Casual Monday: Wan Nyan Slash

In hindsight, calling ourselves “Hardcore Gamer” pigeonholed what we could cover. Many sleepless nights go by with our writers tossing and turning because they can’t write about the latest Farmville update. It’s for that reason and that reason only — and because somebody registered the Casual Gamer domain before we had a chance too — that every month we present to you a quick look at a mobile game that deserves your attention regardless of its place on the gaming spectrum.

Screen4My latest mobile obsession is Wan Nyan Slash, the second game from indie duo Dot Warrior Games. It’s a sidescrolling endless hack-and-slasher featuring a cat and dog samurai pair, and it’s totally awesome. Wan-Dono and Nyan-Dono run through beautiful Japanese landscapes dispatching wave after wave of traditional Japanese demons, objects, and vegetables, trying their best to survive as long as possible and build up their score. It’s silly, fast, and devilishly addictive.

Wan Nyan Slash is far from the deepest mobile game. It features only one mode of play, and really only one level. Multiple difficulty levels and some collectibles extend the experience on paper, but it isn’t until you actually sit down and play Wan Nyan Slash that you realize the game’s charm and calculated humor more than make up for its superficial shortcomings.

First of all, let me remind you that Wan and Nyan are a pair of samurai animals smiting demons across the land. Let that sink in. Now add wicked cool unlockable costumes, like the 007-esque secret agent outfit or the Tron-like future suit, and you’ve got a pair of deadly cute heroes ready for every oni and eggplant out there. Not only do the costumes look amazing and add a refreshing change to the visuals of the game, but each different outfit boasts its own special ability, like a larger attack range or a longer combo window, which in turn opens up new gameplay possibilities.

That gameplay is deeper than it sounds, too. You destroy demons by swiping Wan and Nyan across the screen, but neither samuranimal will attack until both their slashing paths have been determined, which when used properly means you can attack enemies in two areas of the screen at once. Enemies move up and down the screen, so timing your slashes is crucial, and once you acclimate to the mechanics it becomes easy to start chaining combos. You’ll also come across special techniques through the course of each run that let you unleash patterned attacks on your enemies, like stars and zigzags, adding yet more variety to the simple swipe and slash gameplay. It’s a game of simple design, sure, but it definitely has legs.

screen568x568Not only does Wan Nyan Slash play well, but it’s also gorgeous. From the titular characters to the menu screens to the scrolling¬†scenery, the duo at Dot Warrior Games have created a pixel-perfect package. The animation is superb, too, imbuing real character into each enemy and animal. That wonderful sprite work is perfectly complimented by the epic chiptune soundtrack, and together the game gains a retro vibe that makes it infinitely cooler.

So it plays well, looks lovely, and sounds spectacular, ¬†but I actually think my favorite parts of Wan Nyan Slash are the enemy descriptions. They’re succinct and witty, and add a dimension of self-aware humor to the game’s superb premise. My favorites include the Fox Fire enemy, which reads, “A fox made of fire that you can’t browse the web with”, and Hannya, described as “The ghost of a scorned woman. A strong, independent yokai who don’t need no man”. Gold. It’s that sort of confident tonal writing that helps set Wan Nyan Slash apart from the piles of half-baked garbage on the app store, and something I was delightfully surprised to discover.

Many potential players may be scared away by the game’s $0.99 price tag, but that single dollar buys you this polished, addictive little game and a promise of no in-app purchases. I can confidently say that if you like action, samurai animals, or Japanese culture, you’ll enjoy Wan Nyan Slash. And if you don’t, well… you should. It’s neat. It probably won’t keep you entranced for tens of hours like a good RPG, but if you’re looking for a bit of whimsical fun here and there you could do a lot worse than Wan Nyan Slash.