Yeah, that’s the full title. I don’t know what ‘Terminal Aftermath’ means either. For brevity’s sake, we’ll just call it Slayers X. It began back in the distant year of 1998, scribbled down in a high schooler’s notebook, and has now been released onto the information super highway. That means Slayers X has technically been in development for twenty four years. Ten years longer than Duke Nukem Forever. Big Z Studios Inc. should get on the phone to Guinness. Or not, as the developer, ‘Zane’, is a fictional character from the game Hypnospace Outlaw. Ah well.
Fake or not, this lengthy development period makes Slayers X feel like something of a time capsule. It encapsulates the more ridiculous parts of the late nineties and early 2000s. Paired with that is a respect for shooters of the time and Slayers X slots into the ‘Boomer Shooter‘ genre nicely. Though, given the year it supposedly started development, I guess it would be more of a ‘Millennial Shooter’.
Smells Like Slayer Spirit
Slayers X opens with a scene straight out of a music video. Our hero, Zane, trains with his master while Zane’s girlfriend talks into a phone with a voice that indicates she’s dead inside. The cutscene is deliberately apeing that 90s art style, where 3D was fashionable but the tech wasn’t there to support it. So everyone looks like pixelated plasticine. It’s great. Then Zane’s apartment gets blown up, along with his mother. Which is less great. It does explain the aforementioned ‘vengance’ though.
Zane’s wrath is directed at the ‘Psykos’, a needle-loving group of purple jerks. Killing them is super entertaining. We begin with dual pistols, a personal favourite of mine, but steadily move through the usual suspects, ending with the rocket launcher. With the possible exception of the pistols, the weapons all sound and feel great. What’s more, enemies react appropriately to being hit. Pair it with a soundtrack that ramps up when enemies appear and you’ve got an exciting time. Slayers X knows how to get the blood pumping.
It also has some clever spins on the usual weapon line-up. The shotgun, for example, was a favourite of mine. Rather than firing boring old shells, it fires out broken glass. Leaving aside how painful it would be to reload, this is a genius idea. Glass is gathered by breaking windows, so as long as you’re near a building, you still have ammo. That saved my bacon a few times. The other big trick up Slayers X‘s sleeve is ‘Hack Blood’, which is a magical green force than you can fire out of the impractically designed S-Blade. Oh yeah, we’re a hacker as well because of course we are.
Slaying In The Name
In case you forgot, this game began as scribblings in a fictional sixteen year-old’s notebook. That brings us neatly on to the humour. I’d say that Slayers X is funny, but there are a number of asterisks attached to that. The funniest parts for me were the abrupt sentences (for example, Zane’s mum is pronounced dead in a sudden news report) and the childish taunts from Zane himself. It feels like a teenager on voice chat. The second half of the game descends into a stream of poop jokes, though. Fitting for the teenage vibe, but if your tastes aren’t scatalogical, then it does tend to grate a wee bit. Still, when it got away from that, it did give me a good few chuckles.
The poop spills over into the combat too. A major enemy type is a big poop that spits corn. Edmund McMillen would be proud. The enemy variety is actually pretty good. Basic purple guys with guns give way to giggling clown heads and werewolf clones of your late girlfriend. There’s even a big floating lad that looks like a Cacodemon decided to accessorise. It’s nice, but the variety does highlight how dull the scenery looks in comparison. The occasional grass areas are a standout but most of the time it’s gunmetal grey or depressing brown. It’s a curse of the chosen artstyle, I think.
Same with everything looking very boxy. I can’t mark it down too much as that’s what the genre demands but it’s a shame the boat wasn’t pushed out a bit more. In fact, a few old issues were trapped in this time capsule. There are occasional platforming sections, for example, which feel clunky and frustrating. The final boss is a particular thorn in the side for this. What’s more, the AI is pretty thick. You have to be right next to them for them to agro, even if you’ve just shot a handful of glass into their mate’s face. Given the high range of the pistols, it made fights very easy to clear without anyone noticing me.
Black Hole Slayer
It’s worth re-iterating that nothing about Slayers X is meant to be taken seriously. It’s a spin-off starring a character that could be the crystallised essence of the early 2000s. Take the spelling, for example. Discounting the typo of ‘Vengeance’ in the title, a good number of signs were misspelled throughout. It honestly added to the whole ‘sixteen-year-old high school fever dream’ feel. Hell, the final boss is a giant flying face that you fight with a big green laser beam while it talks about having sex with your mum. We’re clearly not on planet sensible here. It’s a world dreamt up by a teenager in the late nineties, after all, who has little to no idea how the world works.
All Slayers X really needed to nail was the moment-to-moment gameplay and it succeeded. The guns are fun to use, the enemies are fun to shoot and it has a big green laser beam that you can pull out when you’re in a bind. That meant it could sit there and revel in its own childish cheese. Slayers X sat down in ’98 and refused to grow up, leading to a chaotic explosion of broken glass and laser beams. As time capsules go, this one isn’t half bad. Better than a Furby and a copy of Definitely Maybe, anyway.