Stab the Minotaur's butt.
Sometimes the best iPhone and iPad games are the ones you least expect, FDG Entertainment's Slayin a prime example. Billed as the first "endless action RPG," this retro throwback delivers the sort of addictive experience that'll keep players entertained for minutes or even hours a day, as we soon discovered after downloading this $0.99 title. That happened around 8:00PM at night, and before we knew what had happened, our iPads read 10:00PM. Did we stop? Heck no.
One of the best things about this game is its simplicity. Viewed from a side scrolling perspective, the goal is to maneuver one of three characters (a knight, wizard and knave) from one side of the screen to the other, plowing into all sorts of enemies while at the same time collecting the loot these slimes, ghosts and flaming skulls leave behind. You won't wrestle with an analog stick and a mess of buttons. There's a left arrow, a right arrow, a humongous jump button and that's it.
This basic design extends to the levels, built to fit the screen. In other words, once you reach the left or right sides, you literally cannot go any further. Ultimately, this gives you a short window in which to maneuver, but you soon learn how to defend your character from harm, while at the same time identifying enemy attack patterns. In addition, a shop keeper will appear from time to time, giving you the chance to cash in gold coins for more powerful weapons, body armor and delicious-looking pixel meat to refill the health bar.
Good thing, because Slayin grows immensely difficult in just a few short levels, perhaps too difficult. Before long, you'll deal with zombies that burst from the ground, projectile-spewing gravestones and even bosses, like a minotaur and gigantic dragon. The challenge is so great that you'll eventually shake your iOS device begging for the shop keep while the aforementioned health bar disappears; perhaps difficulty tweaking is in order, so casuals don't write the game off.
Gold acquired during play disappears once you're dead, but that's perfectly fine, since coins aren't the primary currency. Instead, you'll play to accumulate Fame Points, which you'll use to unlock new characters, skins for the "controller," and even gravestones that serve as monuments to your heroic deeds, which amounts to current level attained and high score achieved. Worthless in the grand scheme of things, but a nice touch all the same.
Perhaps the coolest thing about this title, though, is its presentation. Suffice to say, old school gamers will immediately fall in love with the 8-bit graphics, complete with the option to add scan lines to give Slayin a cool arcade feel. On top of that, the soundtrack from Matt Creamer (of Retro City Rampage fame) is top notch, the sort of thing we would have heard on NES back in the 80s and 90s.
We could make the argument that extreme grinding to unlock the best goodies somewhat lessens the appeal, or that the developers priced things too high, but neither of these debatable issues ruin Slayin. If anything, it's an ideal game for those of us who grew up mashing buttons on those NES controllers, with a bowl of Teddy Grahams and Ecto-Cooler within reach for much-needed breaks. Considering it's a dollar, you should have no reservation opening the wallet. Worth every penny, indeed.
Review code provided by FDG Entertainment.
What's Hot:Visually appealing 2D graphics, superb retro soundtrack, impossible to miss virtual buttons, addictive âjust one more tryâ gameplay.
What's Not:Will take a while to unlock two additional characters, difficulty spikes up considerably after a few levels.