Combining gore-filled gameplay with an epic metal soundtrack, Slain: Back from Hell sets a tone you won’t quickly forget
If strong, heavy metal music combined with Castlevania-style gameplay is your thing, then Slain is the gift that just keeps on giving, offering a mature addition to the ‘vania’ type genre with a unique appeal and intense style that’s definitely for a more adult audience.
Set in a Gothic world, with pixel art that is so intricate it can feel just that bit too busy at times, Slain initially launched with not-so-stellar reviews in 2016, but to the credit of Andrew Gilmour, the game’s developer, the opportunity was taken to transform Slain from a standard indie title into something that transcends the genre, with tight gameplay and addictive style choices.
Incorporating heavy hack-and-slash segments as well as some of your standard puzzle fair, where Slain truly shines is its next-level boss battles, taking a well-designed leaf from Dark Souls’ book to create enemies that are as satisfying to die too as they are to defeat.
Of course, the fun doesn’t end on the death of your foe; you can then post in victory with each fallen boss, adding a little light to an overall dark game. These little-added mechanics are what makes Slain one of the better ‘vania’ indie titles out there, adding its own spin onto the genre.
Of course, what appeals to most people about this game – and its upcoming spiritual sequel Valfaris, is the intense metal soundtrack that accompanies every inch of your playing experience, recorded by Curt Victor Bryant, formerly of the 80s and 90s heavy metal band, Celtic Frost; and is probably on par with the excellent soundtrack for 2016’s Doom.
If you love a bit of metal in your life, then this game will definitely fit into your niche – and, in fact, it’s one of the major selling points of this indie title. But if you’re more a fan of gentle guitar or orchestral scores, you might find yourself left out in the cold by the chugging, heavy and dense atmosphere created by the combination of music and visuals.
On occasion, the soundtrack – while very well done and excellently executed – can be more distracting than enhancing to gameplay, leaving you turning down the volume in order to focus on a puzzle or complete a difficult boss encounter without distraction.
Beyond the music, Slain is still a pretty solid game, with a dark style that would fit into just about any heavy metal fantasy epic and enemies absolutely stuffed with gore. There’s also a little skill involved in gameplay too, and you simply dashing forward with your weapon held forth will quickly result in an untimely demise.
You’ll have to utilise all your gaming skills to make the most of Slain’s parry and dodging system, both non-negotiable if you want to complete the game in one piece, rather than resembling strawberry jam on the sole of a boss’s shoe.
For heavy-metal fans or those looking to add a new, unique Castlevania-style experience to their Steam collection, then Slain: Back from Hell is definitely worth the £9.99 price tag, offering a polished, pixelated experience you’ll love.