Slice, Dice & Rice plays like the illegitimate offspring of a ménage à trois between Platinum Games’ Madworld, Mortal Kombat and the near forgotten, PS1 (almost) classic, Bushido Blade. It’s a one-on-one beat ’em up with a difference: one hit kills. There are no health bars here and no need for them, but will this key game mechanic cause Slice, Dice & Rice to make the player throw a paddy?
I like fighting games, but fighting games don’t like me. Enjoying the high-level experiences that titles such as Street Fighter, Soul Calibur and Marvel vs. Capcom had to offer was always out of my reach. My thumbs and brain refuse to work in tandem for long enough to input, or even remember, complex controller inputs, while phrases such as zoning, cross ups, juggling and dash cancels were never in my lexicon. Instead, it felt like trying to communicate with someone in a foreign language. I got the gist of what the games were saying, but my response was just to speak loudly and slowly while telling everyone “I’m English”.
So, it came as a pleasant surprise to me that Slice, Dice & Rice avoids the control complexities of a modern brawler whilst retaining all of the strategy. Inputs are limited to four buttons for a horizontal strike, a vertical strike, heavy attack and a parry. That’s it. Yet these minimal options take on new meaning when every attack in the game is deadly.
To this end, gameplay becomes like a dance as each player tries to lure the other into overcommitting in their attack, only to reward them with a devestating counter. To aid the player in their trickery, nearly every attack can be cancelled with a quick tap of the parry button. Leaving your opponent bemused and bewildered is vital for victory. This is a game of focus, strategy and exploiting the weaknesses of your foe. You wait for the gap in their defences and then strike. Indeed, it offers the type of gameplay that is only available to top end fighting game afficianados, but rather than asking for the long-term dedication and commitment necessary to develop high level skills, instead Slice, Dice & Rice offers a high end experience to everyone.
The game has a unique visual aesthetic and it’s in this aspect that it’s most reminiscent of Platinum Games’ Madworld. The black and white ‘noirish’ visuals are certainly distinctive, and make the plentiful spurts of claret all the more vibrant. It’s a compliment to the developers that, despite the limited palette, I never lost sight of my character or their opponent. The game is easy to read and you can always tell if an attack is coming. Whether or not you can avoid that attack? Well, that depends on your reactions, rather than any failure of the game. The single player campaign will see you die a lot though and it’s particularly telling that several of the trophies reward perseverance by recording how often the player selects continue.
It’s just a shame that the experience here is so slight. There’s eight characters on offer, each sufficiently different in their attacks, appearance and animation to stand apart. For my money, its the giant, sword wielding, great, great granddaughter of Ghengis Khan who is the clear standout. She drags her massive weapon around like a criminal who just stole a fridge.
A short campaign takes each character through eight battles, each demanding victory in a number of rounds before the player can move on. There’s a loose story to each campaign, made up of blocks of text and dialogue bubbles, which, whilst endearingly tongue-in-cheek, is utterly forgettable. There’s the standard versus matches of a variety of combat choices between human and AI, a practise lobby and network play. That’s your lot.
The real flaw in Slice, Dice & Rice is the lack of any online community. The fact is that fighting games can live or die in their sense of competition against a human opponent, and this is even more true for Slice, Dice & Rice, which is all about match psychology and the baiting of your opponent. There simply isn’t the same satisfaction in beating the game’s AI. Despite attempting on several different days and at different times to find a human opponent online, there wasn’t one to be found. If you have your own vibrant fighting community, then there’s plenty for you to enjoy in Slice, Dice & Rice. If you don’t, and you rely on that online experience for your versus kicks, then it’s hard to recommend.
Slice, Dice & Rice is an extremely competent fighting game. The core mechanics are sound, its visually interesting and it rewards strategic play. It’s just a shame that there’s no one out there to fight against online. With more support, this could be a genuine alternative to the big names of the fighting game scene. Without it, you’re only getting half a game for your money. My advice would be to buy the game anyway, get your friends to buy it too and then forge your own fighting community. Slice, Dice & Rice is good enough to deserve it.
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4