My first experience with an ice cream sandwich was at a birthday party when I was four. I knew I liked ice cream, but I couldn’t see how it would be good in a sandwich. Once I tried it, however, I loved it. I wolfed it down as fast as I could, got a case of brain freeze that would have gone on YouTube if it had happened ten years later, and as soon as my brain warmed up enough to ask, I wanted more. My experience with Splashy Slime was like that. I love platformers, but I couldn’t imagine how the genre could actually work on a smartphone. As it turned out, Splashy Slime is much better than I expected it to be. Despite a few design flaws, it was over too soon and left me wanting more, very much like an ice cream sandwich. It would probably even give you brain freeze if you tried to finish it in under a minute.
In Splashy Slime, you must navigate thirty 2D levels using just one button as a ball of green slime named Splashy, who is probably a ninja-in-training. My favourite thing about Splashy Slime is its control scheme. Despite its apparent simplicity, German developer paranoiax did a lot with it. If you can call it running, Splashy runs from left to right automatically until he/she/it bumps into a wall and turns around. To jump, you tap the screen. The longer the tap, the higher the jump. If you’re touching the screen when you run into a wall, you do a wall jump that I would never have guessed Splashy is in good enough shape to pull off, which is one of the reasons why I think he/she/it is training to be a ninja.
The game loads in a little over six seconds on my Droid Razr HD running KitKat, and the loading screen explains the controls. In case you’re one of those people who doesn’t read the tips on loading screens, the first four of the thirty levels serve as a tutorial that explains the controls again. The problem is that both of these sources are a bit misleading. They say “Tap to jump” and “Hold to jump higher,” which implies that there are only two jump heights: one for tap, one for hold. It would have been more accurate to say “Tap to jump” and “The longer the tap, the higher the jump.” After that, the tutorial teaches you how to wall jump, how to use springboards, and the most important lesson of all, “Remember: if it’s spiky it kills you.”
The object of Splashy Slime is to reach the exit sign in each of the levels without getting killed by the multitude of bottomless pits and spikes that are out to ruin your day. The game never explains what’s at the end of these exit signs that mean so much to Splashy that he/she/it is willing to risk his/her/its life, but jumping over saw blades and avoiding spikes both sound like skills that would be taught at a school for video game ninjas. This is the other reason I think Splashy Slime takes place at a ninja school, and I never saw Splashy in a history lesson to disprove this hypothesis.
I never expected a mobile game to do platforming as well as Splashy Slime, but I do have some gripes with it. As is the case with many platformers, there are coins you can collect. However, there’s no reason to collect them, so they end up being annoying rather than adding to the game. In a hardcore platformer, I would expect the coins to add another layer of difficulty for those brave enough to try collecting them, but paranoiax misses that opportunity.
There are three different environments, but the only one I liked was the dungeon between the forest levels and the winter holiday-themed ones. The dungeon appeals to my affinity for dark themes in video games and literature, and it’s the only level where all the spikes and saw blades don’t seem out of place. The dungeon levels also feature hanging platforms that aren’t in the rest of the game, making the game play slightly different. The other two environments don’t do this. The woodlands and the holiday environment would be indistinguishable given a paint job, and the spikes look out of place in both of them. All three environments also share the same music, which is a shame because having three background songs would have made the game’s biggest problem a little more bearable.
Just like I never expected anyone to make a good platformer for mobile devices, I never expected anyone to make a game with music so bad that the game is better on mute. I usually like chip-tune soundtracks, but Splashy Slime‘s is easily the worst part of the game. The music in the trailer is actually pretty good, so I’m not sure why it’s horrible in the final product. Splashy Slime touts itself as “an impossible hardcore platformer”, but I stopped playing more times because I was sick of the music than because I was frustrated by the difficulty. I ended up playing the second half of the game on mute, and it only took that long because the mute button also silences the sound effects.
Despite some design flaws that keep it from being as good as it should be, Splashy Slime is a great game that exceeds my previous expectations of mobile platformers. It’s a free download on Google Play, and I recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind playing it on mute.
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