Review: Mister Slime (Nintendo DS)

Mister Slime
Developer: Lexis Numerique
Publisher: Southpeak Games
Genre: Platform/Puzzle
Release Date: 7/17/08

There really aren’t enough games out there that truly take advantage of the Nintendo DS. Most games just have a status screen on the second screen and a couple of thrown in stylus mechanics. Considering we have games out there like Elite Beat Agents and Trauma Center, this is a pretty big disappointment.

This is why when I was given Mister Slime to review, I felt a little excitement. All the game play footage I’d seen led me to believe that my stylus would finally get the work out it deserved. Plus, it used the mic! Honestly, the mic is the most underused feature of the whole system. (Although Charlie Marsh would have you believe this is the best thing to happen in gaming since Earthbound)

So will Mister Slime stake its claim as one of those rare titles that provides us with a true Nintendo DS experience, or will it prove to be nothing but a few tacked on stylus mechanics on a generic action game?

Story

Mister Slime stars the surprisingly non-titular Slimy as a little ball of (you guessed it) slime. In his world, the slimes were constantly at war with a rock-like race called the axons until it was decreed that they would halt the bloodshed and instead hold battles to decide supremacy every forty years. This vicious cycle has been going on for a thousand years at the start of our story.

Slimy is a decent enough fellow. He’s the young chief-in-waiting who spends most of his time training and hanging out with an old war veteran named Three Arms. When this friend goes missing, Slimy heads out of his town and goes looking for him. Naturally, he finds more adventure, danger, and even a little romance than he could have hoped for.

It isn’t a great story. Most of the big surprises come at the end in a sort of Dues Ex Mahcina moment that made me laugh. Characters from the villages you come across have similar names that all end in “Ëœsly. It’s cute, and part of the reason you can tell this was meant for kids. One of the more interesting (and frustrating) elements comes in the way Slimy learns about the world outside his village. You’ll meet several characters that let you in on secret moves and how to beat enemies, but when those people aren’t there both you and Slimy are left to figure it out yourself. While this can affect the game play in a negative way, I find it to be a logical and even genius trait for the story.

In terms of the modes the game offers, there aren’t too many. You’ve got the single player adventure, chose a level, and multiplayer. Adventure is the main quest of Slimy, whereas Choose-A-Level allows you to replay any level you’ve beaten in adventure mode. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell what the level looks like or what you do in it. You’re meant to remember the level number. Multiplayer allows you to go head to head with another player with his own DS and copy of the game in either a race to the finish or a race to collect flowers.

In the end, the game won’t wow you with its story, but it is serviceable.

Graphics

Graphics are easily the weakest point of this game. I know there isn’t much you can really do when your character is a slime, but that doesn’t make up for the fact the pretty much every character model is uninteresting and bland. Slimy is nothing but a pale green blob. His friends are a slightly different shade of pale green. The environments are trying to go for something out of Loco Roco, but don’t fully commit to the art style, and instead come out plain and washed out looking.

The animations are much better. Slimy definitely has an elastic quality to him. If you pick up a boulder or something similar that you have to drag around, you’ll notice a realistic pull on his body. For instance, if you’re stretched out among two points and pick up the boulder with a third arm, you’ll dip down low thanks to the weight. The farther the two points you’re anchored to are, the tighter you’ll be and the less you’ll dip. If the anchors are close, you’ll droop down drastically. If you use the slingshot maneuver, it really feels like you’re being catapulted across the level.

Basically, Slimy and company move well across a bland backdrop, and are unfortunately not too much fun to look at otherwise.

Audio

Why is it that developers keep insisting on using garbled nonsense as voices? I always find it irritating and would love to skip through it if it didn’t mean missing valuable parts of the story. The slimes, axons, and company all have the mumble speak throughout the game. You can tap the screen once to skip the noise and load the whole text box, but on more than once occasion I bumped the screen a second time and missed some important clue or hint that led to my having to replay the level in order to understand a basic control! I guess this could be just me, but this is the kind of thing that led to me getting annoyed with otherwise great games like Banjo-Kazooie and Okami.

