Reviewed by Josh Brant
I was immediately intrigued when I heard about developer Good Night Brave Warrior’s new Nintendo Switch title Sling Ming. The premise sounded completely unique and I’m happy to say that this charming little puzzle-platformer has a lot of soul.
However, behind the charming aesthetic is a daunting physics based puzzler that may be more frustrating than enjoyable, which is a shame since everything else about the title is spot on.
There's A Quake In My Boots
The story starts strongly with the Councillor, who looks a lot like one of the characters from Broken Age, introduced as one of your assistants. You play as Princess Ming as her kingdom comes under attack from an unknown force. The enemies summon strange earthquakes as their main method of attack, and I enjoyed the charismatic nature Princess Ming conveyed in dealing with this menace. She sets out, diving headfirst into one of these cracks in the earth to see what she can do about stopping the enemy.
If you’ve ever played the aforementioned Broken Age, which was released by Monkey Island creator Tim Schaefer, than the dialogue and the way it’s presented will be rather familiar. I enjoyed the clever wit and the humorous way the characters converse with one another, and it reminded me of the exceptional dialogue that accompanies the best point-and-click adventure titles. Once she finds out what she must do, Princess Ming blasts off in her spaceship to discover three lost keys in order to unlock a gate which will supposedly solve the mystery of what’s going on.
Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail
Sling Ming starts off incredibly well, with likable characters and a detailed and intriguing premise making the eventual extreme difficulty more bearable.
The gameplay has you controlling Ming with a conveyer system of nodules called the Oxylane which is introduced early in the story. This allows her to travel from point to point while tethered and swinging freely.
Gold tokens are strewn throughout each level and whilst you aren’t told to collect them, they become essential for progression later on. The same goes for the blue, nuclear helix-looking collectibles, which offer a massive challenge to acquire.
While you are told these are important, the importance isn’t conveyed enough for you to make them an essential part of your traversal, which can leave you handicapped as the game progresses.
Sling Ming is described by it's creators as a relaxing puzzle platformer, and initially that was exactly how it felt. The first few levels taught the basics of gameplay behind some gorgeous backdrops. It was quite easy, but provided enough of a challenge to feel satisfying. However, at about the fifth level Sling Ming became uncomfortably difficult, even for a Dark Souls veteran such as myself.
There are some measures that could have been put in place to negate some of the extreme difficulty, such as allowing the player to cancel a swing and return to your previous point. Once you swing there is no stopping your momentum and if you hit any hazard in the environment you die. You have to move some of the nodules to just the right places, and you would expect each swing to feel the same. Unfortunately, that was often not the case, and it lead to some seriously frustrating deaths.
When the difficulty was on point the levels felt rewarding and enjoyable, but within the first ten stages there was a level that was just so difficult I literally could not get past it. It didn’t just feel hard, it felt impossible to complete. Luckily, you can spend 25 gold coins to skip levels that are too difficult for their own good. Allowing players to buy their way out of trouble is fine I guess, but it demonstrates that the difficulty could have perhaps done with some more refining.
On a more positive note, kudos to the developer for having an outstanding soundtrack and it reminded me of Snakepass with its pleasant tone. The graphics are lovely, and the influence of Broken Age is very clear. There are times when the background art does seem a little basic, which is disappointing after how great the opening was.
Ming herself though looks great with detailed expressions and movements, and her main sidekick looks hilarious in his Day Of The Tentacle inspired wizard-like garb. There are four worlds to explore each looking entirely unique and over 50 stages to complete.
Overall, this is not your typical casual puzzle platformer, even with the cute aesthetic. If you’re a fan of brutally difficult puzzlers, Sling Ming provides more than enough content for you to sink your teeth into. If you frustrate easily - or even if you don’t - Sling Ming will test you. The story, music, and art style are great, but the core gameplay relies too heavily on luck, and it was difficult to judge your momentum with the physics. I still had a good time playing, but it may not be for everyone.
Pros & Cons
+ Gorgeous hand-drawn graphics
+ Charming story
+ Great soundtrack
- Frustrating physics-based difficulty
- Gameplay never feels intuitive