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April 2024

Slaycation Paradise

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action
Publisher: Merge Games
Developer: Merge Games
Release Date: Aug. 18, 2022


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PC Review - 'Slaycation Paradise'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 24, 2022 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Are you tired of the same boring old vacations? Slaycation Paradise offers the ultimate in multi-dimensional apocalyptic tours. Slay away your worries with twin-stick action mixed with tower defense as you visit the end-of-world scenarios of your dreams!

The twin-stick shooter is easy to pick up and play and easy to have fun with, provided you aren't looking for tons of nuance. The tower defense strategy game is easy to learn but requires a little more thought to master it. The concept of combining the two isn't new to PC players, as some will be reminded of early indie efforts like Yet Another Zombie Defense, a game that was loved well enough to get a graphically updated version after a few years. Slaycation Paradise expands upon this concept, and while it doesn't nail it perfectly, the attempt produces something fun.

In an alternate version of the 1960s, portal research was underway to further local and interdimensional travel. It was eventually achieved, and while the goal was to eventually gain access to an infinite cache of resources and wealth, ethics restricted the technology to only legally work on versions of Earth that were already on the brink of destruction. To continue to profit from the technology, several companies banded together to create apocalypse vacations, where you visit these worlds and blow things up to your heart's content — and only pay a small resurrection fee if you die.

While Slaycation Paradise starts off with an introduction to a tale filled with dark humor that compensates for human greed, the rest of the game abandons the backdrop. You're not going to help uncover a grand conspiracy or change things for the better through your travels, and you aren't going to save a world or take down a company. You might meet some interesting individuals who add some atmosphere, but your goal is to simply take a destructive vacation and keep coming back for more, whether you live or die.

As mentioned earlier, the core gameplay is a mix of twin-stick shooter and tower defense. You can arm two guns at one time, each with their own triggers, but they can't be shot at the same time. You have infinite ammo, but you do have to reload your clips like a modern shooter, and that slows down the action a bit. Guns range from normal offerings like pistols and submachine guns to more exotic things, like railguns and a cat launcher. You also have a melee weapon at your disposal for crowd control, and that also covers a wide range from katanas to shock sticks. On the tower defense side, you can build anything from turrets to launchpads to drive back the hordes, and scrap can be plundered from the environment to build that stuff.

The core gameplay is buoyed by loot and upgrade systems. For the former, you'll always find new weapons or turrets on the field of varying levels and stats. It doesn't reach the ridiculous levels of Borderlands, but it's sizable enough that you'll constantly turn weapons to scrap because of slight damage differences. Aside from finding actual weapons, you'll run into blueprints that let you craft new items, so you aren't always relying on a lucky drop to get what you want. For the latter, weapons can be upgraded if you have the cash, so a bit of grinding can go a long way to making a shotgun, the most powerful gun in your arsenal. If you save up enough to buy another ticket, you'll gain access to new moves like a dodge or perks like starting with more scrap or faster reloading. Both systems do a good job as far as feeling significant, so there's actual incentive to grind levels multiple times aside from the sheer joy of shooting.

The duo of twin-stick shooting and tower defense works well, but the game tries to mix up things a bit. While your main goal for most of the stages boils down to finding a portal and holding out until it activates, some levels ask you to hunt down specific creatures. Other levels ask you to survive with specific weapons or turrets. Each world offers a general side mission to discover landmarks, which are useful because you get bonus perks for finding more. Some missions also give you an AI companion to play with; the companions are often competent and rarely require you to save them.

The formula may be simple and fun, but it is by no means perfect. Slaycation Paradise only features five worlds to play in, and while those worlds are fine on their own, the concept is begging for more messed-up worlds. Players looking for a bit of spontaneity will be disappointed that the only differences in re-running the same level come from the increase in horde difficulty. It means you'll be intimately familiar with the map by the time you reach a world's later missions, but those looking for randomized resources or enemy placement won't find it here. Perhaps the biggest misstep is the game's lack of multiplayer. Even though some missions have you going around with at least one AI companion, there's no option to play with another person, online or locally. The core gameplay loop seems perfect for multiplayer co-op, and not having it feels like a big, missed opportunity to give the game more legs and playtime.

The overall presentation is good enough. The characters are presented in a good size, so they aren't tiny and don't take up too much of the screen, giving the camera plenty of space to show where the hordes are coming from. The game is more than capable of displaying a ton of enemies and particle effects on-screen with no hint of slowdown. The only graphical knock is that there are times when you can't tell if the current environment is traversable. On the audio side, the game features no voices, but the gun effects come through nicely. While the soundtrack sometimes goes for cheese (like in the hotel lobby), it provides some excellent action beats when the situation calls for it.

The short gameplay loop makes the game a perfect fit for the Steam Deck, and those with the device will be happy to know that it works well there, with no need to ferret out the correct version of Proton. While the game doesn't feature too many graphical options, you'll easily get 60fps out of it at all times, no matter what's happening on-screen. With every option on, that should last you roughly three hours, which is pretty good.

In the end, Slaycation Paradise is a fun game, provided you're willing to overlook some of its shortcomings. The short gameplay loop works well enough, and the variety of objectives stops the game from falling into a rut. More levels would've been nice, and multiplayer would've been even nicer. For those looking for a little more out of their twin-stick shooters, Slaycation Paradise scratches the itch well if you're fine with the lack of levels and multiplayer.

Score: 7.0/10

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