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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

On Playin Slayin: a Guide to...Slayin

(Formatting note: I wrote this guide in Google Drive and optimizing it for Blogger would be very unfortunately problematic. If you find it unreadable, please let me know in the comments, but otherwise I'm going to leave it as is.)

If you haven’t already played it, Slayin is a retro-styled arcade game ported over to the iOS. The controls are incredible simple. Your character always runs forward. You can change directions left and right and you have one action button. The action button does something different for each character, but it is essentially both an offensive and defensive move of some kind.

Slayin is really hard. It’s like retro-hard, where you die and die and die and swear to yourself that you are going to beat that damn level even if your fingers fall off as a result. And then they do and you still keep trying. It’s like, retro-hard.

So naturally I wanted help. I turned to Google for answers to certain questions I had while playing. When I searched, I was shocked to find that there was no information. In fact, what I found was a wealth of misinformation. I found advice like “always spend your gold” and “play cautiously, occupying one half of the screen.” This is awful advice if you have a clear picture of the game’s mechanics in mind. Let me shed some light on essential advice to getting to the depths of Slayin’s brutal levels.

  1. Combos are gold - No,  really. I mean points are nice and all, but combos give you more gold. It is essential to build a 25+ kill combo and maintain it at all times. Buying certain items means buying up the prerequisite items and the costs add very quickly when combined with armor and potentially health that you might buy. You need a lot of gold early-mid game and that means you need combos. I find myself slayin only two to three enemies at a time so that new ones have time to spawn. If I slay everything on the screen at once it is likely I’ll lose my combo while waiting for new enemies to slay.
  2. Gold, in addition to being gold, is also health - This is the other reason why combos are clutch. They keep you alive. The best way to keep your health up is to avoid getting hit...but collecting tons of gold is the next best thing. It can’t protect you from taking tons of hits all in a row, but it’ll keep you topped off.
  3. Great as gold is, don’t lose your combo for it - You have to let some loot and gold disappear. There’s often a coin or a chalice that you’ll want to pick up but there are no enemies over there and you’ll lose your combo to get it. Leave it be. Even if you need the health from the coin, let it go. Your combo is worth more health over time than that one coin. I go out of my way to get the giant coins from treasure chests, though. I find they stick around long enough that it’s rare for me not to be able to get them.
  4. You don’t always need completely full health - The price of health at the vendor goes up very quickly, and extra quickly for certain characters like the Archer (those with low defense, I suspect, but haven’t tested it). Try to be efficient with how much you buy. Use coins to fill your health and leave a little room for that at the end of your health bar when buying health.
  5. Some weapons and abilities are worthless - Just a fact of life in any game. Some of the equipment, units, etc in any game are not worth using. The Knight has a lot of good equipment options in my opinion, but the Wizard and Ninja have some utterly pointless ones. Ice spells in particular, all of them, are terrible. They freeze enemies instead of killing them. The frozen enemies still hurt you if you touch them and they unfreeze soon after. Just avoid stuff that you figure out sucks. So far the things I don’t like to use are those ice spells and any of the Ninja skills except the Shuriken.
  6. Horizontal attacks are the best attacks - This is common sense considering that enemies line up along the stage in rows. If you launch a lightning ball across the board it clears out all the ground enemies in that direction. Remember that horizontal doesn’t just mean along the ground. The reason the Shuriken is so good for the Ninja is that it clears out all the air enemies. The Archer’s bounce arrow essentially does both jobs, flying up into the air and then plowing through enemies in a line on the ground.
  7. Vertical attacks are also the best attacks - Or rather, they are essential because you need to be able to kill enemies in the air and if your air attack has some horizontal momentum to it, all the better. Again, this is one of the Archer’s greatest strengths. His arrow flies in a parabola, killing a couple air enemies and landing on guys on the ground that are out of the reach of his slide.
  8. Master the back and forth shuffle - Your character is always moving forward, so the only way to stay in one place is to run back and forth. You have to do this to time attacks well. It matters a lot with the Archer and Wizard who have some down time between attacks.
  9. Strategize your upgrade purchases - You don’t have to spend all gold immediately to get upgrades like many guides suggest. In fact, if you don’t plan out what you are buying and when you might find you don’t have enough when it matters. I’m sorry to say I haven’t got the upgrades progression figured out, but they seem to be linear. They show you three--if you buy the second one you’ll see two more the next time you visit the vendor. But sometimes the list updates on its own. The Wizard can buy the 80gold spell and then wait until the ice spells disappear on their own, skipping to the lightning ball, for example. I wish I describe a more concrete pattern, but you should be aware that there is one.
  10. Play the whole board - Many guides advise sticking to one side of the stage and keeping it clear. I tend to start at one end and gradually work my away across the board. Then I get to the other side and having collected all the gold and loot, I edge my way back to the other side where more gold and loot are undoubtedly waiting. Playing only half the board makes comboing difficult because you only have access to about half of the enemies and…
  11. Killing fast means leveling fast - Why does it matter what level you are? Because your level determines what enemies spawn and when the stage ends. If a certain enemy tends to  give you a hard time, kill a lot of enemies as quickly as possible and it will stop spawning. I do this most often when I fight spiked walls (really try not to get in a jump/attack/evade cycle that has your jump/attack/evade ending just as the walls crash in since that can get you killed very quickly).
  12. The Dragon Scale item doesn’t help at all with high scores - Every guide I’ve seen talks about how you need to get the Dragon Scale ASAP. I don’t know if it might have been patched since those posts were put up, but don’t bother if your goal is to get a high score. It resets all your points and in most cases won’t be worth it. To get a really great score, you have to just play awesomely. The only times I use the scale are to try and clear a quest that I’ve almost finished or to just play more continuously/further in the game.

