Slick (Second Chance with the Chick)

It’s been a while since I did one of these.  I really wish developers would take me up on the Second Chance with the Chick offer more often.  I know a lot of games I bust on here get patched up later, but developers are gun-shy about having me “go after” their games again.  Even if Second Chances are typically lighter and focus on the changes to the game, with less emphasis on smacking games down.  Or sometimes they patch the game and expect me to just Second Chance it on my own.  I don’t keep track of what games have been patched (XboxIndies.com has a sidebar that lets you know what games have been updated).  It’s up to developers to let me know.  And then just wait while I drag my feet to write the review.  Speaking of which, hi there Halcyon Softworks!  I didn’t forget you!

We’re in Hell already?

I reviewed Slick, a punisher with Game Boy-like visuals back in July and I hated it because I felt it was too brutal.  People say I have a bias against punishers, and I say “guilty as charged.”  I don’t understand the appeal in them.  I don’t understand why they keep getting made, especially when they consistently sell like shit on XBLIG (only 2 out of the top 100 best-selling XBLIGs are punishers).  The market as a whole doesn’t want them.  They’ll earn you fans among a very small niche of “retro” gamers, and they might even earn you fans among the development community if they are well designed and bear and uncanny resemblance to vintage games of yesteryear.  But if you are capable of doing a very well made, yet overly difficult platformer, you should be capable of making a game that everyone can enjoy.  Who knows?  It might even sell in greater numbers.

I think everyone agrees that the Apple Jack games are the pinnacle of design among punishers on XBLIG.  I don’t even like them, but I tip my hat to them for audio-visual design, play control, and charm.  Especially the sequel.  Among the closed-off XBLIG community, they’re highly regarded.  But when you get down to the cold, hard facts, the original Apple Jack isn’t one of the top 300 selling games.  Apple Jack 2 isn’t even in the top 900.  Mind you, Apple Jack 2 made the rounds on mainstream gaming sites, including full reviews at IGN and Kotaku.  And it’s already been passed on the top seller list by such recent fare as Lucky.  Fans of the game don’t understand it.  Hell, I don’t even totally understand it, but I’ll make a guess: punishers don’t lend themselves to word-of-mouth sales.  I’m guessing not many people say “this game is damn near impossible to play and makes me feel like an inadequate twat.  GO BUY IT!”

Where was I?

Slick.  So in my original review, I did a step-by-step diagram of why one of the stages didn’t work so well.  The game asked for perfect precision from players, while dealing with shaky controls and insanely unfair collision detection.  The guys behind it have tightened these issues up.  Collision detection more closely resembles the outlines of the enemies, and controls seem to be tightened, but that might be a perception thing.  I still don’t like the level design, or the art style.  Then again, I never owned an original Game Boy, so this does nothing to tickle my nostalgia rib.  I do actively question why anyone would do a Game Boyish game these days.  With the possible exception of Donkey Kong (aka Donkey Kong ’94), most of the games on that platform have aged with the grace and dignity of an unembalmed corpse.

Slick is either pretty or Joan Rivers-esq grotesque, depending on how old you are.

Slick really is no better or worse than your average hateful platform.  With the corrections made to it, Slick can now stand on its own and be reviewed on the merit of level design.  In that regard, it’s a total bastard that hates you and all things sunny and innocent.  If this is what you’re looking for in a game, you’ll enjoy it.  It’s not what I’m looking for, so I didn’t.  Hopefully the skilled dudes at Halcyon Softworks can apply their talent towards something with more mass-market appeal next time.  You guys proved you can blow up a bullfrog with a firecracker.  Now show me you can take that frog and make delicious frog legs with it.

Slick was developed by Halcyon Softworks

80 Microsoft points actually hate frog legs in the making of this review.

Slick

Slick received a Second Chance with the Chick. Both reviews should be taken together.  Read my updated thoughts here.

Slick has graphics and sound that try to mimic the look and feel of the original Game Boy.  This is sort of weird to me, because I truly don’t get how anyone could want their game to look like that.  This isn’t the Atari or the NES we’re talking about here, where the delusional say “gaming was never better than back in those days” and we all have a laugh.  I thought everyone was in agreement that gaming has done better than the Game Boy.  So I find it strange, in the same way that I do when I hear that senior citizens in Russia pine for the old days when Stalin was in charge.

