PEGBRJE: Spring Back and The Sword and the Slime

Spring Back is a gorgeous ‘shoot-em-up’ made by Sweet Arsenic, an indie studio from France. Made in Unity, this title follows two strange beings that have been ethereally linked together in order to move forward and succeed together.

So why the quotation marks earlier, and what’s up with this atmospheric comfy title incorporating shooting? Well, Spring Back is taking the concept of a shmup and applying it in a slightly unorthodox way: by removing the shooting and replacing it with a slingshot. While the green spirit has the ability to collect the seeds that correlate to points, the other exists in a different world completely and can be used as the destroyer of the evil entities that reside. The two connected together have the ability to launch each other thanks to their spring-like tether, with the orange spirit destroying enemies upon flying contact. This sounds much like a physics puzzle game upon description, but the classic shmup gameplay elements are all present and accounted for; the large amounts of enemies that need to be constantly eradicated, seemingly never-ending levels, point collection through destruction and specific pickups and a static amount of lives that allow for a restart to go again upon depletion. It’s goal of shifting the focal point of shmups allows it to create an almost chaotic serenity of sorts, where players don’t necessarily hold down a single button to remove all enemies. Instead, the enemies area bit lighter on the spawning so players can focus and aim their other spirit properly and almost coast their way across the environment.

Before I continue, however, I must come clean: I was unable to play the title in its fully intended way, as no matter what solution I attempted at least a single spirt/entity could not be controlled. I’ve not hidden that I use a DS4 controller, nor the constant mentioning in my other (now decrepit) series that there seems to be a bizarre issue of constant spinning in the right joystick for seemingly no reason. No matter what I did, the control bindings would not play nice: the ‘plug n play’ Steam-crafted DS4 driver made it so that I could control the green with the left, but nothing with the orange. In fact, it was alt-tab-ing out of game that allowed for shooting, which I used to get relatively far in the title and gave me my positive feelings for the title. My other attempt through DS4Windows made both of them move with a singular joystick, which was less than ideal. Again, this isn’t a problem exclusive to Spring Back, and I fully intend to continue looking in to this issue to see if I can finally come up with a solution to avoid this without just ‘buying a new controller’. Hopefully this only effects me.

What drew me in to Spring Back was it’s beautiful artwork, with its almost watercolour-esque style and motion. The gameplay (regardless of my limitations) was fun as the influences of shmups came through as I zipped around the space avoiding death and destroying enemies. Interestingly enough, it is also a co-operative title, where each player controls one of the spirits individually with two different controllers — or even on the same controller if one wants to get close and personal. If you are able to avoid the issues that I did (which should be relatively simple), Spring Back offers a unique twist to the genre that shouldn’t go overlooked when thinking about ways to expand a genre’s preconceived ideas. If you like calm yet chaotic titles, try this out.

Sup.

The Sword and the Slime is a 2D puzzle platformer made by Possum House, an indie team based out of the United States that focuses primarily on a 2D pixelated art style. This is put on fantastic display with this title, where players control a sword awakened from its slumber to fight off the horde of goblins and defeat the big bad Ogre. Except there’s an unlikely companion that tags along, and it isn’t that skeletal fragment shown above; it’s a slime.

Continuing with today’s seeming trend of playing with a genre’s core concepts, The Sword and the Slime isn’t really a ‘platformer’ in the traditional sense. Players are indeed scaling through a world with platforms, avoiding hazards and reaching the end, but they aren’t actually touching the platforms. The sword can fly, directed by the player’s mouse movements, and limited not by gravity but by light that it needs to remain active. Flying in to the darkness causes the sword to lose all power, which can only be regained by landing within a circle of light to recharge itself after a few moments. The goblins pose little to no threat in all reality, being able to be dispatched by the sword’s attacks with relative ease, but those with sorcery-like powers emitting a purple glow can immediately seize up the sword and cause it to enter a freefall. This light-based mechanic is a brilliant substitute for traditional platforms, and forces players to view the spaces as such as they attempt to navigate the darkness in search of the gems that need activating to proceed.

Where things begin to alter is in the introduction of a curious yet obedient slime, altering the flow of the game and how players approach the platforming they previously ignored. See, the slime can interact with objects that require weights, unlike the sword which is weightless. It follows the player where ever they go, eating up anything in the path and becoming larger in the process. However, those enemies that the sword could ignore threaten the slime, which injure it to the point of non-existence if allowed. This is where the symbiosis kicks in, as players must keep the slime healthy and alive in order to finish levels by directing it out of danger or destroying the threats if possible. It’s size is also crucial, for it may not fit in certain areas which will require players to ‘shave off’ a few of its inches which feels brutal after how much I bonded with the little guy. It’s just trying to follow the glowy sword, and I cannot lead it astray — especially once it gains the ability to emit its own light source, which again forces players to alter how they position themselves around the slime. This duo approach helps to keep the game fresh and exciting, and the constant need for positional awareness gives the same style of urgency and stress that I’ve grown accustomed to feeling with platformers, yet without the pure anxiety/fear that normally accompanies it. I was actively enjoying a platformer of sorts.

The Sword and the Slime is relatively short, spanning an hour or two depending on the player, but it utilizes its resources masterfully within its time frame. The pacing of the story that it tells is tight, with writing that keeps itself short and sweet while also being quirky and informative of the world. There was one instance where they font changed (a fairy didn’t like what I was about to do with) and I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but it was easily the standout moment of hilarity. The artstyle and attention to detail is phenomenal, reminding me of many Metroidvania-style titles that I’ve played over the years (Dead Cells and Blasphemous were the first to come to mind) and it captured the feeling of adventure within a medieval fantasy environment perfectly. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, the soundtrack is utterly fantastic — seriously, probably my favourite part of the game was the opening moments when the music kicked in and I just got way too excited. It’s still playing in the background as I write this, actually, as I paused the game to continue writing.

As stated, it isn’t long, but The Sword and the Slime has decided to take a genre and put its own twist on it while incorporating a fantastic dynamic between two mute characters that I loved to play as. It’s easy to restart if things go awry (falling in to a dark area where you cannot recharge) and is a treat to play for any age thanks to its focus on mouse movements rather than keyboard/gamepad presses. If you are looking for a different style of puzzle title, then look no further.

(Seriously though, can I get your soundtrack.)

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Jacob Vorstenbosch

Jacob Vorstenbosch

Just a Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.

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