Slayers Inc Review: Risky Flattery

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Overview

You can find a video version of this review here!

If Risk of Rain and Doom had a baby, it would probably look a lot like Slayers Inc. The game wears its inspirations on its sleeve. I’d say it’s less of an imitation and more of a homage, especially to Risk of Rain.

You play as a Slayer fighting like hell through hordes of demons using a bunch of power-ups that all combo together in ludicrous ways. If you end up getting ripped and torn, you start the over from the beginning. Although you may have unlocked a few new characters along the way.

It’s exceptionally simple to pick up and play but difficult to master. Slayers Inc does feature difficulty settings to either douse the flames or add extra risk to your hellfire rain. Although it’s important to note that you can’t unlock anything while playing the lowest one.

Slay Bells Jingling

Slayers Inc is best described as Risk of Rain played as a top-down twin-stick shooter. You charge around levels blasting an infinite supply of demons, collect the essence they drop. You use that essence to open chests and hoard items before opening a portal and fighting a boss. Familiar right?

While the comparison is impossible to avoid, Slayers Inc does manage to cut a piece of its own cake that tastes familiar but is different enough to warrant eating. Additionally, nostalgia was a core ingredient. The chef secretly played Doom in the basement while hiding from his militant Catholic mom.

Each character alters how the game feels.

Retro art styles aren’t uncommon these days but Slayers Inc seriously tickles the part of my brain that reminds me that I was, in fact, young at some point. Its art style, animations, catchy MIDI music, and old-school sound effects transport me back to playing games when arcades were still a thing. I mean that in the best way.

The artistic choice is indeed a common one, but Slayers Inc has to be seen and heard in action to truly understand the difference. Each aspect is a perfectly orchestrated chorus from the past. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that I have already played it in an arcade. It might be lost on younger folks, but as the reluctant member of the 30+ gang, I love the way it feels.

Gameplay-wise, it’s not quite a twin-stick shooter, though I did opt to use a controller. The face buttons each corresponded to a cardinal direction that you could shoot in. That threw me off at first but, it became second nature very quickly.

There’s nothing revolutionary about Slayer Inc, but the game does find comfort in the familiar by doing it very well. The shooting and gameplay are snappy, and the items stack to make different combinations very satisfying.

There’s no dodge button. You avoid a literal bullet hell by weaving in and out of attacks on your own. There are 8 characters, and you have to unlock 7 of them. Compared to Risk of Rain they are simplified with each usually only having a passive ability and a different way that their primary attack works.

The game feels like it was pulled from an old arcade, in a good way.

While that doesn’t sound like much, each one manages to feel completely different. The Sniper deals extra damage if she takes her time between shots, while another character wields a sword up close. Those minor deviations expand as you pick up the stacking item combos, and it really helps the replay value.

The enemy variety is nice and each one must be approached differently depending on your character and load out. However, it can be frustrating that some enemies damage you just by touching you, and it’s not obvious which ones unless you dig into the in-game journal.

However, I really enjoy in-game encyclopedias. Slayers Inc has one with plenty of information, lore, and references on everything you encounter.

Items stack and combo for bonkers effects.

One of the game’s particular strengths is the artifact system. You have a single slot for a bullet type, amulet, and blessing. Each one has a drastic effect on your playstyle, such as making your bullets split on impact, or electrifying nearby enemies. The choice of which one to buy and place into those slots is really important. It’s also a lot of fun to see how each artifact affects different characters.

On the flip side, that’s about all the choices you have in Slayers Inc. The rest of your build is entirely random and based on the items you pick up. There is a risk versus reward mechanic where the more time passes, the harder it gets. So you do have to decide between progressing quickly or staying to open more chests. But you have no real way to influence what you get. You are at the mercy of the RNG.

As much as I love the artistic choice, I do take issue with some of the visual elements that simply get in the way. The game is a chaotic bullet hell where one mistake can cost you. Yet the game loves to put oversized barely transparent images in your face whenever you pick up an item. I don’t have kids, but I imagine it feels similar to one continually hitting you in the face with a giraffe they drew that looks too much like a penis to hang on the fridge.

Interface elements love to get in the way.

The screen also goes dark whenever you activate a portal and that can easily lead to an unfair death. The worst part is, it feels intentional. Every enemy has elite variants, and one is listed in the encyclopedia as just being difficult to see due to the coloring.

While I love a challenge, dying because I couldn’t see something that was made to blend in with the clutter isn’t exactly fun or exciting. I don’t want to have to put on my glasses and play Where’s Waldo in the middle of a demon mosh pit.

Verdict

Slayers Inc, while imperfect is great fun for a low price. While I hate to say it again, it really does feel like Risk of Rain as a top-down twin-stick shooter, without the twins or the sticks. Both Risk of Rain games happen to be really good, and Slayers Inc is a worthy accomplice to them. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree, but it’s still a pretty good apple.

The obstructive visual elements are bothersome, but the nostalgia factor made it up to me. Slayers Inc may not be the freshest demon slayer to take a risk on, but the fun rains down anyway as a solid rogue-lite shooter.

My Perspective

Slayers Inc is an inexpensive game and gives you plenty of content to battle through. It’s not particularly deep, but it’s easy to jump into if you just want to blast stuff with a bunch of power-ups.

It’s a challenging game, even on the default difficulty, and that’s great for me. However, it’s a bit too shallow, and I like to have more control over the RNG. I enjoy Slayers Inc, but nothing about it particularly grabs me aside from the nostalgic charm. I’m not sure I would have bought it on my own, but at $10 I wouldn’t have regretted it either.