It may only be September, but it's Halloween to me! And it seems I'm not the only that feels that way. Developed and published by Minor Key Games, Slayer Shock is the latest game in their collection of criminally underrated titles such as Eldritch and Neon Struct.
As soon as you start up Slayer Shock, you're thrust into a tutorial that intentionally misleads in its tone. Beginning with a dark track accompanied by creepy ambiance, it seems this another dark and gritty horror game. It's not until you kill your first vampire minion, the "Slayer Shock" title logo appears, and the song changes into a more fun and campy track that you realize Slayer Shock is a horror comedy in the same vein as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Evil Dead 2.
As for the actual story, there isn't much to say. You play as a nameless vampire huntress battling droves of vampires and other ghouls of the night out of your coffee shop HQ to save a fictional representation of Lancaster, Nebraska. The characters that work with you from your HQ don't really serve any purpose besides selling you weapons and abilities. You have the option to talk to them, and most of the time they will tell you what they are thinking or how they are feeling, but it's pointless when they are just walking vending machines.
The exclusion of a traditional narrative actually didn't bother me. The atmosphere and gameplay it had to offer is what kept me hooked. Of course a story, regardless of how campy it could have been, would have been nice, but Slayer Shock is a game that lends itself more to the actual gameplay rather than the story. You can actually customize your huntress a bit. Inside your coffee shop headquarters, there is a mirror that allows you to change your hand skin color and nail color. Not quite as in depth as Eldritch, but a welcome addition nonetheless.
Slayer Shock's graphics are stylized similarly to Eldritch and Neon Struct. That isn't bad, but it isn't anything impressive. Minor Key Games remembered that they were developing a game, and not an interactive movie, so photo-realistic visuals were not necessary. The gameplay is why you're here and it does not disappoint.
If you've played Eldritch, you'll feel right at home with Slayer Shock. If you haven't played Eldritch, shame on you. Slayer Shock expertly combines stealth, shooter, and RPG elements into one well made package.
Having adopted the surprisingly in depth stealth mechanics from Neon Struct, Slayer Shock can be completed entirely in stealth. Being able to hear not only your footsteps, but your enemy's footsteps as well should be a staple of any stealth game. Sadly, that isn't the case for most games that claim to be stealth orientated. Luckily, Minor Key Games knew better. Some missions even recommend using stealth and even encourage it by offering more rewards for completing the missions stealthily. Stealth is always optional though, so there is no need to fret if stealth isn't your thing.
Perhaps a bloodbath is more of your style? Fear not, Slayer Shock features enough blood to make even Sam Raimi jealous. To achieve this, you've gotta go on a loud assault. Instead of traditional firearms, you are equipped with some unique weaponry. Instead of a handgun, you have a nail gun. Instead of an assault rifle, you have a repurposed child's dart gun. Vampires hate holy water, but how are you supposed to spray them with it? With a squirt gun, of course! There are still weapons you'd come to expect like a stake, a crossbow, and even a katana. You start off with only one weapon slot for your stake, but can later upgrade to four slots using Slayer Shock's currency: vampire dust.
Lite RPG elements often find themselves into almost every game nowadays, but are usually pointless. That is and isn't true for Slayer Shock. The skills you acquire from your mentor are well thought out and necessary to better yourself as a vampire slayer, but other skills and accessories you can buy from other vendors are usually pointless. I only found myself buying these unnecessary skills after I bought all of the useful skills and all the weapons when I kept accumulating large amounts of vampire dust. It was still a nice option though.
The mission structure is well done and allows the player to tackle missions in whatever order they like. This adds a level of strategic managing because if you decide to put off a mission for too long, the threat level will rise and cause the enemies to become stronger and more plentiful. Slayer Shock does feature boss fights and does so in a unique way. Eventually, a boss will begin to appear in the missions you are tackling and force you to fight them, but will quickly disappear before you can kill them. You will need to pay one of your crew members a large sum of vampire dust to track down the boss. From there you can fight and kill him. The actual boss fights are unimpressive and are essentially just fighting a stronger version of the enemies you've been fighting for hours.
My only real complaint about Slayer Shock is the respawning enemies. It makes sense for some games to have respawning enemies, but not ones like this. Respawning enemies are what kept games like System Shock and its sequel from being perfect. It may not seem like a huge issue, but it gets incredibly frustrating trying to finish a mission stealthily when the room you just cleared out keeps getting repopulated every time you turn around. It's not really a problem if you plan on disregarding stealth altogether though.
It took almost 20 years, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer finally got a good video game in the form of Slayer Shock. 2016 has been a disappointing year for gaming, and the fact that an indie game such as this is able to give the AAA industry a run for their money in terms of quality is really saying something. Nevertheless, Slayer Shock is actually one of my personal contenders for game of the year. Despite a few hiccups, Slayer Shock is definitely worthy of your time.