Recently, it feels like there have been many games trying to follow in the footsteps of Dark Souls for the sake of being hard. Slice, Dice and Rice is nowhere near the difficulty of any Souls-type game, but it’s similar in that every move counts. The game is deceptively simply. Players have a choice of three attacks (light, overhead, heavy), blocking, basic movement, and dashing. There are no special meters, no health bars, and for the most part no combos. That is where the beauty of the game lies, in its simplicity. Where it gets bogged down is in its steep difficulty ramp-up, which often feels hard for no reason.
Specifically, Slice Dice and Rice falls into the trap of making the game’s bosses bigger (more health), without adding any intelligence. In each of the game’s story campaign (there’s one for each character), the player fights a series of bosses, punctuated by lower level enemies in between. Rather than increasing the rapidity, or intelligence of each boss’s fighting style, the game gives them more hit points. This may not seem like a big deal, but the entire point of SDR is one-hit-kills, and making a boss take three hits, takes away from that gameplay feeling. It might have been possible to alleviate this feeling by giving bosses pieces of armor that were knocked off with each hit (or any visible measure of why they weren’t dead after their throat got sliced), but as of right now, there’s no explanation, they’re just bigger.
Frustrating bosses aside, SDR has very simple and rewarding gameplay. Figuring out what attack/defense style works against specific characters can be tricky, but makes each fight interesting, and a challenge. With the game’s quick, mostly one-hit-kill system (occasionally enemies are only injured), it makes swift action and reaction key. Most battles are short, ending within 5-10 seconds, and when battles end up going longer, they can end up feeling almost cinematic in nature. This is aided by a minimalistic, cell-shaded, black-and-white art-style, and bright red blood whenever a player scores a hit. Each fight feels stylized and unique, making even the shortest of confrontations a joy to watch.
Each of the characters also carries a fine level of detail, with each having their own fighting style that feels functionally distinct from the others. Even with just eight fighters available at launch, the game’s roster does not feel incomplete. However, while the characters look great, and play well, there doesn’t feel like there is much backstory behind them. What little story the game has is told only through text at brief intervals in each character’s story campaign. These asides feel more like an afterthought, and really do nothing to help the player identify with the different fighters. SDR needed to either add more content (maybe a cut scene or two), or remove it entirely, because right now, it serves no purpose other than slowing down the story mode.
Luckily, with solid gameplay mechanics, the fighting is still very fun, and spilling gallons of blood on a black and white palette looks great. The story mode is also entirely avoidable, as Slice, Dice and Rice doesn’t lock any of its characters behind campaign completion. Players can hop in with a friend in versus mode (couch-coop or online), and play as any of the characters from the second the game boots up. This is great, as it gives everyone access to the best parts of the game, and doesn’t force people to play what mostly feels like a pointless grind in the story mode.
Overall, Slice, Dice and Rice is a fun fighting game without a surprising amount of depth in its simple combat system. The concept of the one-hit-kill is very entertaining and can lead to some frantic battles dependent on twitch reactions, and speed. While the game does falter in having a lackluster story mode that feels like it’s there to pad game time, players can skip it entirely, and still play as all of the characters. Slice, Dice and Rice’s longevity will likely come from hours of couch-coop battles, where new players can learn easily, and begin spilling enough blood to make Tarantino proud.