In space, everyone can hear you rock out and kill aliens!
It’s always nice to hear of a comeback story, especially within the games industry, and what a comeback story developer Steel Mantis had when releasing Slain.
On its original release, Slain received relatively poor review scores. A committed Steel Mantis hired programmer Thomas Jenns reworked ‘Slain’ into the now ‘Slain: Back From Hell’ and changed what originally was a mediocre game into a cult classic.
Now for the first time working together on a project from the start, Thomas Jenns and Andrew Gilmour are back to rock our socks off again with ‘Valfaris’, a heavy metal action platformer set in space.
The stupendous citadel Valfaris has reappeared in the orbit of a dying sun after disappearing from the galactic charts. Therion, a valiant son of Valfaris returns home to find Valfaris overrun by an ever-growing darkness. Playing as Therion, you must explore the citadel and rid it from its evil – basically, kill everything.
With artist Andrew Gilmour being a heavy metal fan, the game oozes with the iconography associated with that genre of music. From Therion being a badass bulky meathead with long hair who head bangs, demonic monsters, giant guns and backgrounds you’d expect from an Iron Maiden or Yes album cover, everything is loud and over the top.
Andrew’s detailed pixel art style really makes the environments tangible and the characters – even though completely fictional – believable within the context of that world and medium; like 2000 AD comics did with their characters.
Playing the game you can feel the smog and smell the rust. With the demo only lasting 30 minutes I saw external vistas, internal corridors and a junkyard, all of which transitioned naturally and never felt out of place.
And what to say about the gameplay… It’s good, it’s really good. Everything just feels fluid and right, the shooting and the platforming just meld well together, one never outdoing the other. You have a main pistol and a sword, as well as a secondary weapon that acts as a power weapon that uses energy, so you do not abuse them.
Speaking with Matt from Digital Upper Cut (the publisher) explained that you can level your power weapons too by collecting orbs throughout the level. You’ll be wanting to level up those guns because the game is difficult, many a section I find myself dying a fair few times at, especially the Junkyard Goblin boss.
However, credit here goes to the checkpoints and how each checkpoint is in the exact spot just before a difficult section so you ‘just have that one more go feeling’, as Matt put it when talking after my time with the demo “we say it’s a Nintendo difficulty” (he is referring to old skool Nintendo here). Furthermore, I won’t spoil it, but don’t rest so easy, expect surprises.
Matt informed me that the soundtrack has been composed by Curt Victor Bryant from Celtic Frost, with his style of metal really pumping you up for action and it’s the cherry on top of what looks like a brilliant game. The music makes you push into the action like a crazed madman.
Anyone who wants to shoot and slash monsters needs this game – it’s just a hell a lot of fun. It doesn’t take itself seriously and it completely knows what it is.
Playing the game reminded me of those ’90s action games that were full of gore, fast-paced, adrenaline-fuelled action. This is one to watch out for.
Valfaris is scheduled for a 2019 release on PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One.