Character specific notes:

The Knight:
The Knight is pretty good all around and is easy to get accustomed to. Get used to his jump so you don’t bump your head on enemies. Jump often because the other way the Knight frequently takes damage is enemies biting his ankles as they spawn underneath him. Oh, armor is good. Get armor. But some guides advise getting armor every time it is available. You don’t have to, especially if you don’t get hit a lot. But the price of armor does go up after the Death Worm boss, so at the very least get it half-way through that stage.

His weapons:
The Thief Knife:
It’s good because it boosts your luck which gives you more coin and loot drops. That means more health, more points and more gold to shop with. It is short and that means you take more damage, but to a degree the extra gold makes up for this. Still, you have to be proficient in not taking a lot of hits.

The series of weapons with long reach:
There are several of these and the more expensive they are the better they perform. The weapon prereqs come into play, but I have found you can skip the Bone Cleaver and Silver Sword if you buy the Thief Knife, wait a while and then buy the Broad Sword. That unlocks the Lance for the least amount of gold possible if I’m not mistaken.

The speed weapons:
These are great because the speed lets you play very aggressively which helps you keep up combos and clear the levels quickly. I think I might have noticed a bug where if you buy the upgraded armor enchantment while using these weapons then it makes you slower. I’ll have to try that again to test it out.

The Wizard:
She is really powerful and easy to use. Her action makes her invincible and kills what she touches. While not attacking she charges a spell if you have an active one equipped.

Various non-obvious notes:
Ice spells are worthless because they don’t kill enemies. Dancing Flame is amazing, but only in the first half of the game. The higher the level of your spell, the taller your tornado attack gets. There is a limit as to how tall you need your tornado to be. I think the best spell is Lightning Ball because it is cheap, gives you a tornado tall enough to kill almost all air enemies all the time and wipes everything in front of you on the ground when cast. This was the first configuration that I beat the game with. I buy Lightning Ball about half-way through Peloria’s stage because on that level there are a lot of air enemies which makes it difficult to combo with Dancing Flame.

The Archer:
He is a monster in a man’s skin. I love this character because once he gets a few armor upgrades (allowing his arrows to kill multiple targets), his gameplay becomes very technically satisfying. I play him dashing back and forth around the middle of the board and launching arrows toward the board edges. Firing your arrow with perfect timing at the end of your slide results in a golden arrow that doesn’t disappear due to striking enemies. Enemies hit by it always drop coins of a grade 1 higher than your combo allows. For example, with no combo, you will get gold +2 coins. With a 25 kill combo, you will get +3 coins from enemies struck by the golden arrow. It adds a layer of depth to the character, which is fun, but it also allows you to get more coins and thus survive longer.

I always buy the basic arrow because comboing with the Archer using only the slide in unbearable. Then I get the first armor upgrade and the Bounce Arrow after that. Then the rest of the armors and that’s it except for health. I have found the other arrows to be more difficult to use and/or obtain. I like the Light Arrow for example, but getting it means throwing a lot of gold away to unlock it. The bounce arrow, by contrast, is cheap and kills enemies in the air and then in a row on the ground. It’s essentially doing the same job as the Wizard’s Lightning Ball. I really only use the other arrows to complete quests specific to them.

I have little experience with the Knave, but I have noticed his jump vector is different from the Knight. For example, getting over the Minotaur boss is harder. Killing enemies in the air requires different timing as well. As with the Thief Knife for the Knight, I find that the Knave’s high luck means you can get a lot of coins which helps keep you alive.

The Ninja has a lot of attacks that I found difficult to use. In my uninformed (I haven’t used her a whole lot) opinion, the Shuriken might be the best weapon, but some of the others are fun. I think the biggest challenge is learning to evade with her. She’s not invulnerable for the whole duration of her jump, but it seems like there might be some frames in there where she can’t be hurt. I’d have to test it more to say anything useful about it. I do know, however, that I often take damage coming down from it.

I played the Tamer. It doesn’t get lamer.

I don’t even understand how he kills airborne enemies. Maybe he’s neat if you figure him out, but I have yet to.

Slayin is a surprisingly deep game considering there are only three buttons and a few upgrades. When I first picked it up I had the impression I would mess with it until I got over the iOS app addiction phase, but I've found that there is a lot of satisfying challenge buried within. I hope this woefully incomplete guide will give you the edge you need to SLAY.

If you have any comments, specific questions or advice to add to this, please post them in the comments!