Game Review: Draw Slasher (PS Vita)

Draw Slasher PS Vita

Draw Slasher is a side scrolling arcade action adventure game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. Draw Slasher is a Vita adaptation of Draw Slasher: The Quest and Draw Slasher: Dark Ninja vs. Pirate Monkey Zombies that were released on September 7th 2011 and November 20th 2012 respectively for iOS and Android compatible devices.

The story mode sees you taking control of a ninja called Hanzo who has his family kidnapped by disgusting creatures known as Pirate Monkey Zombies, while he is training. The story mode consists of seven chapters with certain levels containing objectives, such as killing three Frankenstein enemies with the Lightning Jutsu technique before you can progress onto the next area of the level. After you have killed a few zombies; one of them will usually drop a red orb, which represents health that will potentially get you out of some tricky situations and close encounters when Hanzo is near death and you will know how urgently Hanzo needs health as there is a health meter to the top left of the screen.

The challenges mode consists of 24 quick-fire challenges that usually take around sixty seconds to complete. Every challenge has a three star rating system with one star representing bronze; two stars representing silver; and three stars representing gold. The challenges involve reaching a particular target to achieve at least a one star rating to pass the challenge, such as chaining a combo of between twenty and sixty together; surviving for between 45 to 75 seconds; killing between 15 to 25 zombies; killing between five to nine Brute zombies; killing between six to twelve Chef zombies; and much more besides.

The arcade mode is split into two areas consisting of Gatekeeper and Survival, which are both unlocked once you have completed the fourth chapter of the story mode. Gatekeeper sees you attempting to protect the village by killing the zombies before they have had the chance to pass through the gate as you attempt to better your previous high score, which is recorded by how long you successfully keep the zombies from passing through the gate with a health meter on the bottom right of the screen that shows how close the village is from being overrun with zombies. Survival sees you attempting to survive for as long as possible as you kill hordes of zombies with the high score recorded by how many zombies you have killed during the period of your survival with the difficulty somewhat increased by no health orbs being dropped by any zombies, so your survival depends upon a great attack and all of the available health upgrades to provide you with the best chance of succeeding.

The charm of the game comes from controlling such a small character that has to make his way through hordes of enemies without any help, which makes him a very likeable underdog. The humour comes from Hanzo’s voice-over with such wise cracks as, “It’s all in the reflexes”, “Done and done!”, “Everybody dead! I like that!”, “Stairs! Oh, come on! Its not a training camp!” and many more appropriately timed comments that usually happen once you have defeated a large horde of enemies to reach the checkpoint or when you have defeated the boss at the end of the chapter. Another source of humour is provided from riffing on other games, such as levels that contain a lot of barrels that are rolling along the ground that you must jump over as well as barrels that are being bounced through the air that you have to avoid; only for you to reach the end of the level to find out that a gorilla is throwing the barrels, just as Donkey Kong would have done so in his earlier games. Another example would have to be particular levels were you must slice through fruit and avoid slicing through bombs, which is based upon the premise of the popular Fruit Ninja games.

The weapon you will be consistently using throughout the game is Hanzo’s blade, but there are also Ninjutsu techniques, such as Fire Jutsu that uses fire to inflict damage on enemies; Lightning Jutsu that strikes enemies with lightning providing an instant kill albeit with limited range; Fury Jutsu that deals more damage and penetrates armour; Wind Jutsu that enables you to become invisible and undetectable to enemies for a short period of time, allowing you to sneak around without being attacked by enemies; and many more besides. Ninjutsu techniques can be used sparingly as there is a meter to the top left of the screen that contains blue liquid to show you how close you are to restoring your Ki Energy and therefore re-activating Hanzo’s Ninjutsu techniques. Every time you level up it provides you with a skill point for you to assign to whatever technique or power you prefer to upgrade. There is a meter to the top right of the screen that contains orange liquid to show you how close you are to levelling up to receive your next skill point and it is recommended to attempt to chain long combos together to earn extra XP points that will help you to level up quicker. Upgradeable Ninjutsu techniques range on a scale of Earth to Jutsu and are secret techniques that are very useful in situations when surrounded by hordes of zombies; alongside health which will help you live longer against a large horde of zombies and stamina which defines the strength of the slashing with Hanzo’s blade to enable you to kill zombies quicker and more effectively. The skill points need to be used wisely and in a balance to allow Hanzo’s health, stamina and Ninjutsu techniques to be at similar levels, so you are not in a position were you have a strong attack with weak health; especially considering that each power will require a greater amount of skill points to make the next improvement.

There is a strong variety of enemies including: Zombie Chef who can only be attacked from behind as he holds a large machete as his shield; Frankenstein wears armour on random parts of his body, but there will always be a randomised weak point that does not have armour that can be attacked, such as the head or the stomach with exception to later areas in the game when you have to use the Fury Jutsu technique to cut through Frankenstein’s armour; monkeys in barrels that pop their heads out to throw fireballs at you; flying bats that fire a flamethrower at you from up above; pirates that fire their guns at you; Brute Zombies who have faster mobility than normal Zombies and are more of a threat with the smash attack they use their remaining arm to full effect; normal Zombies who have rather slow mobility; and many more besides including bosses at the end of every chapter.

