Land Sliders is the first game from new studio Prettygreat, whose pedigree preceded them before they even announced what type of project they were working on. Made up of former developers from Halfbrick, whose works included mega-hits Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride, Prettygreat also boasted the confidence of Crossy Road creators Hipster Whale as investors in their formation. This combination of mobile powerhouses led us to have strenuously high expectations for their first game.
Land Sliders transcends those expectations. It’s even better than we hoped.
On the surface, Land Sliders seems like a fairly Crossy Road-esque high score chase. Players tackle an endless set of procedurally generated levels packed with swag to collect and hazards to avoid. Every piece of swag you pick up adds one point to your score, but touching any of the deadly terrain or enemies roaming the various landscapes will end your run immediately. Along the way, you can also collect coins which are used to unlock new and unique characters that offer different aesthetics and sound effects when chosen.
Aside from these few similarities, Land Sliders is its own experience. Instead of progressing through one single, endless stage, every run features a series of finitely mapped levels. Players are free to explore each level in full, finding every piece of swag and landmark that has been generated, or they can move on to the next level at any point by stepping onto the exit platform. One stage may be a small, flat grassy plain with little to see. The next may be a large, sandy desert filled with vertical cliffs that require elevator platforms to scale. Another may be a snowy series of plateaus dotted with winter cabins and oversized snowmen. You never know what you’re going to encounter when you enter a stage, and the random variety of landscapes, terrain, and obstacles makes every level a new experience that invokes a strong sense of exploration.
That exploration takes place entirely by sliding: players will swipe the screen to send their character flying across the map and tap at any time to stop them. One of Land Sliders’ greatest features is its phenomenal touch controls, which allow the gameplay to feel fast-paced while still putting the player entirely in control. Characters stop on a dime when the screen is tapped, and swipes are registered in relation to their length and speed: a fast, long swipe will send a character farther than a short, slow swipe. You can even make precise, miniscule movements by dragging your finger slowly across the device, giving you 100% control over where and how a character ends up.
Since your character cannot jump but is tasked with traversing maps containing cliffs, they have some leeway in their ability to slide over gaps. There’s a short period after sliding over water or a pit during which they will float and can continue sliding. This not only opens up the world by allowing you to take shortcuts over lakes and between freestanding plateaus, but also provides a variety of strategies for dealing with the enemies that relentlessly pursue if you draw near.
Sliding into a bouquet of spikes is always a danger, but the real hazards of Land Sliders are the roaming animals that want to catch you at all costs. Drowsy bears will wake up and give zombielike chase if they see you; dinosaurs on pogo sticks (“Pogosaurus Rex”) will bounce after you; cloud-riding spiders will rain venomous pools upon you from above. Although you can simply try your best to dodge these enemies when they come close, it’s more beneficial—and a lot more fun—to go on the aggressive and dispatch them yourself. There are a variety of ways to deal with animal dangers, including invincibility-inducing hot sauce bottles, leading them into each other, or tricking them into falling into water or off a cliff (thanks to your gap-sliding ability mentioned above). If you kill them directly, you’ll earn even more swag to add to your score total—adding another layer of strategy beyond just collecting the swag you see.
The swag itself is simply stationary pieces of your character’s favorite item, scattered about each stage. Every stage has a set amount of swag assigned to it, and collecting it all will earn you a bonus—another strategic trade-off when you have to decide between snagging a distant piece of swag and dodging three cloud spiders to get there. Each character has a different type of swag: Turny, our default hero, collects maps; the Tooth Fairy collects teeth; the Toilet collects plungers, etc. While the changes are merely aesthetic, each character and their item type are unique enough that swapping out a character can make the game feel fresh all over again, and unlocking new ones—with references ranging from The Wizard of Oz to The Simpsons—is always a hilarious treat.
The core experience of Land Sliders—flawless controls, entertaining characters, interesting levels, and a variety of viable strategies—is already a fantastic game that we would highly recommend. But Prettygreat has gone even further above and beyond by including a number of secrets and mysteries to uncover that transform Land Sliders from a high score chase into a true adventure. Within the already engrossing levels, you’ll occasionally come across special areas that house some type of secret. Some of these are straightforward, like a stack of coins on a button that will set off a trap once stolen. Others are less obvious, like a series of symbols that can be stepped on in order to reveal a hidden exit. Some of these secrets are so esoteric that we’re still trying to work them out. None of them are required to play the game or to acquire a high score. But their inclusion speaks to the level of polish and immersion Prettygreat demands of their game.
After many days spent blissfully exploring Land Sliders and those secrets, the game it ultimately reminds us of most is Spelunky. The games share a passion for player-precise controls; random, but always interesting levels; relentless but lovable enemies; risk versus reward strategies; and secrets both fascinating and maddening. Both offer an unmatched experience through effortless gameplay that gives way to a shockingly deep game, and one we simply don’t ever want to put down.