Brutal and cute are two words you don’t often see together. Perhaps when some weirdo is talking about Harley Quinn, or when my five year old lays a sick burn on her daddy-o, and maybe when we’re talking about Slide Quest. This fresh release from Blue Orange Games is every bit brutal and every bit cute.
Describing this one almost feels stupid. There’s this plastic knight with a ball bearing in his keister. There’s a cardstock board that sits in a plastic frame that lays just inside the bottom of the box. We all have little yellow levers that support the frame.
Now, the knight is placed on his starting position and we must cooperate to shift the angle of the playing surface so that he rolls. You want the teeny Monty Python reject to follow a lit path, skipping across the beautiful illustration while avoiding pot-holes of death. Sometimes you have to angle around a 3D fence or boulder, maybe even pass deftly through a stone arch.
It immediately feels like you’re playing those old wooden labyrinth games where you guide a marble down corridors and avoid the holes. I made this exact comparison in my Shaky Manor review and it’s even more apt here. Blue Orange must have a thing for the Goblin King.
But this game is a more interesting release than Shaky Manor. It’s more difficult, requiring a bit of practice and dedication. Your first few plays will go something like this:
“Jim, I’m going to tip it your way and you need to ease up when he’s coming down the hill and apply the break.”
“Right on, got it.”
“Jim, now Jim, Jim!”
The knight dies and someone flips their lever in disgust throwing pieces everywhere.
Well, not that last bit. After your initial struggle it all becomes easier. You begin to develop coordination among the four limbs angling the field and it all makes sweet kinetic sense.
Then you progress to the next level.
The brilliance of Slide Quest is its singular mechanism, but the underrated clever found in its development is equally noteworthy. This thing comes with 20 levels. When you sit down to play you’re expected to traverse five of them. If you fall into one of those holes you lose a life and reset, attempting it all over again. Of course, the goal is to run the gauntlet and make it through all five levels before the sounds of “game over” echo through your skull.
What really works here is the sense of progression. As you grow in skill the maps grow in difficulty. Your first journey will be a simple path that feels rough enough, but soon you will feel like a board-tilting master ready to claim your merit badge and pump fist in victory. Then you see your first stick of dynamite.
Dynamite are red cylinders that get in your way. Some maps feature them like nagging obstacles ready to trip you up and kick sand in your eye. They can be bumped and even move about, but if they tip over then ka-boom! There goes a life.
Then you have guards. These are other diminutive dudes wanting you to get off their lawn. You typically need to knock them into a hole in the board by pushing them with your knight. Sometimes you need to knock them into a specific hole matching the number on their jazzy uniform. Finally, there’s a boss piece that must be tackled last, again, shoved into the bog of eternal stench and spat upon for good measure.
Things get rough in a hurry. By level 20 the maps are covered in 75% holes. All you can do is look in the box and eyeball the hellish surface mumbling to yourself, “someday…”
Don’t completely fret because there is relief. When choosing your five levels you can go low or high. You must select 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, or 16-20. They each possess an arc of escalating difficulty which bestows a bit of morbid charm on the proceedings.
This is a game I’m kind of smitten with as a hilarious yet frivolous activity. It’s so light-weight and charming that it makes an excellent family game. The catch is that it may struggle to remain relevant.
Despite an excellent assortment of levels and legitimate depth, the actual game itself is not something that’s going to wrap around your skull and demand more. It’s the type of thing you break out to show someone who thinks Gen Con is four days of playing Monopoly.
The hardest of core will likely give it a shot and crack a smile, and that’s it. They will be fine never playing Slide Quest again. It shares sort of a parallel course to Magic Maze as the two have much in common. They’re sort of ridiculous physical activities that are novel but may become repetitive. The type of person that wants to explore and come back to this silliness is the one who will find life in this amusing contraption.
There’s also a noticeable lack of clarity in the rulebook for a key aspect of the game. As you’re sliding along the path and progressing towards the finish line, you will run into these little heart icons off yonder. If you can cross those hearts you will gain a life, which is of course fantastic. However, the rulebook doesn’t really address how one legally does this.
The issue is that you’re expected to stay on the path and not stray from it. If you allow someone to wander around then they could simply circumvent some of the challenges by taking the most direct route and avoiding the obstacles. It’s not too difficult to deduce that one is allowed to leave the path for a heart but must immediately return to the exact position they left, however this lack of precision is slightly befuddling.
Another minor point of contention is that there will be maps where one player may find themselves rarely used. The direction traveled may favor a subset of players and others will receive less sweet lever-action. This issue is insignificant in the greater picture as a single level will likely only last a few minutes. Those moments when you get stuck on a particular challenge and need to spend a lengthier time maneuvering around a sticky situation will likely require a coordinated group effort and all hands.
One burning question you likely have is does the game play well with less than four participants? It does, imperfectly. You will have to divvy out the extra levers to a player or two, requiring them to think quickly and balance two planes of thought. It’s more challenging and there’s some increased pressure on the multi-taskers. yet it is do-able and certainly can be an enjoyable time worth exploring.
For a quirky novelty, Slide Quest has some fight. It offers a full experience built with an extended arc of challenge, even if most participants won’t likely take it up on the offer. Yet even those who won’t commit for the long haul will likely enjoy a few rounds and leave the table with a smile and a nod.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
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