Based on the 2000AD comic character of the same name, Sláine is an interactive action adventure game developed by Creative Reality and published by Martech in 1987.
Sláine features a unique control system called “REFLEX”, where the thoughts inside Sláine‘s mind are represented as words in a window on the left hand side of the screen, and you use a floating hand to click on the command that you want. The right hand side of the screen then displays a mixture of still images and speech bubbles to depict the outcome.
While the REFLEX system is different and innovative, it is confusing to use and does take some getting used to. To some players the constantly moving words will be headache-inducing.
The game doesn’t describe what is going on to the player well enough. For example, in the first scene Sláine finds a pouch and can open it, examine the contents, then take the coins. Apart from a cursory description of the pouch itself the game doesn’t really describe the process of removing the coins, and useless text boxes showing “OK” are shown on-screen instead. This – to me – indicates that the devs didn’t really understand story-telling, interface usability, or orienting the player within a series of events that are unfolding. Instead the game’s designers have mistakenly prioritised acknowledging click responses and allowed them to stay on-screen for far too long, which I think is wrong. The position of text panels I also think is wrong; as anyone will know who’s ever read a comic: a text panel underneath another panel indicates that it happened AFTER the one above, but the developers of this game don’t seem to understand that. I also didn’t like the use of grammar in this game. “Here is 05 villagers” is abominable use of English, and the game (or maybe the programmers) can’t discern singular from plural. There are some howling spelling mistakes too, which is bad in a text-based adventure game (I did notice that some spelling mistakes had been fixed in this, compared to the C64 version, but there are plenty of others that haven’t; it’s a mess really).
Occasionally Sláine will be attacked and combat will initiate, which plays out in real time. Again you use the REFLEX system to make hits and dodge attacks and the “warp rating” of both sides is shown on the right.
I’ve seen people praising Sláine for the interface and gameplay, but in all honesty REFLEX is a bad idea, badly implemented (it’s littered with spelling errors), resulting in a frustrating gameplay experience. With a few tweaks REFLEX could have been much better, but the programmers weren’t smart enough to make it work. I don’t know if that was because they didn’t have time to make it work, or were too lazy to make it work. But there’s no escaping the fact that this isn’t a very good game and the people who made it didn’t understand the comics.
The commercial failure of Sláine (the game) was probably down to the fact that they insisted on using REFLEX to try to create something out of the ordinary. As a 2000AD fan I remember being put off by this when it first came out, and – with hindsight – I’m glad I didn’t buy it because I would’ve felt like I wasted my money.
Sláine was also released on the Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64 and it’s pretty much the same game on those systems barring a few subtle differences. As a game I don’t recommend it at all, but as an example of how NOT to innovate it is somewhat interesting.
See also: 2000AD Special.