Licensed games once appeared throughout the year, but now theyâ€™re almost exclusively reserved for the busy festive season. Itâ€™s always fascinating to see what brands and licenses publishers deem worthy and popular enough to warrant a video game tie-in. Slide Starsâ€™ existence duly informs that social media influencers remain a hot commodity – it features a cast of internet celebs, varying from gaming streamers to YouTube pranksters, and everything between. Weâ€™ve even heard of some.
Appropriately enough, Slide Stars plays like a watered-down version of Trials HD. The colourful cast â€“ which also includes a cosplayer dressed in generic, non-intellectual property infringing, outfits â€“ zip along courses formed from waterpark slides while riding novelty inflatables. Using a simple one-button control system (press â€˜Aâ€™ to jump, hold to go faster), itâ€™s mostly a case of trying to keep them upright â€“ i.e avoiding landing at awkward angles – while leaping over crocodiles, TNT stockpiles, and other obstacles. Colliding headfirst into walls and structures is generally best avoided too.
Two worlds feature â€“ a jungle and a swamp – each with a dozen courses and a (lazily recycled) boss battle against a colossal squid. Replay value has been kept in mind, with each course having a trio of medals to collect by beating a set time, finding hidden star shards, and by achieving a certain amount of â€˜fan pointsâ€™ â€“ gained by catching air and performing tricks. Or rather, by spinning in the air and attaining near misses â€“ thereâ€™s no dedicated trick system.
While the inflatables do feel a little different, with some larger (and more comical) than others, they donâ€™t have â€˜officialâ€™ stats. Theyâ€™re weirdly weighty, hitting the water surface hard. Every large jump results in a nosedive, giving a few precious seconds to restore balance.
Additional influencers and new inflatables are doled out frequently. Perhaps too frequently – the game abruptly ends before everything is unlocked, forcing you to go back and aim for all three medals for a full roster. When the credits rolled, we had just over 2 hours on the clock and around half the content unlocked. Considering the Â£35.99 price tag, the lack of a third world is inexcusable.
Slide Stars, as a concept, is strangely fascinating. Iâ€™d love to know how it came to be (the developerâ€™s last game was AereA, a music-themed RPG) and what the thought process was. Bringing in influencers is a no-brainer for free promotion, that we can understand. The game itself isnâ€™t extreme enough to be classed as an extreme sports game, though, and far too ordinary to be â€˜the stuff of memesâ€™ like Goat Simulator, Octodad or Surgeon Simulator. The physics engine (mostly) behaves itself, resulting in a lack of unscripted chaos or unpredictability. Despite gaming steamers being within its character roster, this isnâ€™t a particularly exciting game to broadcast to the world.
Further, itâ€™s (somewhat ironically) almost void of personality â€“ it lacks an easily-excitable narrator, or indeed any speech samples whatsoever. Music plays quietly in the background and the influencers themselves are mute throughout, making their way through the courses without even comical exaggeration. As a side note, itâ€™s also very strange to play a game rated 7+ where half the cast are dressed in skimpy bikinis and have â€˜cleavage jiggle physicsâ€™ on the character select screen.
Slide Stars can be filed alongside such games as Crazy Frog Racer and those peculiar M&Mâ€™s games on Wii and Nintendo DS; something based on a brand you may be familiar with, but likely had no interest whatsoever in pursuing for further entertainment or enjoyment.
Serviceable enough to be harmless, yet curiously ordinary despite the presence of novelty inflatables. Thatâ€™s Slide Stars.
Slide Stars is out now on PS4, Xbox, Switch and PC for thiiiiirty-siiiiix pounds.