, gothic themes and 8-bit graphic aesthetic. Slain: Back From Hell takes all those elements to create a familiar game that fans of this particular genre will no doubt enjoy. On top of that, for a game that only uses graphics from NES era and Arcade gaming. The animations can be particularly graphic with blood splatter and body shredding that would make even Mortal Kombat players wince if the details were in HD instead.
The music of course, is probably the greatest aspect of Slain: Back From Hell. With its Heavy Metal soundtrack, you will probably be spending as much time headbanging as you do actually playing the game. In fact, after defeating the main bosses of each level, you will also be given the option to headbang in-game as well, that is how devoted to the Great Horned Metal Gods Slain! Back From Hell is.
The Gameplay is challenging but not impossible. There are numerous checkpoints throughout the game and with an infinite number of lives, every time you meet a gruesome end you will respawn at the last activated checkpoint. You have both a health bar and a mana meter. Using spells depletes the mana meter and getting hit depletes the health bar, you can recover both health and mana by collecting power-ups throughout the game. These power-ups are not plentiful however so you do have to play cautiously and be conservative with your magic. Once you reach a checkpoint though, both meters will be fully replenished so you can carry on the fight with renewed strength.
Fighting enemies can be a slog at times. There are no one-hit attacks and you will have to string along a series of hits in order to dispatch them, even the standard skeleton enemies can take a beating before returning to the soil in which they came. All enemies can slay you within a few hits so you do have to keep your distance at times and not take them all on at the same time. Most enemy attacks you can counter-attack by blocking at the right time. You can then follow up with a more powerful attack that CAN wipe out weak enemies in one go.
If overwhelmed, you can slew a string of magic attacks at long range to wither down your enemies before finishing them off up close. Aside from standard attacks, you can charge up your standard and magic attacks to do more damage to more enemies, The magic attack you can maintain charged as long as you hold down the R button but the physical charge attack will dissipate if not used in time. The special physical attack requires careful timing to use it well and can leave you open to attack. The charged magic attack has two forms. Whilst standing it will release a powerful bolt in the direction you are facing but if crouching, you will discharge bolts at all angles destroying everything in front, behind and above you. This will consume all of your magic and can only be used if your magic is full.
Sub Bosses and End level bosses will require you to depend more on well-timed counter-attacks in order to stand a chance as they can pretty much end you with a single hit. Luckily the bosses are not too far from a checkpoint so you haven’t got to go through ‘Hell’ again to reach them. Strong attacks are next to useless against bosses so you will have to depend on magic and counter attacks. When dispatching enemies with a counter attack you can regain mana which you can use to string more attacks together with a combination of both physical and magical attacks.
The biggest enemy you will find is the controls and that you have to anticipate attacks and manoeuvres as opposed to instinctively reacting to them. There seems to be a slight lag between button pressing and doing an action which means you can fumble counters and intricate jumps that could leave you in a thousand pieces. This could also be considered a part of its charm and that learning when to attack and when to jump helps develop the mental capacity to anticipate what’s about to happen rather than responding with last second inputs.
Slain! Back From Hell is by no means flawless. It may have been revamped but it is still far from perfect. There is a weapon ‘Type’ advantage system that is underused and not very well explained. The game is driven by your own willpower to keep playing and its loose storyline feels hollow without any real depth. The gameplay gets repetitive after a while and without any new techniques to keep the game fresh the longer you play other than a couple of different weapons that have a type advantage against the other. Still, it isn’t all bad. If you enjoy the Castlevania series and can’t wait for a new instalment to come to the Nintendo Switch, this is not a bad game to scratch that itch.
For Metroidvania fans that prefer a more simplistic, linear form of gameplay, they may feel right at home with Slain! Back From Hell. It doesn’t have an oOcar worthy storyline but with 1,001 ways to die gruesomely, you will be entertained and/or frustrated the whole time that not even the sweet release of death will save you. The only release from the curse that befalls you from playing this game is to finish it and vanquish the evil Vroll once and for all.
THE VERDICT: 7/10
*Review Key Provided by Digerati Distribution