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Thursday, 5 April 2018

Review: Sling Ming


Review: Sling Ming

She may be a swinger, but she's certainly gonna make you work for it!



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Sling Ming
Good Night Brave Warrior | Nintendo Switch | Digital Only
1 Player
Reviewed by: Curtis Chapman | 5th April 2018

Developers Commentary by: Mattias Brynervall - Good Night Brave Warrior

* Review Code Provided by: Good Night Brave Warrior *





Nintendo Play is joined by Mattias Brynervall, Co-Founder of at Good Night Brave Warrior, for the included Developers Commentary.


Ride the rails (or at least get dragged from a rope behind them) in Good Night Brave Warrior’s, Sling Ming. Releasing today on Nintendo Switch eShop for £10.79, we only have one question for you; how hard do you like your puzzle games?

When developing a game, it must be hard to create a unique pitch. Even after the rise of the independent game developers taking chances on new and risky titles, ideas that were once niche and unique are now getting replicated and rehashed at an alarming rate. Good Night Brave Warrior looks like it may have found some new ground with Sling Ming, breathing life into a genre that is in need of a few new good ideas.

After a series of earthquakes threaten the citizens of the planet Topius, Princess Ming takes the initiative and sets off to investigate the cause of this sudden and strange phenomenon. With her royal advisor Iso in tow she descends into her basement only to discover the Oxylane, a long forgotten machine capable of allowing the rider to travel through areas of heavy pollution. This is achieved by donning a spacesuit-like outfit and tethering to it, to be dragged along like a ragdoll as it makes its way across its track. While riding the Oxylane to the depths of the planet, Ming discovers a possible root cause of the earthquakes, though its origins are hidden behind a giant door requiring 3 separate gem shaped keys to open. These gems rather (in)conveniently are scattered across the galaxy, so Ming sets off in attempt to gather the required gems and save the planet.

Developers Commentary
Mattias: The game mechanics were always the driving force, but we were very conscious about explaining the different concepts in ways which make sense in the fictitious game world. Too much of a dissonance between story and gameplay will break immersion. It's not easy, making a believable story about a slinging princess saving the world, but we sure tried.



Sling Ming Screenshot 1


Sling Ming’s gameplay is simple in contrast to some of the incredibly complex puzzles that are designed within. The main concept is to get Ming to the end of each screen by navigating across that particular length of the Oxylane. The Oxylane itself contains nodes scattered across it, selecting one of these nodes will cause Ming to be dragged to that particular node, swinging on her tether when she arrives due to momentum provided by the speed of that particular movement. Green nodes possess the ability to be moved along any solid connected background and changing the position of these is paramount in ensuring the Ming is able to get past the strategically placed platforms and pitfalls that block her from the exit. Dotted around each level are also coins that can be collected and traded in to skip a stage if it proves to be too much of a challenge, these also provide an added task for completionists, looking to obtain all of the coins across the entire game.

Developers Commentary
Mattias: The main mechanic - moving nodes and slinging a character between them - stayed the same throughout the project. We tried a few different approaches at making a game around that mechanic, however. In the beginning we envisioned a much faster game, focusing on speedrunning through the levels, but in the end we decided on a slower kind of puzzler instead.


Each of the games 4 planets are split up into 10 to 15 stages each, with a boss battle at the end of each set. Containing around 49 stages in total, you may find yourself initial quick to advance but the pace of the game slows down considerably when more thought must be put into the placement and timing of every node. Each planet is themed differently and contains unique puzzles and traps revolving around each planet's main elemental characteristic.

The games’ introduction level does a fantastic job of easing the player into the use of the Oxylane, the type of puzzles they will likely encounter and how to traverse the world using the physics-based movement mechanic that these challenges rely so heavily upon. The puzzles themselves increase in difficulty rapidly, with less intuitive instructions given on the more advanced techniques for whipping the princess around, techniques that quickly become a necessity to have at your disposal when navigating around oddly shaped platforms and to avoiding the frequent pitfalls during later levels. Attempting to make these manoeuvres becomes a case of more luck than judgement and requires time and patience to truly master. Those not willing to invest the time, or those not able to grasp the whole concept fully will notice their progress slowed to a halt rather quickly and frequent and infuriating deaths will sadly most likely eventually turn them off the title altogether.

Developers Commentary
Mattias: There's a lot of nuance to the gameplay and timing is crucial, but explaining how your timing impacts Ming's behaviour is tricky. There's quite a few levels designed to teach new techniques, but we deliberately didn't want to throw walls of text at the player. Rest assured that Ming's movement isn't as random as it might feel at first - with time you gain control over how she moves.



Sling Ming Screenshot 2


The title’s high definition 2D artwork is beautiful in its design, unfortunately, due to the nature of the Oxylane system, with Ming being dragged from place to place; there aren’t as many opportunities to see this lovely art animated as much as it would have been nice to see, though those moments when they are, however, certainly do not disappoint.

Featuring support for physical and touch-screen controls, the latter option feels much more intuitive and responsive when it comes to the quick succession of swings and grabs required to navigate some of the more difficult puzzles found in later stages of the game. While the game is fully playable using a controller and a necessity if you are looking to play the game in Docked Mode, it is definitely a lesser experience as a whole.

Developers Commentary
Mattias:We quite enjoy playing with a controller. It has its own strengths, like never missing a tap due to clumsy fingers or blocking the screen with your hand. The game was initially designed for touch, sure, but we spent a lot of time perfecting the controller support. Play with whatever is most comfortable for you, I guess.


As satisfying as the feeling of finally finishing this gruelling puzzler already is, Good Night Brave Warrior have also included a set of in-game achievements to test those who truly desire a challenge, with some of the hardest requiring you to blast through the entire game in under an hour, or more masochistically, complete the title while only dying less than three times. The Nintendo community is fairly split in opinion over the lack of an achievement system built into the Nintendo Switch and it is nice to see developers add extra optional challenges into their titles and the inclusion of them here, even at game level, only adds further replayability for those looking for more ways to tackle the title.

Developers Commentary
Mattias: It's a bit perplexing that Nintendo as no official support for achievements, being so widely adopted on other platforms. We decided to implement our own achievement system, as we didn't want the Switch version to be inferior in any way. Love them or hate them, but achievements are a bonus for a lot of people.



Sling Ming Screenshot 3


To summarise, Sling Ming is a challenging physics-based puzzler with a precise level design that occasionally forgets to make itself accessible enough to cater to those who do not have enough time to become adept at some of its more advanced gameplay manoeuvres. For those that do, however, the game is an enjoyable brain teaser with a cute and colourful aesthetic. If you’re a fan of puzzle games and you’re looking for something new, this should definitely be on your radar.


Many thanks to Mattias for his discussion during this review.



FOR THE WIN OR FOR THE BIN?



+ Intricate level/puzzle design.
+ Lovely 2D visuals.
+ Unique and challenging concept.

- Not enough explanation on mechanics.
- May be too challenging for some.

Verdict: Above Average – Worth a Try



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