A couple of months ago, a mysterious Doom II mod called MyHouse.wad released and took the internet by storm. What was sold as a simple real-house tribute level made in a mystery modder’s spare time turned out to be a tech-defying, surrealist, horror-tinged adventure. The narrative fuels the world-design of the mod, while the world feeds back into the narrative, creating a self-encompassing world of an experience where even the true origins of the mod itself are a mystery. On the heels of this release is another video game experience steeped within it’s own fiction as just a simple boomer-shooter mod – Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengance of the Slayer. While MyHouse.wad is a tense, liminal take on Doom II, Slayers X asks the question nobody was brave enough to ask – what if a teenager made Duke Nukem 3D?
Slayers X is technically a spinoff of the 2019 internet-exploration game Hypnospace Outlaw. In this alternate version of the 90s internet, Zane_Rocks_14 stands out as one of the most iconic and eye-rollingly edgy characters you’ll encounter. What if our favorite edgelord Zane wanted to make a video-game all those years ago, though? What if, decades later, a now-adult Zane found the forgotten notebook containing his grand designs, and set out to finish the game of his teenage dreams? Slayers X is the result – a self-indulgent, self-insert-fueled, grimecore and edge-tastic boomer shooter adventure through the mind of Zane – starring Zane, and fully developed by Zane.
It’s all too easy to make a bad game – level design is complicated, art is difficult, and they rarely come together naturally for a first-time game developer. Slayers X is full of lazy animations, repeated art, misspellings, and nonsense level layouts, but it isn’t bad. There’s a charm to all of this, where you can tell that a very purposeful balance has been struck in giving this game a finely crafted aesthetic that just so happens to be described as “the half-finished scribblings of a brain-poisoned teenager from Boise, Idaho”. It hits home so, so hard. Slayers X paints a picture of the perfect, chosen-one, ultimate gamer-kid power fantasy that my teenage self would’ve been frothing at the mouth over. Yes, Zayn, you are the most powerful X-SLAYER with secret untapped abilities living in a giant secret base called the STEEL SEWERS that has every gun, sword, video game, and movie ever inside of it. My inner child is screaming to be let out.
The joke of Slayers X, on paper, feels far too one-dimensional to be able to carry a full-length game experience. Admittedly, that hesitation is justified in terms of the gameplay. The boomer-shooting here is simple and stoic, with a limited set of weapons and a very repetitive lineup of enemies. There’s heart put into the humor of the game that kept me grinning and glued the entire time, though. Things are balanced just right, tapping into all the deepest examples you can remember of cringy teen-core aesthetics while also putting a spin on the way it’s all presented that is just genuinely hilarious. It’s that same balance that Hypnospace Outlaw teetered so well, fusing 90s’ nostalgia with modern humor and pacing sensibilities. It’s dumb that half the game’s music is from a Linkin park sound-alike band and that half the game just literally takes place in Boise, Idaho – but it’s dumb in that fun way that I can’t get enough of.