Relive the classic era of platforming. Hop, bop, and journey with Mick Slick through five treacherous worlds and one hundred levels ranging in difficulty from simple to hellish nightmare. Features original tunes by John William Cleary.

Budding independent developers flock to platformers thanks to their relative low entry costs in getting a game off the ground. Likewise, many developers leach onto the retro concept since it is much easier to design and animation "old school" graphics than producing HD artwork for their first game. Thus, it's no wonder Halcyon Softworks' 17-years-old Kyle Hershey chose an old school platformer when releasing his first game on the Xbox 360. Hershey's Slick is not a delicious sounding drink but rather a challenging 2-D platformer with a Game Boy inspired color scheme and a cardboard sprite reeking of 80s cool.

"Challenging" is an understatement as Slick's 100 levels are more sadomastic than typical mascot platform fare. Hershey frequently channels VVVVVV's "Veni Vidi Vici," frequently forcing players to maneuver Slick through zigzag arrays of spikes and fireballs. Many obstacles require perfect timing to clear such as World 3-16 with its giant crushing heads, flying spikes, fireball columns, and saws patrolling the ground. Each new world throws more and more hazards at the player without mercy. Your only relief comes from the infinite number of lives, quick restarts, and a level select to resume the game later when your rage quit meter is maxxed out. Slick is very much a "hardcore" platformer, and as such the game certainly delivers on challenge, even if most players would find that level of difficulty offputting.

Those who enjoy the challenge will appreciate that every obstacle presented in Slick is fair. Well, most obstacles, since the quicksand in World 2 (Sahara Slicker) completely obscures some hazards hidden underneath, leading to lots of blind runs just to see what is required to clear. Beyond the handful of hidden surprises buried in World 2, the game as a whole plays fair. When you die, it's your fault. It won't feel this way at first as the control takes a bit of getting used to since the sprite has some visual quirks about it, namely how he has an odd animation delay just before landing from a leap, a gaff which can mess up your timing until you adjust to it. Slick's hitbox can feel off as well, extending just a bit beyond the brim of his cap, resulting in lots of initial frustration when the game says you hit that fireball in the air but the screen shows you didn't.

The graphics are a bit of a sticking point because while Slick attempts to ape the feel of late 80s hardware, the visuals are too inconsistent to make it work. The color pallette is well chosen, but the resolution is far too high to feel genuine to the source. Pixel size varies wildly, going from chunky in the options menu and on Slick's sprite to a more refined line art as depicted by the hopping soldiers of World 4 (Skirmish Slicker). The game lacks inspiration as well with generic themed levels and enemies. When the game isn't painting by numbers, it's ripping off elements of popular old school games such as the turtle-like creatures in World 1 (mutated from Mario's turtle enemies) or the giant head traps of World 3 (molded after the giant platform heads of Mega Man 2's Airman level). These sorts of references are frequent in such games, but their presence only serves to highlight the game's lack creativity.

Slick is certainly unoriginal, but there's much to be said for solid construction. The game's level design is varied, its interface is clean, and John William Cleary's nice soundtrack never became a nuisance, itself rather impressive after listening to the same handful of tunes hours on end. Even with its faults (including a few unobtrusive bugs), I really enjoyed playing Slick as will other platform fans who don't mind repeatedly dying through a game. Halcyon Softworks may not be ready to conquer the world with its first release, but Slick manages to target a specific audience and deliver the goods at a budget price of 80 Microsoft points, which is a pittance even on a 17-years-old's allowance.

August 25, 2012
July 24, 2012 | 80 points
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