God of Blades is a pretty special thing. On the surface, it's about running through a variety of environments and hitting things with swords, but it's inside those environments that you'll find a far more interesting tale. The previously mobile-only game of thrones that really don't look like thrones draws its main inspiration from pulp fantasy and '70s synth-prog album covers, resulting in gloriously trippy landscapes that curve and pulsate and glow like wispy cotton candy dreams. Which are the only kinds of dreams I have, frankly. A PC version's been in the cards for quite some time, but the full game's slated for early 2013. Until then, though, Slayers is a frantic Nidhogg-meets-Canabalt back-and-forth appetizer, and it's free.
The basics of the physics-based battler are pretty simple, but they build to a very fast fever pitch. In short, each player is attempting to charge to their opponent's side of the level, but they have to go through each other to make that happen. (Personally, I'd just step to the side with a polite "After you," but I guess that's why I'm not a tree-blade-wielding violence deity named Rog Bloodpuncher.) So you control one relatively wimpy foot soldier at a time, courteously trading decapitations until you either reach the other side or exhaust your supply of 25 underlings. At that point, a god comes out to play, and the tables tend to turn in hilarious brutal fashion.
Except when they don't, and those are the best moments. When one final, desperate foot soldier goes toe-to-toe with a towering embodiment of all that is sword and narrowly blocks swing-after-thunderous-swing. It's like David vs Goliath, only as interpreted by Robert Plant's lyric-writing abilities. The end result is surprisingly intense for how quickly it's all over.
It's the obvious love for pulpy zaniness, however, that kept me playing beyond a couple matches. Frankly, Slayers is extremely limited in scope (you get what you pay for, etc), but the ridiculous names it generates for champions, weapons, victory blurbs, and whatnot are brilliantly spot-on. Granted, that's not to say Slayers is quite as fleeting as its single mode, three characters, and one level suggest. Rather, it's a bit of an odd fit on PC, given that it has a fair deal of quick, simple, pass-it-around party game appeal - something of a necessity given that its multiplayer is local-only.
The much more robust God of Blades, meanwhile, will hit PC early next year. But developer White Whale decided to give everyone an early appetizer because - in the spirit of pretty much all of history's greatest pulp - why the fuck not? And also less in that spirit, friendship.
"Slayers is very rooted in Venus Patrol, in a way," studio director Jo Lammert told RPS. "White Whale originally built Slayers for Juegos Rancheros, the indie game collective here in Austin founded by Brandon, Wiley Wiggins, and Adam Saltsman. And honestly, it was Brandon Boyer who encouraged us to build it for Juegos. We were a little nervous about building a multiplayer mode from a single player designed game, but sure enough it's become an addictive, enchanting experience. We've shown it off at a couple other events curated in some way by Brandon (like Fantastic Arcade), and so in one way or another it just felt very natural for Slayers to be a part of Venus Patrol."
"Our PC version [of God of Blades] will also include Slayers, but for the time being we're excited for fans and the unfamiliar to check out this mode that has previously only been at parties and events."
It's definitely a solid taster - both in terms of quality and, for better or worse, ability to leave you wanting more. There's a lot of potential here, though, so hopefully White Whale explores it further in the future. But for now, grab some friends (yes, in person) and give it a try. Learn to hate your friends, respect your enemies, and appreciate the collected works of Yes in one go.