The environments look great and although they mostly revolve around pirate ships and are recycled from time to time; the backdrops still manage to look a little different particularly from chapter to chapter as the lighting and shadows change depending upon the set time of day to create a darker or lighter backdrop. The backdrops usually include the exterior and interior of pirate ships, but also cover different locations before and after the pirate ships, such as temples, fields, forests and bridges.

There are three difficulty levels including easy, normal and hard. The difference between the easier and harder difficulty levels are more enemies added to the hordes of zombies that are more resistant to damage from Hanzo’s attacks and provide more damage to Hanzo from their attacks. However, the game naturally increases in difficulty even while playing on the easy difficulty level as you progress further through the game; there is a greater chance of their being larger hordes of zombies simultaneously attacking you and harder bosses at the end of every chapter.

The controls are simplistic as they only consist of touch screen based gestures with no complicated button combinations to learn for chaining combos. The touch screen based control scheme really is a play on words from the games’ title as you hack and slash your way through hordes of zombies by drawing lines on the screen to hack off limbs and heads or to aim at other body parts throughout each of the levels and interactive cut scenes. You have to pinch two fingers together on the touch screen to execute Nunjutsu techniques, which is a good demonstration of a multi-touch control that is well implemented. The touch screen controls are very accurate and they had to be to enable you to move around the level with enough precision for the game to not mistake one movement for another, such as when you tap or draw in the direction you want to move for attacking an enemy and vice versa. The only two face buttons that are used within the entire control scheme is the select button to enter the Dojo upgrades menu and the start button to enter the options menu.

The graphics are presented with a colourful and vibrant cel-shaded look, which sees all of the enemies, the lead character (Hanzo) and all of the backdrops brought to life as though it was an extremely well animated Japanese anime with lots of blood, gore and violence.

The presentation of the game is solid with a great touch screen based user interface across various menus such as the story menu; challenges menu; arcade menu; options menu; and online leaderboards, although it does not include support for navigation via the left and right analogue sticks, directional pad, face buttons or rear touch pad, which is not exactly surprising considering the control scheme is based almost entirely of touch screen controls. The background of the menu screens are colourful as they contain the Draw Slasher logo on the top left of the screen and a slideshow of the characters directly underneath it that cycles through around every ten seconds to the left of the screen with bright sparks coming from the left or right.

The audio is pretty good with Hanzo’s voice-over providing charm and humour, while the sound effects include Hanzo’s blades, various noises from the hordes of zombies and the bosses at the end of every chapter as they lurch towards you or attempt to evade your attacks and oriental music that really adds to the authenticity of Hanzo being a ninja.

The trophy list includes thirteen trophies with nine bronze trophies (eight of which are hidden trophies), three silver trophies and one gold trophy. You may not necessarily find the trophies easy due to how difficult you may find the boss battles at the end of every chapter and the high difficulty provided by the majority of the challenges when particularly aiming for a three star rating. The trophies are mostly story related trophies, such as the Bamboo Ranger bronze trophy for killing Stomper in story mode; the High Noon bronze trophy for killing Gunslinger in story mode; the Monkey Spider bronze trophy for killing Octo in story mode; and much more besides, alongside The Cleaner silver trophy for killing 5,000 Pirate Monkey Zombies across all game modes. The hardest trophy is certainly the 36th Chamber gold trophy for mastering all of the 24 challenges; as you have to unlock the challenges by completing the fourth chapter of the story mode and you also have to achieve a three star rating, which will more than likely take multiple attempts of every challenge. I would estimate depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take around eight to twelve hours to 100% the trophy list.

There is no proper online multiplayer component, although there are online leaderboards. The online leaderboards focuses on global rankings and friends’ rankings spread across three leaderboards covering zombies killed, gatekeeper and survival with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank and name (PSN ID) with the zombies leaderboard concluding with the amount of zombies that you have killed; the Gatekeeper leaderboard concluding with the longest amount of time you have kept the zombies from entering the village; and the Survival leaderboard concluding with the highest amount of zombies you have killed during the duration of your survival.

The replayability of Draw Slasher is certainly enough to warrant the purchase with three game modes, three difficulty levels, online leaderboards and a great resonance of humour and charm from the voice-over that will certainly provide enough for you to keep on coming back for more. There is a lot of unlockable content as you progress through the game, such as unlocking more of the 24 challenges for use in the challenge mode, an alternative Samurai character once you have completed the story mode and an alternative ending for the story mode.

Overall, Draw Slasher possesses a lot of character, charm and humour that makes it a very fun and enjoyable game to play with quality visuals and ample replayability provided by unlockable content and multiple game modes with online leaderboards to add an element of competitiveness to the gameplay. If you are a fan of side scrolling, action adventure games, then Draw Slasher is very easy to recommend as you will receive a challenging, yet rewarding experience for the cheap price of just £3.99.

Jason Bonnar

At A Glance

  • Title: Draw Slasher
  • Publisher: Mass Creation
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Cross Play: No
  • Online Multiplayer: Yes (Online Leaderboards)
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 505Mb

 

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