Tl;dr stop reading and go buy it. It’s only 7 bucks, you cheapskate.
Back in the halcyon days of 2007, I started a little thread about a game no one new about yet, Puzzle Quest. 15 years later, PQ has finally been dethroned as my favorite game of all time by Slice & Dice. And once again, it’s probably a title you’ve never heard of (though NorthernLion streamed it this week, apparently, so perhaps some of you have).
You might be thinking, “you expect me to believe the greatest game of all time is only available on itch?”. Well, I don’t blame you. It’s supposed to come to Steam and ios eventually, but after watching other people play it for 70+ hours, I finally decided I couldn’t wait anymore. And when it does release on those platforms, I will happily buy it on every one.
Getting to the point, here’s the description from the game page:
Take control of 5 heroes, each with their own unique dice. Fight your way through 20 levels of monsters and try to take on the final boss. If you lose a single fight you have to start over so be careful (and lucky!).
To elaborate, each character has a die with six sides. You start with tier 1 characters, and will be offered different upgrade choices along the way to make them stronger tier 2, and eventually tier3 heroes.
Here’s what a tier 1 might look like:
The fighter is very straightforward. He has four melee sides that do either one or two Damage. The other two sides block for one damage.
That fighter might eventually change into a class that’s just a straight upgrade:
Or something wildly different:
The Scrapper has two bloodlust sides, which deal increased damage for every wounded enemy, and two steel sides. Bloodlust combines exceedingly well with aoe damage. Steel is like a shield bash. It gets bonus damage for every point of shields on the scrapper.
Now for some tier 3s. First, another straightforward upgrade:
And something far more exotic, like this wanderer:
That red die face on the left can only be used one, but it inflicts pain on an enemy, causing them to do damage to themselves on their next attack.
As an aside, this is a good time to mention that enemies have their own dice and they roll before you, so you can see their intent. Inflicting pain on a boss that’s about to pummel you for 12 damage can be quite powerful.
The top and bottom sides are melee attacks that increase by one each turn. The middle side only does one damage, but can be used for times. That quad-use side was key to my best victory yet.
One point of damage doesn’t sound so great. But that’s where items come in. Remember that steel side I mentioned? I found an item during the run called Anvil, which adds the steel keyword to the middle side. The other item on my wanderer was the ironblood pendant, which boosts all incoming healing and shields by +3.
So imagine turning that one damage quad-use into 15 damage, using it to slay four different enemies, then using a spell to refresh that die for another four uses.
All this to say that Slice & Dice is a game about finding synergies. But not just item synergies. There are character synergies too. Some hero choices will combo better than others, depending on party makeup. Heroes come in five different colors (20 varieties of each): yellow is a fighter type. Orange is archers, rogues, and thieves, which can poison or do ranged attacks. Gray is for defenders, typically beefy bois with lots of shields but few attacks.
Red is healing-oriented spellcasters. Blue is more damage-focused casters. Each caster hero has one spell they automatically have access to, some better than others.
All this might sound rather complicated, but in practice it isn’t. The enemies roll their dice. You see what they are planning to do and to whom. You roll your dice. Choose which sides to keep and reroll the rest until you keep them all or have no more rerolls (you usually have two).
It’s like a Yahtzee rpg. What could be simpler?
By the way, those enemies will try to do all sorts of terrible things, like petrify sides so that can’t be used, weaken sides (reduces magnitude), inflict pain, inflict single-use (become blank after using), poison you, attack everyone at the same time, summon allies, etc. Some enemies also have effects that trigger at certain hp thresholds (sometimes you can cleverly get around these with spells or indirect damage, but not always).
Once you are finished rolling, you use the dice to slay enemies before they can attack or otherwise mitigate what they are doing. Repeat until dead (hopefully the other guys). If you lose a character during a fight, they start the next fight with half health. If all of them die, that ends the run. After each fight, you will be offered either a character upgrade or an item to choose.
So, why do I love this game so much?
One of my favorite things in games is having many small decisions to make. I also like being handed a set of actions and puzzling out the best way to make use of them and in what order. Those things, like most deckbuilders, are the foundation of this game.
The problem solving is fantastic, and it feels damn good to see all five characters flashing red at the start of your turn (indicating they will all die when they turn ends of you don’t intervene) and come up with a creative solution that saves them all or at least gives you the best chance to finish the fight.
It should be noted that there is no hidden information whatsoever. Also, you can undo as much and as often as you like, which lets you try playing out a turn with the dice on hand to see how it goes. This is quite helpful, as you might, for instance, realize you don’t need to shield a character, because you are going to slay whatever was threatening it. And quite often, changing the order of operations will yield a different result. As an example, you might want to attack an enemy with a die face with the heavy keyword, meaning it has to target the enemy with the most hp. You can manipulate which enemy that is with spells or other attacks. The only thing you can’t undo is die rolls.
The combo and character synergies are incredibly fun and rewarding. I’ve already given one example with the wanderer, but coming up with crazy combos is great fun, much like Monster Train. And while this title doesn’t scale to the same degree, you need to find ways to make your party much more powerful in order to complete a run. There are a hundred character classes and several hundred items to experiment with.
That reminds me. Items can be moved around between battles. Choosing a character upgrade is often as much about items you already have on hand as it is about party dynamics.
In terms of metaprogression, the closest example I can think of is Dead Cells. Everything you do will work towards unlocking new things. New starting classes, new upgrade classes, new item drops, new enemies, new bosses, new modes…
And are there ever new modes. 18 of them, with multiple difficulties. Want an infinite mode with increasing difficulty? there’s more than one. Want a third item slot on every character? Got you covered. Bored of having only five characters? How about 10? Want randomized characters because 100 codes isn’t enough? Done. Want to copy your game state and share with others? No sweat. How about a shortcut mode that starts you mid run? Yeah, it’s got that too. Online leaderboards? Got that too. There’s even an instant mode to play a single level with a random setup.
This is a game where you will still be unlocking new stuff after 50+ hours. It’s like some crazy origami creation that keeps unfolding, becoming more than you thought it was. And if you don’t have the patience for that, you can unlock EVERYTHING with a single button and lock it back up anytime you like.
I know some folks will be put off by the randomness of dice. There’s a sort of press your luck element here where it is tempting to continue rolling past a die face that you should keep, hoping for something better.
You probably noticed the red Xs on some of the dice above, which are blanks. Sometimes you are going to keep rolling blanks instead of what you want. But there are ways to deal with that as well. Dice/items/blessings that give you extra rerolls. Items that replace blanks, spells that replace blanks, hero sides that replace what the other heroes rolled that turn, etc.
The production values aren’t going to blow anyone away, though all the pixel art was created for Slice & Dice, I believe. Sounds and animations are quite sparse. There is no music (which I hope they will add later).
There is a free demo on the itch page for anyone on the fence. The Google play version is free to download with a single iap to unlock the full game.