The music is actually quite nice. It’s very whimsical, and even if it doesn’t always fit the occasional serious nature of the plot, the music is never the less a treat when you’re swinging along in the various levels. Actually, it reminded me very much of the music from Krusty’s Super Fun House for the SNES. This kind of thing works great for a light hearted puzzle/platformer.

Elsewhere, the sound effects are a bit of a miss. Slimy makes the same noise every time he gets hit, no matter what hits him. Various enemies are killed with the same noise. An underwater door makes the same sound as an above ground one. These may seem like small complaints, but it can be grating over time.

Overall, the audio in this game gets a big boost from the cheery music. Without it, the sound would be lacking. As it is, it manages to do the job.

Gameplay

Slimy is one of those unique characters in that you don’t actually control him per se. Instead you used the stylus to attach one of his four arms to various anchors across each level. You can do this by simply tapping the anchor point. If you’ve got a hand free, he’ll latch on and won’t let go until you tap it again, or some outside force makes him. You can also hold the stylus over his body and drag an arm out to latch on anchors, items, and or push buttons. You can also wave your hand around this way in order to buzz off some enemies and uncover some secrets.

This works pretty darn well. Like I mentioned before, grabbing heavy objects can bog you down, but there is so much more to it. For instance, say you start off anchored to one point on one side of the room. You reach over and grab another anchor. Then, you let go of the first. Slimy’s body will spring off to the second point and even go past it until the elasticity of his arms brings him back. So, if you do this next to a wall, you’ll get hurt from the impact. Of course, if the two anchors in question are close together, the snap will be far less severe. Picture the movement system like a rubber band. The further you pull, the faster and harder it will snap back. Of course, if you grab onto a third point during this, you’ll avoid the severe snap altogether. Later on, you’ll learn a slingshot maneuver that allows you to draw Slimy back and send him sailing in any direction. (He’ll automatically let go of all anchors) This is cool, although generally impractical. You’ll get hit a lot. There are even swimming sections where drag out an arm and spin it like a propeller. Nifty, but tiring on the wrist.

There is another way to move. You can blow into the mic to create a gust of wind. This will always blow you straight up. You’ll have to depend on the terrain to allow you to move either left or right. It works pretty well thanks to a high sensitivity and the ability to tweak. I still had a ton of problems when I tried playing in a car.

The point of each level is to move around the various obstacles to reach the exit. Often you’ll have to search around a bit for keys or switches to unlock doors. There are three types of obstacles you have to worry about. First, you have enemies that will attack you, draining your precious health and possibly poisoning you, which can weaken your arms and cause you to lose reach, lose elasticity, or even become frozen in place. You can restore your health with candy that is generously provided. Second, you have enemies that never the less get in the way. These include flies that can’t help but tickle you and cause you to lose your grip, armadillo animals that get stuck on your hands and drag you down, and spiders that create webs that get you stuck. Finally, you have the environment itself. There are metal balls that launch deadly spikes at you if you get to close, spiked walls that hurt should you run into them, and other such things that you would imagine in a game like this.

There are two main problems with the game.

First, the exit orientated goals get old after a while. While you will get to do some interesting things in the levels, it would have been nice to throw some variety in missions around. Forty levels of playing just to reach the end is a bit too much.

Second, there are several points in the game where you have to drag out one of your arms and wave at something. You do this to ward off flies and unearth treasure in particular. For some reason, this mechanic doesn’t work at all. Sometimes I’d do what I intended instantly, but usually I’d end up scribbling like a moron until something happened. This gets more and more annoying as the game goes along, especially since the rest of the controls work so smoothly.

So basically, the game play is fun and takes full advantage of the DS features, while have a few problems that can lead to frustration and possibly even boredom. Still, there are enough cool moments, like carrying around a companion who can use elemental powers to fighting the main boss. These will keep you playing to the end for sure. It’s never smooth or engaging enough to be called a great game, but it definitely a fun one.

Replayability

Mister Slime is at the same longer and shorter than it looks. Just looking at the cover, it seems the kind of game that wouldn’t take your more than a couple of hours. (A kid’s game) Then, if you notice that there are forty levels, you might think this would give you some substantial play time like most puzzlers. Mister Slime finds a healthy in-between here, clocking around 7-8 hours for the first play through.

