Developer: Bread Machine
Publisher: Bread Machine
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Disclaimer: A code for the game was provided by the developer for review purposes.
Slam Land easily draws inspiration from games that have come before it. NBA Jam and Super Smash Bros. seem like they were at the core of Slam Land‘s development. Aerial dodges, zooming cameras, and combat-centric platforming are a familiar experience for anyone that has played Super Smash Bros. You’ll also recognize over-the-top dunkin’ and even an “on fire” animation once you’ve slammed consecutive times.
At face value, all of the aforementioned descriptions of Slam Land would make it out to be everything that I’d want to play in a game. You’ve got a fun, arcade-style party game where you slam your friends into a giant wormlike creature. Or, you grab a hold of a peanut and watch the point counter increase while you hold onto it. All of these mini-games accompany a charismatic and vivid aesthetic that is nothing short of impressive. However, when you stand back and look at the overall product that is Slam Land, there isn’t much else to really marvel at.
There are four main modes in Slam Land: Slam Tour, Horse, Peanut, and Trash. Horse mimics a traditional game of Horse, having you collect letters H-O-R-S-E one at a time in order to spell out the word “HORSE.” During Peanut, you’ll grab onto the peanut in a hot-potato style mode, where the potential score increases the longer you hold onto it or it bounces around the stage. Trash is a game where small piles of trash appear as you attempt to stack them up and slam them in. The more you stack, the higher the point value you can gain from them. And finally, the Slam Tour brings all of these game modes together where you compete for a running total that beats out your opponents’ scores.
There’s a certain precision that comes along with games like Super Smash Bros. Hitboxes for characters have been refined time and time again. Mid-air grabs, dodges, and jumps are all part of your moveset outside of combat. Slam Land features similarities when platforming and grabbing opponents, but it does so with far less finesse and precision.
When in the air you can push the R button to dodge. On the ground, pushing it will do a roll in order to move past opponents. The Y button grabs (which is like a lunging grab) while the B button jumps. Grabbing an opponent mid-air allows you to either toss them towards an open basket or dunk them. I found the control scheme for this mildly frustrating because the button combinations do not mesh well. Slamming starts to feel remotely comfortable after a few times through, but it lacks the feeling of fluidity and fun of just jumping, grabbing and slamming with a cumbersome arrow that must be directed at your destination.
When you’ve played through these modes, you can always increase the difficulty level of the AI. Matches start to become more hectic and stressful as the difficulty is cranked up. Well… when the AI isn’t endlessly running into walls. This happened on more than a few occasions, just as I was starting to make a run for first place. The AI Toober character was just running endlessly into a platform. This happened multiple times in different matches. Other times, the AI just simply stood still and didn’t move. This happened during a game of Trash. This allowed me to grab as many trash piles as I could and slam them in. This took every bit of fun out of the match, leaving me to simply quit and come back to the game at a later time.
There is something special in Slam Land‘s visual design and unique art style. The character models are original, quirky, and fun to look at. The overall concept of the game is something that seems like it would be a lot of fun, especially from the genres and games that it seems to draw inspiration from.
The controls often left me wanting more in terms of precision. Prior to the game’s release, the trailers that featured gameplay made it seem more akin to something like NBA Jam. Slam Land lacks the precision and mechanics to make it stand out as a game that progresses the genre.
When you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, Slam Land is a local-only party game with a genuinely likable art style and a great concept. The audio is bouncy, fun, and accompanies the game’s overall feel. Other than that, it really doesn’t have much else going for it.
A console gamer gone rogue. Collector of retro games, pun and dad joke enthusiast. My spotify playlists are out of control. Rocket League anyone?