words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Halcyon Softworks for PC and Xbox 360, originally released in 2012.
Slick is a game that you may not be able to complete, but the same can also be said for any number of 8-bit platformers that this game takes after. In both design and appearance, the game is modeled after a greyscale GameBoy title, except with much higher resolution, widescreen display, and no blur, similar to Ishisoft’s Treasure Treasure: Fortress Forage: Extra Edition.

The basic gameplay is simple, with only a directional stick and JUMP button at your disposal, but your mastery of these basic mechanics is constantly challenged across the game’s 100 levels. The difficulty curve is gradual, but its apex is high, requiring the firm application of old school skills, or at least the tenacity to stick with the game until you have acquired them.

Things start out very simply. World 1-1 is reminiscent of World 1-3 in Super Mario Bros., with floating blocks over bottomless pits, turtle-like enemies patrolling left and right, and (non-interactive) plateaus on sticks sitting in the background. The player is equipped with a higher than average 3x non-variable jump, and nothing else. No new skills are learned during the adventure, and most of what you need to know about the game occurs in the first few levels.

You start out with a few different types of enemies. White turtle-like enemies pace back and forth and can be destroyed in a single stomp. Grey turtles are invincible, but they let you perform continuous short hops on their backs, essentially making them moving platforms that can be used for such things as getting past a row of spikes. Then there are the spiked turtle enemies that will kill you outright if you touch them. Variations on these enemy flavors appear throughout the game.

The goal in each level is to simply make it to the end without being killed. There is no score, no timer, and no ranking system, and you are given infinite lives. Levels are only slightly wider than the screen, so you’re able to see most of what’s coming before getting started. You can view enemy patrol routes and the placement of deadly objects such as spikes and floating fireballs, essentially letting you plan your path. Looking a bit ahead is advisable since getting killed forces you back to the start of the level with all enemies returned to play. Levels are short, so you won’t have much ground to retread, but they’re also difficult, which means that there are many places for you to fail.

Like the platformers of old, you must try-die-try your way through the game, training your hands to learn the levels as you attempt to get further on your next attempt. Getting frustrated is a fast way to send yourself into a series of silly mistakes that will only frustrate you further. You must apply your skills carefully and precisely, and with patience whenever possible. This is one of those games where you may struggle for several minutes trying to get through a particular challenge, only to set the controller down for a while, return later, and complete it on your first attempt.

Many of the challenges ask that you keep your reflexes sharp. For instance, falling down between rows of fireballs or spikes requires that you move the stick to the left and right quickly, taking into account your falling acceleration. If you are on your game, you can perform this task multiple times without much risk for failure. Allow frustration to get the better of you, however, and you could easily die a dozen times in succession.

The player must regularly make precision jumps and be careful about timing his interactions with enemies. Some enemies are in place to add a bit of challenge, others are there to make it more difficult to line up a jump, and others still must be bounced on precisely in order to cross a gap or avoid an obstacle. In addition, the player must use age-old advanced platforming techniques, such as waiting until the last possible moment before making a jump. Many of the more difficult jumps require a run-up and pixel-perfect timing to execute. Yes, this is a game where you are considered to be standing on a platform so long as a single pixel is touching it.

The game’s 100 levels are divided into 5 worlds with 20 levels each, ranging from the pastoral world of Sky Slicker, to the desert of Sahara Slicker, to the stones of Slicker Sanctuary, to the warfare world of Skirmish Slicker, and finally to the ultimate test of your skills in the fiery world of Suffering Slicker. The pace of the game is such that the difficulty gradually increases across 19 levels, followed by a very easy 20th level that acts as a transition from one world to the next. The first level of the next world offers a bit of a break in terms of overall difficulty, but things quickly escalate and exceed former heights.

Each world introduces new gameplay. Early on, you’ll encounter trampolines that send you upward at high speeds to nearly the full height of the screen. But later, you’ll have to trampoline upward while dodging around rows of fireballs and attempting to make a landing on an enemy-occupied platform. Then you’ll find quicksand in which you must jump repeatedly to avoid being pulled down to your death… only to encounter situations later where you must purposely allow yourself to be pulled downward – but not too low – and then time your jumps properly to navigate beneath obstacles. Falling platforms are a genre staple, but here they not only drop very quickly, but also reduce your jump height from 3x to 1x, requiring careful planning when attempting to avoid enemies and obstacles.

Enemies continue to appear in the killable, invincible, and outright deadly varieties, although their forms and abilities are changed somewhat. For instance, the second world introduces a shadowy humanoid character that is not only much quicker than other enemies, but it can also hop from one platform to another along a prescribed route. Some enemies retain the simple left-to-right patrol routes but are more resilient to damage, such as the scorpions in the desert world that require 3 hits to destroy, or the stone giants in the sanctuary that require 5. And even this design is used to strategic effect. Where the invincible gray turtles of World 1 allowed infinite hops to cross over dangers, you now have to keep track of how many hops you can make before your enemy assistant is destroyed.

In Slick, hardly a is pixel wasted when it comes to the level design, and rarely will you encounter any object or enemy that does not have a direct impact on gameplay. Completion of each level is almost always restricted to a specific path of travel that will put you at odds with every enemy and obstacle along the way. Challenges cannot be circumvented, cheated, or otherwise simplified; they must be overcome through the player’s skill and perseverance. This one is tough.

Slick was developed by Halcyon Softworks, comprised of one young developer named Kyle Hershey, and this was his first commercial release. The music is an original score by John W. Cleary, a Music Composition student at Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music in New York. After the release of Slick, the studio went on to create smaller scale games with considerably shorter development cycles, often only a matter of weeks. These releases include the reflection-based puzzler Reflector and the retro styled auto runner Super Sprint Commando Extreme