For what it’s worth, Slick does a pretty dang good job of looking like a Game Boy game.  It even has a mono midi soundtrack.  I guess if you’re going to do something, it’s worth doing right, even if it’s recreating garbage.  But gameplay is all that matters to me, and Slick is one of the biggest offenders of being a gleefully evil fuck that I’ve come across on Indie Gamer Chick.  It’s a punisher, which isn’t exactly my favorite genre, but this one at least had some promise to it.  I made it past the first sixteen levels and was pretty impressed by the clever level design.

And then, I got to stage 1-17.  And that’s where I quit.  I’ve never done this, but I want to do a step-by-step breakdown of where this game failed.

1. You have to start the stage by bonking your head on the ceiling in the spot where there is no spike., and then land on the floor to the right.  Then you have to hop up to platform.  Trust me, this is all a lot harder than it sounds.

2. You have to jump up, turn mid-air, and land on this block.  Slick controls fairly decent, but the one thing it doesn’t do well is handle mid-air turns, so this seemingly easy bit is a lot harder than it should be.  But this isn’t even the worst offender of this problem on this stage, or even the second worst.

3. These spiked turtle things had popped up in previous levels, but I never noticed how off the collision detection on them was until here.  It is WAY the fuck off.  See the blue box I drew around the turtle to the left?  That’s a rough approximation of the enemy’s collision detection box.  If your dude enters anywhere into that field, you die.  You’ll also notice there are blocks above them, which prevent you from getting adequate clearance when you attempt to jump them.  This causes the difficulty of this section alone to spike to unnecessarily brutal levels, never mind the frustration a player experiences when they are killed by a creature that they didn’t come remotely close to touching.  Perhaps that’s not just a spike on its back.  Perhaps it’s a mound of polonium and you’re actually dying from acute radiation poisoning.  That’s hardly fighting fair at all.

4. Once you hop across those blocks, you have to fall down this chute, swerving right-to-left to avoid fireballs.  As I previously stated, the controls do everything BUT mid-air movement to varying degrees of decency.  So naturally the main challenge of this stage tests just that.  Well, there’s an added bonus to the assholery of this section: you actually accelerate while you fall.  So the game wants you to do something it is barely capable of doing in the first place, and it wants you to do so at a multiple of the normal speed you jump.  Oh, and there’s an enemy at the bottom of the jump, but don’t worry about it.  Like Butch Cassidy said to the Sundance Kid, the fall will probably kill you.  Or, more accurately, the third fireball.

5. Was #4 fun for you?  Well now, you get to do it again, only in reverse!  Oh, and you start off with the fast acceleration here.  Oh, and there’s a twist to this part..

6. You can’t see it, but there’s an indestructible turtle enemy thingie that is walking along the spikes, and after you successfully (HA! As if!) reach the top of this chute, you have to land on it and bounce across the top of it to the goal.  I can’t really tell you if the fireball at the top of the screen is a problem because I never made it this far.  In fact, I tried over 100 times to beat this level, and made it past section #4 a whopping three times.

There are those that saw the picture above and will say to themselves “sign me up!”  But to those of you that haven’t gone off your meds today, Slick is not worth the effort.  What it offers isn’t really any more of a challenge than trying to thread a needle on the other side of the room.  You could do it, in theory, but aren’t there better uses of your time?  If you absolutely need something that plays like a punisher to justify your existence, you’re better off picking a game that gives you the proper tools needed to complete it.  It’s such a shame, because I actually liked Slick up until that point.  It was still challenging, but the level design was fun and had a lot of neat twists in it.  And then the game just went all emo and wanted you to know no joy ever again.   That’s only 17 of 100 levels in, mind you.  I’m almost afraid of how depressingly impossible this game might get.  Abraham Lincoln was famously afraid to carry a knife on him, for fear he might turn it on himself.  I used to wonder how a person gets like that, but after playing Slick, I think I know.  Which is why I just carved “bullet goes here” in the back of my head with an X-Acto Knife.

Slick was developed by Halcyon Softworks

80 Microsoft Points tried to search for videos on Slick and found Rainslick instead in the making of this review.  Cue the sirens. 

Thank you @Hamcha

Gameplay courtesy of Aaron The Splazer.

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