Reviews for this game on Steam tend to fall into one of two camps: either the player liked the game, or they wanted to but just found it too frustrating. I'm kind of in the middle here on this one.
The premise, while not entirely unique (see Might & Delight's Shelter series for the quintessential forest critter experience) is executed with enough flair to make it stand out. Essentially, you're a young fawn hanging out with your parents in the forest, just doing deer stuff, when an unexpected volcanic blast brings about the deer apocalypse. Your folks, clearly too concerned with saving their own hides, leave you to catch up over the course of eight beautiful stages filled with frustration, whimsy, and plenty of long falls to your death.
The game's opening level, which more or less serves as its tutorial, immediately clues you in to how hard this game is going to be. As a warm up, you're plopped down into a pool of lava, and must jump from one island to another, or traverse narrow logs to get between them. You'll die a lot right here in this first level.
It's daunting to be sure, if for no other reason than the game's iffy tank controls and lack of controller support make it painful to line yourself up for jumps or even to walk up onto logs. It's not impassable though, and with enough perseverance you will find yourself up and out of the molten ocean and onto drier land, where different challenges await in each level you overcome.
This is one focus that I have to give Slice of Life credit for. It uses each successive stage as a way to introduce new gameplay elements, and like all good Zelda-inspired setups like this, you have to use the new knowledge to get through the level. Despite some monotony and repetitiveness, the game does its best to keep you engaged when it could have rested on its laurels and pretty graphics.
Speaking of the graphics, they are very obviously your standard fare Unity 3D assets, but they're used in a creative enough way to be enjoyable. The stages are all varied in how they look, and the animals, friend and foe, are clearly given the amount of attention not often seen in your regular cookie-cutter Unity game. So good on Tom Jackson for squeezing blood from the stone here, so to speak.
There are upkeep elements that, in my opinion, detract from the game more than they add. In most cases, I would die from hunger or thirst simply because I couldn't find the exit, because the route wasn't well defined. This would be annoying especially when I would be close to the end of a level, attempting to race against time, only to be killed because you could not, in fact, run. Luckily there are save points, and your health, thirst and hunger are reset to full after you die, though it doesn't reset when you hit a save point, which is strange but not a dealbreaker.
The game's controls are at fault, in part, to my quitting halfway through the game. Without spoiling anything, I reached a bit that I just could not get past no matter how many times I sacrificed myself in the attempt of finding a way through. I found a thread on the Steam community page where several other people had the same issue, and I added my two cents. Two days later, the developer released an update that made this section easier, which is the kind of thing that scores bonus points with any player. Alas, I still could not make it, and eventually I restarted the game so I could grab a screenshot of the first level (there's only one save spot).
With that, my life as a vagabond fawn were over, but I liked what I saw. You might have an easier go of it and more patience than I do. If so, you'll find a game in here worth your time.
You can definitely tell it's Unity but done in a proficient and creative fashion.
Relaxing soundtrack, typical nature sounds, plus the occasional sound effect that had the gain turned up too high on it and you can tell.
Tank controls using WASD with slow turning makes for controller-throwing moments. If only the game had controller support to begin with.
I have to admit I've never played a game quite like it, but the execution is just a bit too short to appreciate that enough.
PROS / CONS
- Developer responds quickly in making changes based on user feedback
- Each stage is unique in appearance
- New skills are introduced throughout the game
- Steam achievements
- Tank controls are slow and frustrating
- No controller support
- Deer glitches out at the edges of cliffs
- Sound effects occasionally grate because they are sampled poorly