Slide Stars is so painfully close to being a competent game it hurts. Everything is stacked against it. It takes 20+ social media influencers and places them on a water slide for you to complete without causing too many crashes and collecting various stars on your way. Some good ideas are marred by weird level design, inconsistent controls and a slightly bitter taste in your mouth from the characters themselves.
Played with either 1 or 2 players, Slide Stars is a Wipeout styled obstacle course. You choose your character and rubber float and take the slide. Moving the left stick moves your character and increases speed and then you can jump and spin to leap over obstacles and hazards. A lot of the game revolves around momentum. Get enough speed and you’ll fly far and that can open up various different paths to reach the end of the level. Doing so will give you some coins to buy customisation items and each level has three goals to achieve. These give you level upgrades which unlock new characters. You also have star segments across each level which if you collect them all will also unlock things too.
The 26 levels are a weird mix of different difficulties and challenges. Some are open and flowing, others are tight and like a minefield. The open and flowing levels don’t last for long though as the controls become a bit iffy. The jumping is hugely inconsistent as you either move hugely forward, nothing at all or just a tiny dribble. It makes being precise nearly impossible and when that is required in the last couple of levels, it is infuriating. There is a level with some water wheels on it and trying to jump from wheel to wheel is more luck than judgement. This floaty or everything control scheme is made more annoying by various water jets. These send you blasting off at high speed but then as soon as you are out of range, you seem to stop moving automatically unless you are trying to push yourself forward – in mid air. It is confusing and even after I had completed the game I still didn’t feel like I had grasped how the physics really worked in the game.
The level design doesn’t help this either. Often low ceilings mean you hit your head on them and fall off the float. The same issue applies to slide and flips – they don’t really line up in a satisfying way. The result means each level is a stop and start affair. There is little flow and the difficulty doesn’t rise either, it seems to flip flop from level to level. There are also boss levels at the end of the two worlds but you don’t actually do anything with them. The octopus just throws his tentacles about and stares at you… then submerges and you float passed it. A missed opportunity.
The other really off-putting vibe is the way the social media influencers are placed in the game. All the girls (and most of the guys) are really skimpily clad whilst Instagram quotes like ‘believe in yourself’ pass by the bottom of the screen. ‘Have a healthy diet!’ says another. None of these ‘celebs’ have anything worthwhile saying and their profile is all about pushing the gamer to their social media pages. Its a weird barrage of extreme positivity without actually saying anything at all – whilst posing in a bikini or shorts looking improbably toned. The target audience for this game is their tween market and it just doesn’t sit quite right.
Is it all bad though? Not at all – and that is what makes it painful. The concept is quite fun in principle and there is a neat game mechanic in the levels too. Each level has multiple paths which are opened up by matching the influencers area of content to the level. So a level may have fitness, music and fashion gates and you’ll only unlock those additional routes by using characters who have those traits. This is most useful for collecting the star fragments and it offers replayability. Outside of that though, this is a tepid game that is more focused on the influencer product placement than actually being a great game.
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