The slime is arguably the most unimposing video game enemy of all time. Zombies have an infectious bite, skeletons have some sort of rusty sword to swing haphazardly in your direction, but the humble slime just exists to burst into a sad puddle of goop as soon as you whack it with your Lvl 1 starter weapon.
Rise of the Slime takes this idea and turns it on its head. No longer are you a gloopy punching bag of the protagonists – it’s time for you to take the crown and go on your own little adventure. It’s King Slime against the world, and no one is going to stand in your gooey way!
As a concept, this works quite well. Coupled with a cute aesthetic of all characters being on sticks, happily bopping along the rooms of this side-scrolling roguelike, you may think you’re instantly onto a winner. And when you throw in the soundtrack, which is actually quite excellent, you may be ready to double down on this deckbuilder.
Hold your horses, though, because this is going to get rough: Rise of Slime is a bad game that has been very poorly ported to the Switch.
First, we have the mechanics. You start a run by picking a style of deck — you can be a pyromancer, an acid mage, a generic sword wielder or ‘other’, in which you get surprise cards. These cards can be rerolled until you get a deck you’re happy with, and then you’re out of the gates, bouncing your way to victory.
You quickly come across enemies to throw hands at, but with just three mana, you’re immediately limited to a very low number of actions per turn. This number doesn’t increase without burning through cash, which means that you’re almost perpetually stuck with a very slow pace of play. With enemies quickly outpacing you in terms of health, you’re going to want to spend that money fast.
What’s worse is that your deck is limited to around a dozen cards for the most part, which means cycling through the same cards again and again until you beat the enemy. Although some cards exile themselves upon casting, this invariably happens to your damage-dealing cards. On more than one occasion I found myself with nothing playable left in my deck, and was dealing one damage per two cycles of my deck. Frustratingly, after 10 minutes of grinding down this enemy, the game crashed.
Interestingly, there are cards that summon pets, the King’s fiery, floating subjects that perform one action per turn, depending on their affinity. Case in point, one such pet is called the Tinkerer’s Pet, which apparently uses cards that you give it. How do you do this? I had to turn to the Steam Community find out, and was lucky to find someone asked this question back in 2019 because nobody could figure it out during the game’s Early Access phase either. The mechanics are barely explained, so it’s no surprise there’s no story or lore to explain the existence of things like pets either.
Defeated enemies drop booster packs and gold. The packs allow you to add one card to your deck, and while you can start out with a fire affinity, there are no limits to what you can add to your deck, giving a lot of variability — too much, if anything. It’s worth noting here that this doesn’t give you fire affinity, it just means you like playing with fire. You still take fire damage like the rest of them.
Beware though — if you add something you later want to remove, you need to spend a good chunk of your hard-earned gold to do so.
This brings me to my next gripe: the in-game economy. King Slime hoovers up gold given enough time, but it’s easy to leave money on the floor because you’re actively trying to pick it up and getting too close to the end of the room. The game is unforgiving in this respect, and what it deems the end of the room can be brutal.
Foolishly, I started out spending gold trying to better my character during a mediocre run. This was a waste as I was immediately met with an enemy with more than three-times the normal HP who utterly trounced me. I was booted back to base without enough gold to power up my character ahead of my run. Did I get to keep any of that gold? No. King Slime has no want of your early treasure, and immediately disposed of it.
I continued this charade until the game crashed three times, each time ending a run I thought would see me to the end. After the devs patched the game to stop this happening, I tried again, only to have the game crash on me once more.
Rise of the Slime is an unplayable mess and I hate it.
Let’s assume that the game worked for me and I could get to the end of a run. What happens next? In an ideal world, you’re supposed to die, take enough unspent gold back to base and use it to power yourself up, but with upgrades being brutally expensive, this is highly unlikely to happen if you tried to buff your character mid-run. If you manage to finish the run without dying, your main reward is being able to do it again on a higher difficulty.
Even putting game stability to one side, there’s a lacking quality to the port. In some ways, this game works really well on the Switch. The game is almost entirely playable on touchscreen, which is nice, but the flip side is that the game is a nightmare to play docked.
Not only is the text tiny, forcing you to sit in front of your TV like a six-year old watching Saturday-morning cartoons, but there are some things you just can’t do with a controller, like checking which mutations you currently have equipped. You can tap on them with your finger while undocked, but you can’t select them with your controller.
On top of this, the controls are far too sensitive. There’s the aforementioned issue of leaving a room because I got too close to edge of the screen, but you can easily click a booster pack fast enough to add cards to deck before you see what they are. With some cards being actively detrimental to you, this is just poor design. Similarly, your one movement card per turn can be utterly wasted if you misclick, leaving you in the wrong place with your back to the enemy, leaving you open to take double-damage.