Imagine an endless runner mobile game but with the mechanics and depth of “Dark Souls”. With enough care and effort, this concept could become something special. Or rather, it could’ve been something special. But GameStop and Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc. decided to turn the concept into “Slashy Souls”, a cynical advertisement for “Dark Souls III” that strips away everything that made “Dark Souls” such a legendary game. In other words, “Slashy Souls” is soulless.
Full disclosure: I never played “Dark Souls” or “Dark Souls II”. However, I did play, beat, and enjoy the crap out of “Bloodborne”, a spin-off of what is known as the “Souls” series which includes other games developed by From Software like “Demon’s Souls” and – of course – “Dark Souls”. So I at least have an understanding of what the “Souls” games are like and why they’re so beloved. I at least have a better understanding of the “Souls” games more than the developers of “Slashy Souls” did.
“Slashy Souls” is an endless runner mobile game with several movement options lifted from “Dark Souls”. You swipe left and right for dodge rolls, swipe up for jumping, tap to attack and hold down your finger to block. As you make your way across the map, you fight enemies, jump over obstacles and collect coins for an arbitrary score.
I have to give GameStop and Bandai Namco a bit of credit, as there is some attempt to adapt the gameplay of the “Souls” series into an endless runner. Just like in a “Souls” game, enemies have very clear “tells” that let you know when they’re about to attack so you can dodge and counterattack. There’s a bit more thought to taking out enemies than just simply dashing through them like in other endless runner games. You feel some satisfaction in blocking an attack and immediately following it up with a few quick sword swipes. And if you can manage to get in the flow of things while acquiring power-ups and cutting through enemies, it can actually be quite pleasant.
Yet these moments of flow are few and far between. For everything else about this game’s design works against the player. Any sense of difficulty is purely artificial.
The gameplay is too hasty to allow for the methodical combat of the “Souls” series. Combat just slows the pacing and makes you risk being sucked up by an ever-encroaching wall of darkness behind you. Eventually, you just forget about dodging and blocking and just mash the attack button because it’s easier and quicker – a move that would most certainly get you killed in any other “Souls” game. All of this makes the combat come off as clunky and thoughtless.
And don’t expect combat to change much, as there are only two enemies in the game: an obligatory skeleton and an annoying, flying… thing. Oh, and did I mention that there are bosses? The famously immense and formidable bosses of the “Souls” games are now just as forgettable as the regular enemies. They also slow down gameplay even more and force you even closer against the wall of darkness.
But if the enemies don’t kill you, then surely the environment and poor controls will. Traps and enemies appear completely at random without any balancing to make them manageable – often times spawning right next to each other. You might jump over a bear trap only to be sliced by a buzz saw descending from offscreen. It’s not like in a “Souls” game where you die and learn where traps are placed so you can avoid them on your next run because every run is randomized. Oh, and your character can even become stuck on ledges for a little bit.
Controls work as they intended about 80% of the time. There are way too many commands than necessary and you’re bound to do one thing when you intended to do the other. Once I tried jumping vertically by swiping my finger upwards and my character jumped diagonally backwards and into a trap. The game demands that you be deliberate in your finger swipes, something that’s not easily accomplishable in the speedy gameplay.
The spotty touch controls, randomized smattering of traps, fast-paced gameplay and a poor “Call of Duty”-style health indicator means that you’ll die as quickly as you started. None of my runs have lasted more than two minutes.
Presentation is amateur hour. The graphics look like someone smeared a pixel filer over a “Dark Souls III” screenshot in Adobe Photoshop. The dismal and whiny music sounds like a depressed teenager’s first attempt at Garageband. Animations are jerky and your character runs like he’s in a “Peanuts” cartoon. In fact, the whole game looks like one of those flash-animated commercials for GameStop with the angry-looking rabbit. Which is fitting as the whole game is an advertisement for GameStop.
I didn’t encounter any bugs with my admittedly short time with the game, but I understand that there were a whole bunch of game-breaking bugs that were patched out. Had the bugs still been present during my playthrough, I would have been more unforgiving towards this game. Maybe the next patch will make the game good, huh?
From the moment you see the banner across the title screen proudly urging you to preorder “Dark Souls III”, it’s clear where GameStop and Bandai Namco’s true intentions lie. “Slashy Souls” is clumsy, unfair, ugly, brainless and the polar opposite of everything From Software worked so hard to achieve. It’s completely free, but it’s still not worth your time and energy. It fails as an endless runner, it fails as a “Souls” game, and it even fails as an advertisement because after playing this game I never want to preorder anything from GameStop ever again.