Slime-san pits you, playing as the eponymous slime and their bird friend, against the digestive system of a giant worm. Within this worm lies the vast civilisation of Slumptown and a whole cast of wacky characters. On your trip through the worm’s many passages, you’re challenged at every turn by clever level design and an increasing difficulty which ranges from ‘Huh, that one wasn’t so tricky’ to ‘I quit. That’s it, I quit.’
Slime-San is a challenging game that puts both your wits and your dexterity to the test. Apart from a few, very minor, bugs, Slime-san is very well crafted. Consisting of 100 levels, each containing at least four screens, you can’t feel cheated for content. As well as that, there are additional modes including New Game+ and fun, unlockable multiplayer mini-games that feel like complete NES titles in their own right. As well as the extra modes, there is the charming Slumptown, filled with a whole cast of characters which you can add to by finding secret rooms throughout the game. The variety in the sprite work is astonishing and the many throwbacks to games past and present delightful.
Each of these secret rooms contains a token which can be put towards unlocking the mini-games. Each of the mini-games is very different and harks back to the bygone era of simplified mechanics and the birth of many genres. Quadforce is a top-down horde mode game where you battle waves of enemies in an Action RPG setting; Action Paddle! serves as a spiritual successor to Pong and the third game is an up-scrolling bullet hell shoot-em-up where you battle a perpetual stream of Yokai. None of these three are very fulfilling for any length of time and may serve as a mere dalliance before returning to the hellish challenge of escaping this giant worm.
Another collectable to be found on your endeavours is the elusive apple. There’s one in each room, equalling four per level. These are used for currency in Slumptown and you can by a variety of playable characters, costumes, screen backgrounds, filters and more (you can skip levels with them but if you do, you won’t have enough apples to 100% the game). While most of the purchases are cosmetic, there is a lot to shop for and some great care has obviously gone into designing and creating it all.
There are a couple of obvious comparisons that cannot be ignored. Slime-san is a mash-up of all the good parts of Super Meat Boy and Shovel Knight. From the devilish difficulty to the slime trails left on the walls you’ve climbed, the Super Meat Boy influence is obvious to see. Shovel Knight’s hub world is one of the most endearing factors of that game, but I have to say I think Slime-san trumps it in both charm and content. For a game of five colours, Slime-san sustains your interest and endears you in a way that many modern games struggle to.
Slime-san is difficult, but not impossible to beat. Yes, your scalp and face may suffer from many contusions and abrasions once you’re finished beating yourself up with it, but it is worth all the struggle. Plus if you ever get bummed out by level, you can kick your feet up and venture through the many areas of Slumptown to bring your heartbeat down to resting pace. The difficulty does spike and dip however, certainly in the latter half of the game. You’ll be scratching your eyes out for half an hour trying to complete one room, and then the next four may feel like a breeze. This is, in part, due to the constant addition of gameplay mechanics from the very first level right on through to the very last. From dash-jumping, to being chased by the ominous red shadow, Slime-san always keeps you on your toes. There are also some mechanics that only reveal themselves to you by accident or experimentation. Slime-san gives you the ingredients, but it’s up to you to make the meal.
The boss battles can seem unfair at first, but the challenge comes in learning their moveset, dying over and over again and finally having that perfect run. You can earn trophies by beating par times on each level and once you have learned a boss, they become some of the easiest trophies to get. Earning an in-game trophy after defeating any of the five bosses feels very rewarding, as does completing many of the levels Slime-san throws at you. In every room, you only have a certain amount of time before a flood of blood/lava/stomach acid starts to fill the screen; this gives the action an edge Super Meat Boy lacked and spurs you on to take daring measures to complete the levels with break-neck speed.
With the four apples, possible secret rooms and trophies, there is an untold amount of replayability here and I know I’m going to be revisiting Slime-san and his buddies for a long time. The pixel-perfect precision needed to complete this game is frustratingly wonderful and is a rare feat achieved by the few. While some of the gameplay is strikingly similar to some other titles, that isn’t actually a negative in this case. Being compared to some of the greatest indie titles of the last two generations speaks volumes for the quality of Slime-san.