However, there really isn’t much of a reason to go back. There are two difficulties, but easy mode just makes it impossible for you to die. Most players won’t go for that, even if they struggle. You can replay any level, but the lack of the ability to see ahead what level you’re playing makes this cumbersome to use. I spent ten minutes trying to find one of my favorite levels because I couldn’t remember which number it was in world four. You CAN collect flowers located throughout the level to unlock some minigames, but the sheer amount of work required to find the dozens of these in each level might drive some to madness.

Multiplayer always adds some replay value to any game. With a couple of different modes, you might gain an extra hour or two here. Thankfully, the game is budget priced, so you won’t feel too bad about how short it is.

Balance

Thanks to wonky control when you have to wave your hand around, there can be some pretty frustrating moments in the game. The worst part comes, however, in the level design of some of the more evil levels. At one point, I was expected to climb up a canyon using anchors that were disappearing and reappearing on an inconsistent basis. There were about ten flies ready to tickle me off whatever anchor I managed to latch onto, and spikes all around the room. I said a lot of things to the game that I can’t dare repeat here.

Most of the time, however, the game is pretty decent. You’re not going to reach the end of every level the first time you play through it. It has some challenge to it, which is good. Most of your deaths can and should be blamed on mistakes on your part, and the game can account for only a small fraction of these. While it would be preferable that none of your deaths be blamed on the game, this is still pretty decent and playable.

Originality

I haven’t seen any game really like this. While it’s clear the game does borrow some elements from games like Loco Roco and Kirby Canvas Curse, the control scheme is something I haven’t been able to find elsewhere. Those looking for something fresh in a generally stale DS market should look this up.

Addictiveness

I’ve mentioned before how the exit orientated level design gets grating. On more than one occasion, I found myself putting the game down because of this and the sometimes evil levels. I also mentioned before how Slimy isn’t always given a clear understanding of how a mechanic works. For instance, I discovered there were certain walls you could just go right through. This trick was needed to pass a level, but you were never given a clue that it could be done. By the time I accidentally discovered this secret, I was frustrated to the point of cursing Slimy’s mother. I had to put the game down before I threw my DS across the living room.

So while the gameplay is fun, the few quirks it does have end up taking away some of the addictiveness factor. This isn’t the kind of game where you’ll want to “play just one more”.

Appeal Factor

In a sea full of overpriced ports, overpriced first party titles, and a lack of any sort of greatest hits feature, Mister Slime stands out because of its price. If this game were even ten dollars more expensive, I’d say it wouldn’t be worth the price of admission, but thankfully, I don’t have to do that.

Sadly, I can’t think of too many people that will jump at the chance to play a game with a ball of slime on the cover, unless they’re thinking it’s a Dragon Quest game. Hopefully I’m wrong, as I’d love to see this game do well enough to warrant a sequel. But with limited press attention, this seems unlikely. Anyone looking for a unique DS game should enjoy this. Let’s hope they look past the cover and see what the game really ahs to offer.

Miscellaneous

You know, it’s funny. I spent enough frustrating moments in this game where I swore it would get nothing but ire from me. The occasional stylus control problems mixed with necessary game mechanics that weren’t openly revealed to me really pissed me off.

However, it was only after each play session that I realized that I was enjoying the game. It was challenging, but not so much that I got stuck for too long. The mechanics were intriguing. God help me; I loved the little slime ball.

This is why despite the constant mentions of a frustrated Aaron at home playing this on his DS and contemplating tossing the game into a lake; this game is getting a good score. It has an intangible hold on me that I can’t fully understand. I say give it a try. I’d rather spend twenty bucks on this than forty bucks on the next Square-Enix port any day.

The Scores
Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Poor
Audio: Decent
Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Below Average
Originality: Very Good
Addictiveness: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Below Average
Miscellaneous: Great

Final Score: Decent Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

Mister Slime is a solid game with a few problems that keep it from becoming how good it could have been. For the most part, the controls are great and the gameplay new and intriguing, but the lack of level variety combined with some overly frustrating moments hampers it. I hope more games are made in this series, with a few necessary tweaks of course, so that I can experience the full potential of Slimy and his friends. If you’ve got a DS and some cash to burn, find this game and give it a try.

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