Being a father of two young children I’m no stranger to being disturbed from my slumber at an ungodly hour, but usually a cup of strong coffee sets me up for the day. Sure I might have to dress up as a knight and pretend to fight off monsters or dragons at stupid o’ clock but this pales in comparison to the foes that awaits the protagonist in Wolfbrew Games’ 2D combat platformer Slain: Back from Hell.
In Slain: Back from Hell you are the grizzled warrior Bathoryn, a pixelated version of Geralt if you like. He has been awoken from his eternal slumber and sent on a quest to rid the world of the villainous Lord Vroll and his many minions – that’s skeletons, witches and wolves, not the cute adorable yellow ones. This quest is fraught with perils and danger not just from the enemies but from hidden spikes and crushing booby traps, too. Death lingers around like a bad smell, as he knows you are constantly on the brink of being slain.
Armed with a sword (and later a flaming sword and ice axe too), a pinch of Mana, a brutal charged attack and fairly lethal “Parry and Critical Strike” riposte you must make your way through each level destroying everything in your way before confronting an end of level boss and ultimately battling against Lord Vroll. Within the first level you’ll realise that mere button bashing won’t get you very far; in fact it probably won’t even get you to the next checkpoint. You must learn how to defend and attack, watch the enemies, learn their attack patterns, send them back to hell and most importantly avoid been eviscerated.
The graphics in Slain: Back from Hell are a pixel art style affair which is no surprise as the game is a tribute to games of old after all. The developers have done an excellent job with these pixels, there is loads of detail like the way Bathoryns’ hair flows when he moves, the way his innards explode onto the screen when you die and the splatters of blood when you slay an enemy. Just wait until you meet the Banshee Queen and you’ll be amazed how good your skeleton looks. To add to the retro feel of the pixel art look, the game also has an option to toggle different CRT modes.
The music in Slain: Back from Hell is provided by Curt Victor Bryant and if you know your music you’ll know what to expect. For those uninitiated among us Curt is formerly of the band Celtic Frost and they are renowned for their cheesy pop songs similar to the likes of Aqua and Steps. Nah just kidding, these guys are an extreme metal band, so the soundtrack of the game is some top quality gothic rock.
Wolfbrew Games recently tweeted that they wanted to make the trophies in Slain: Back from Hell a real challenge. Guess what, they weren’t kidding! The game has thirty-one trophies, including a platinum, but the list is one of the hardest I’ve seen in a long time. Sure a few trophies will pop naturally, mainly the ones for dying once and one hundred times, but the majority of them will need some skill to unlock, This is because there’s a lot of trophies for defeating the bosses without taking damage, which is hard. I’ve not been able to defeat a single one without taking a hit, let alone all of them! Then there are two platinum preventing trophies, and these are beating the game without using Mana and also beating it without losing a single life. If you manage to pop these then you are a true gaming headbanger.
If you grew up with a staple diet of Ghost ‘n Goblins and Golden Axe then this game is definitely one for you. Slain: Back from Hell is a wonderful tribute to 80’s and 90’s hack ‘n slash gaming, and its pixel art style lends itself well in this homage. While not as brutally difficult as these games it is still challenging enough for even the most hardened gaming warrior.
NelMaNo Rating – 8/10
You can read our review policy here.