Imagine if the show Metalocalypse and the movie Heavy Metal had a baby. Now throw in even more bloody, visceral, H.P. Lovecraft-esque exploits that would make any hardened warrior blush. Seriously, if there was an alternate dimension that was a literal hell landscape, Slain: Back From Hell would be a perfect depiction of it. The art, music, level design, and creatures all come together to form an unforgettable, gothic horror experience. Although with all the headbanging I did to the soundtrack, I might not remember much in the long run. After all metal never dies.
Slain: Back From Hell has you controlling Bathoryn. His backstory is mostly kept under wraps but it’s made clear he is a great, grissled, and mystical warrior that gods themselves seek his help. Except at first he wanted nothing to do with his given mission and just desired peaceful, undisturbed sleep. Eventually Bathoryn is removed from his extended slumber and told of an evil Lord Vroll and other deadly tyrants who need to be vanquished. They’ve plagued the once peaceful lands with despair and death.
The story from here is minimal at best but when you get to the ending, there’s a nice twist to the whole adventure. Let’s just say that a sequel should be in development right now if it isn’t already. Luckily, that’s not a bad thing here. The title will last you a solid 5-7 hours and by the time you beat Slain: Back From Hell, you’ll be grateful for the rest. The game can be extremely taxing. The level design, creature attacks, and nonchalant bravado from our main hero will absolutely put you through the ringer.
Let me just get it out of the way by saying I loved the character of Bathoryn. He was a badass but an honorable one. He knew how to act around those who deserved respect and who to blow off to those who were less than pleasant. His interactions were only told through text but the imaginary voice he had wasn’t hard to pin down. Plus, something told me he’d enjoy a nice, hearty brew with friends. Don’t judge me. Although I’d say Bathoryn (and by extension those controlling him) should be a little intoxicated to combat this game’s challenging level design.
I won’t lie and say this game irked me. The amount of times I died alone in the first hour netted me the “Die 100 Times” trophy. This game is as pure trial and error as it gets. There are traps everywhere and a certain combination of enemies, in multiple parts of each level, that are together for nothing more than to punish you. In fact, I just ran by them when possible. Make no mistake, this game will challenge you. It’s a side scrolling platformer that will make you fail at jumping, attacking, deflecting, and countering so many times that you may want a stress ball nearby. Especially the creepy, ghost children who move incredibly fast, teleport, and giggle like something straight from Satan’s rectum.
Luckily, the checkpoints are gracious in this game. So much so that each level could be classified into sub-levels. Once you reach an orb on top of a twisted pedestal (the checkpoint,) all your health and mana are fully recharged and you’ll spawn here when you die. Until you reach the next one. Speaking of which the gameplay is pretty simplistic but quite fun. Thanks to said mana bar you’ll be able to fire single or charged energy projectiles at enemies. These can actually be a lot more useful then in other titles. If you have a full mana bar and crouch while pressing the mana button (R1) you’ll unleash your ultimate attack. Most grunts on the screen will be vaporized and stronger enemies will get a decent chunk of their health shaved off. Beyond that are basic or charged physical attacks with either a steel or flame sword and a frost covered ax. You can also dodge back and forth, guard, and counterattack as well.
The enemies themselves are varied and beautifully designed. In a macabre type of way anyhow. Classic creatures and made up ones are all crafted in the perfect way for Slain: Back From Hell. How a lot of enemies gouge blood or their innards when defeated helps too. They’re all deadly, creepy, and fit the game’s world perfectly. Same can be said with the environment. It’s so deplorably lovable in the realm of horror lost to evil beasts. Dark but slightly dimmed interiors, blood soaked lands that literally have bodies of water full of blood, overlooking vistas upon a scraggly cliff that will make your heart race, and much more that I will leave for you to discover so I don’t spoil them. Just know that this title knows what it is and goes all out.
Incidentally the soundtrack does the same thing. The thumping heavy beats, the amplified distortion, and the dense drum sounds scream metal. From boss battles to simply traversing a level, the signature music genre never lets up. It’s well put together and would love to hear it in another art form. I’m slightly disappointed I wasn’t able to find the soundtrack anywhere online though. Long story short, metal heads will love Slain’s tunes.
Remember how I said this game was challenging? Some of that plays into the experience’s cons. Some parts of certain levels were harder than most due to the combination of enemies present. Fast firing projectiles coming your way mixed with tanks (who may also fire projectiles) are but just one example. Sometimes the mix of creatures will feel unfair rather than a healthy challenge or difficulty. We’re just lucky most checkpoints are gracious. The counterattacking may also pose a problem. I couldn’t tell if it was an input delay or my button pressing not registering, but the window for successfully counterattacking needs widening. There were too many times I swear I succeeded but ended up failing.
When it’s all said and done though, I saw the game to the end. Most of the time Slain: Back From Hell was nothing but pure fun and a well crafted, grisly adventure. Oh and did I mention you can headbang with Bathoryn’s long, flowing, silvery locks after you defeat a boss? It’s pretty awesome.
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