The variety of enemies is one of Draw Slasher's strongest selling points. I half expected this game to recycle the same color-swapped ninja, and yet Draw Slasher impresses with an army of uniquely designed enemies.
There is no denying what we are witnessing happen on PSN. Indie games are reigning supreme over bigger budgeted titles, and the digital space is more accessible to consumers and developers than it’s ever been. What’s happening behind that is an entirely new layer of mobile OS developers interested in porting their iOS and Android games over to Vita for its physical buttons, either natively or through PlayStation Mobile. Draw Slasher is not on Vita for its physical buttons. This iOS port has done it right by doubling the amount of content and making it look good on the Vita’s 5″ OLED screen.
Draw Slasher is a 2D side-scrolling swipe-action game that has you performing a slicing motion with your finger across the front touch screen to dispatch an onslaught of Pirate Monkey Zombies. It’s important to note that Draw Slasher may at times feel like a Fruit Ninja clone when in fact the first Draw Slasher game was released October 2009, half a year before Fruit Ninja did in April 2010. Now that you know, Draw Slasher has a Story mode, Challenges mode with 24 challenges, and an Arcade mode containing the Gatekeeper and Survival modes which I’ll go into detail a little lower into the review. There is even online global and friend leaderboards proudly displaying your total zombies killed, best GateKeeper time, and best Survival score.
In Story mode, you play as Hanzo, a young ninja apprentice. He is walking home from ninja training camp when he crosses paths with a mad horde of Pirate Monkey Zombies. I was intrigued by the story more than expected and the short cutscenes are kinda funny at times. The most entertaining part was hearing Sensei speak. Mass Creation made him sound like Yoda, and it’s actually a pretty good impression. While plaything through the story, you’ll unlock five different jutsu’s: Earth, Fire, Lightning, Fury, and Wind. Killing enemies fills a Ki Energy gauge in the HUD. When that’s full, just pinch the screen and swipe any available jutsu ability. Each jutsu allows Hanzo to kill specific enemies as well as get the upper hand in frenzied situations.
After the initial tutorial, Draw Slasher introduces the player to the Dojo screen where skill points earned while killing loads of Pirate Monkey Zombies can be spent on upgrading Hanzo’s max health and stamina gauge. Skill points can also be used to upgrade the Ninjutsu abilities. Getting a long running slash combo or killing multiple enemies in one slash will quickly fill the LVL gauge at the top right of the screen. Leveling up is something that happened quite frequently during my initial Store mode playthrough. At the time of this writing, I am nearing level 44 during my second Story playthrough.
The first thing everyone will notice after booting up Draw Slasher is that it uses the front touch screen exclusively for all menu and gameplay input, with the exception of the Start button to pause and Select button to access the Dojo menu. With a tap of my finger, Hanzo quickly darts across the screen. A touch and hold input makes him run continuously. Each battle area was surprisingly small, about the width of a Street Fighter level or II. Enemies will randomly spawn from from the left or right side of the screen, and also from the darkness in the backdrop of each level. A Pirate Monkey Zombie can all of a sudden be standing right next to you, chomping on your head without warning.
The variety of enemies is one of Draw Slasher’s strongest selling points. I half expected this game to have the same color-swapped ninja appear throughout the game, and yet Draw Slasher impresses with an army of uniquely designed enemies. Each of which has there own introduction into the game in the form of a mini-challenge level teaching the rules to dispatching them properly. Because every enemy past the first three has a defined rule to killing them, much like Glass Joe’s enemies in Punch-Out! Some enemies can only be hit from behind, some only when standing still, but each has a unique weakness.
One such enemy is the hulking Frankenstein that towers over Hanzo. He wears body armor that covers different parts of his body each time he comes out to play, shifting his vulnerable spot from his exposed head to his unprotected abdomen There is even a variant wearing head-to-toe armor plating. Hanzo’s normal attacks can’t penetrate the thick armor plating and instead lightly stun him. This is how Draw Slasher teaches the gamer how and when to use the Ninjutsu abilities.
You can’t have a ninja game without crazy boss battles and zombified bosses are no exception. Draw Slasher found a way to make each boss fight unique and original. There is the octopus guy who would slam his tentacles into the ground. I then had to avoid them when they would dart back out from beneath Hanzo’s feet by tapping the screen frantically to move him left to right. Other boss fights incorporated platforming-like jumping challenges. One such level plays out like Donkey Kong where a bunch of barrels are rolling and bouncing downhill forcing me to execute skilled dashes and arching swipes or face being knocked back down the hill. I wish I could tell you about the original hell I went through playing the final boss without spoiling anything.
What’s there to do after the Story mode is through? After beating it the first time, I unlocked the Samurai character for use in Challenges and Arcade modes and New Game+ for replaying the story while continuing to level up. Having reached level 41 by the end of my first playthrough, this was quite a welcomed feature. Anytime I want a break from the story, I can jump out and go for a three-flame rating (like 3-stars in Angry Birds) for all 24 challenges to acquire the prestigious “36th Chamber” gold trophy. Arcade mode also offers a change a pace with Gatekeeper, a nod to tower defense games without the towers, and Survival which is fairly straight forward.
My verdict is simple: Draw Slasher is a gem of a game that has held my attention much longer than I anticipated. The touch only gameplay is actually a breath of fresh air amongst the 99% of physical button games on Vita, and it’s done well. The touch is accurate and quick. The Story mode is paced perfectly and the boss fights are properly challenging to any seasoned Vita gamer. I especially appreciate the variety of hand drawn enemies, the precision slicing of their body parts, and subtle tributes to other franchises like Fruit Ninja, Donkey Kong and Star Wars. With a $5.99 price tag, online leaderboards and enough replay value in the Challenges and Arcade mode to keep Draw Slashers from seeing the Delete feature of my Vita for a while, it definitely makes the cut.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.
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