Developer: Pixel Licker Games
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

I will admit that I have a soft spot for games that feature retro-inspired pixel art. Perhaps it’s because it reminds me of gaming while growing up, which for me was the 16-bit era in particular, though I definitely love the NES era as well. Seeing this style revived for modern takes on games on the latest hardware, well, there’s just something about it that absolutely warms the cockles of my heart.

The point that I’m getting at is that Slayin, which boasts plenty of retro style, is absolutely fantastic.

The developers tout it as an endless action-RPG, and it’s really tilted more heavily toward the ‘action’ side of the equation, but it’s an apt moniker. Players control one of three heroes, each with different play styles, in a side-scrolling arena. Enemies constantly spawn from above and below, and players must try to dodge them and attack them. Movement is constant in one direction or the other, and attacks become part of movement. For example, the Knight has a sword that extends out from his body, and the Wizard can turn into a tornado that attacks enemies but also allows her to travel safely through hazards for a brief moment.

This is what makes the game so clever: players have to learn how to navigate the enemies to take them out as well to avoid danger. It’s something that the game essentially forces players to learn in order to succeed. The second element of strategy comes from coins: is it worth buying a weapon or armor upgrade now, or is it better to save it for down the road? Is that health pickup needed now, or would it better to save it for armor? While there’s an overarching currency that’s used to unlock items, this temporary currency represents an additional element of challenge and something to think about.

Of course, as cerebral as the game sounds, it’s still very much a fast-reaction type of game, and the fact that it requires both physical reflexes along with mental reflexes makes it extremely absorbing. The overall currency of fame points that’s used to unlock new modes and characters can be purchased, but skilled players should have everything necessary within some time of playing the game. Still, the IAP is cleverly explained in-game as having a bard write tales of the player’s fame. It’s ingenious, as is the decoratable graveyard to show off one’s high score.

Really, other than the fact that the field of play is really vertically small, with virtual controls taking up most of the bottom of the screen, I can’t say anything bad about Slayin. It’s simple yet clever, extremely fun and addictive. Buy it!

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