Slime-san: Superslime Edition Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox One
From the Excrement Fields to Organ City, Slime-san sees us platforming through the anatomy of a giant worm in a devious challenge to escape before its insides are flooded with acid. With only a handful of colours in its palette and hundreds of bite-sized stages to play through, this charming 2D platformer shows economy in its design and delivers excess in content. It’s also compulsively playable, oozes style and serves up a surprising amount of variety. So, now that you know you’re in for a good time, let’s slime-travel through a few of its best features.
Controls are a breeze: the innocuous green slime can move, jump, dash and morph. Squeezing the “dash” trigger propels Slime-san forward and adds extra height to the end of a jump, while his ability to morph slows the state of things to a crawl but not the passage of time. This allows you to phase through walls and objects that are otherwise solid during normal play and gives you chance to make some tricky maneuvers while suspended in mid-air.
Don’t morph around too much or it’ll end in tears, as the clock continues to tick at a steady rate regardless of whether you’re dashing or floating through the windpipe. A meter on screen indicates how imminent Slime-san’s acid bath is to being ready, so quick reactions are the key to escaping before he’s dissolved in its red wave. The pressure of time creates most of the difficulty in the game, and thanks to the tight controls, you can bounce up walls and slide around trap-filled stages with sushi-knife precision. Finding the right combination of movements can lead to a zen-like satisfaction that washes over you, especially if you succeed on your first attempt.
By limiting the number of colours on screen the developers have left a trail of visual cues to guide you through the platforming and puzzles. Anything red should be avoided as it will kill instantly (the dreaded acid bath, enemies, harmful bacteria). On the other hand, you can bounce off, hug or play with anything green. You’ll also secrete slime as you move through the stage, and this laces the walls of failed attempts to highlight the path you took, just like the bloody stains left on the landscape of Super Meat Boy. With inspired use of colour and a lucid visual language, Slime-san's graphics help you to play the game and interpret the maze without the toxicity of clutter on screen.
In another nod to its lean philosophy, you’ll notice from the screenshots that the action in Slime-san only uses the centre portion of the screen, with the wider pixels filled by a choice of stomach lining or unlockable side-art. Although this reduced aspect ratio could be perceived as an attempt to make Slime-san more superficially akin to its retro ancestors, here it seems to me to be an appropriate design choice that emphasises verticality over the width of its maze-like stages, and this has you slime-climbing and dashing across in the right amounts.
Its compact levels also evoke the claustrophobia of being trapped in the body of a beast, and on the few stages that did involve side scrolling, it actually felt strange to be given that level of freedom to explore, highlighting how good of a design choice this was. It’s more unobtrusive and effective when the view is left in the default format (see above), as the unlockable side-art pushes Slime-san into the aesthetic realm of emulated arcade games (see below).
Tight controls and visuals are a good starting point but amount to nothing in a platformer without tough gauntlets to exercise them in. Thankfully, the level design here is fantastic, and Slime-san offers a number of ways to play. Take more fiendish routes through the stage to collect apples or attempt to outrun the tight time-limits for trophies, the latter being reserved for those with vigorous muscle memory and total mastery of the controls. Hidden tunnels appear in some stages as well, and these lead to secret coins and conversations with the grotesque citizens of the worm.
Individual levels may be self-contained, but the world Slime-san creates in the belly of the worm is alive and mysterious. Not only is it hungry for slime, but it appears to have swallowed the whole of Japan, with Izakayas, onsens and dojos popping up in the far reaches of its stomach. There’s even a whole entertainment district for your pleasure named Akiha-Worma (a nod to the Japanese arcade district in Tokyo) where you can trade your coins for old-school arcade games. You visit Slumptown from the main menu, and it’s here that you can soak up the atmosphere and spend well-earned apples on playstyles, visual overlays (Virtual Boy is my favourite) and other rewarding goodies.
The substance of slime has provided some of the most endearing moments in videogame history, from Dragon Quest’s plush-cloned mascot to the toxic wasteland of Global Gladiators, and Slime-san is yet another eternal entry into the annals of slime. Originally released on Switch and PC last year, this Superslime Edition wastes no ideas, presenting the main game, two additional campaigns (Blackbird’s Kraken and Sheeple’s Sequel) and an endless feast of content. With hundreds of challenges to play through, some tough Smash Bros style target exercises, boss rushes and remixes, there’s an overwhelming amount of excitement to discover. Set all that to a bubbling chiptune soundtrack and you have a well-crafted platformer on your hands, one that your fingers are still playing long after you put down the pad.