Disclaimer: Sloth Tales was provided to us free for the purposes of review.
Sloth Tales is a charming enough little platformer from Dracula’s Cave. Clocking in at roughly an hour’s max playtime, it doesn’t exactly revolutionise the genre. But at the low, low price of free, that’s hardly a sin. For what is essentially a playable trailer for their latest game, Lion Quest Infinity, it gets the job done sparking player interest.
In Sloth Tales you play as Jimmy the Sloth. Levels are divided into a central hub-world and several smaller levels that you access via portals. Each smaller level contains a key, which you take back to the hub world. Gather enough of these keys and you’ll win the game.
Simple, right? In your way will be some spinning blades, perilous falls and hazardous cubes of – well, okay, I don’t know what they are, but I do know that if you touch them you die.
Your journey as Jimmy is fairly straightforward. You travel across moving platforms, trampolines, vats of water and steep slopes. Two power-ups, a dash and a high jump, help you on your way. Minor details of each level, such as types of obstacles, are randomly generated, and change every time you load your save. So no two run-throughs of Sloth Tales will be exactly the same, but they’ll have an overall similar shape.
One particular mechanic I was intrigued by is the zoom. At any point, players can toggle their perspective of the game, cycling between a close-up of Jimmy, a mid-shot and an extreme wide shot that shows you the layout of almost the entire map. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help feeling that it wasn’t being used to its full potential. Some puzzles playing with perspective – for example, forcing the player to alternate between zooming in to measure a precise jump, and zooming out to navigate a maze – could’ve made for more dynamic gameplay.
It struck me that this might be a preview of a mechanic that Dracula’s Cave are planning to really explore Lion Quest. An impression I got from most of this game, in fact.
Take the graphics, for example. Sloth Tales is primarily a 2-D platformer. The 8-bit aesthetic is bright and colourful, but environments feel a little sparse. Though perhaps this is a good thing, designed to stop the zoomed-out perspective looking cluttered.
Imagine my surprise, however, when I leapt atop a bright red block and it collapsed, tumbling end over end, into the third dimension. It had secretly been 3-D all along!
Did this add to the gameplay at all? Well…no. Once again, this looks like a concept which will be more fully developed in Lion Quest. Great, now I’m starting to sound like an advertisement.
Falcon Ave created the soundtrack for Sloth Tales. The looping song is a bouncy, catchy affair, but it does start to wear on the ears after the first ten minutes or so.
One really neat feature is that whenever Jimmy is swimming underwater, the music takes on a resonant, echoing quality. It’s such a tiny little thing, I know, but it’s these small touches that give a game character.
Your Nemesis: the Interface
I only wish Dracula’s Cave had included another couple small touches. I’m talking about the interface.
Remember the power-ups I mentioned earlier? You have a dash which can be used to go through walls, and a high jump which allows you to…jump high. The former came with a handy tutorial when I first picked it up, explaining how to aim and release the dash using click and drag.
The high jump did not.
You can only have one power-up active at a time, so at first I assumed they must be mapped to the same button. When that proved futile, I concluded the high jump must have replaced my normal jump and tried spacebar. No dice.
It’s a small complaint, to be sure, but quality of life features like a tutorial for the high jump would have saved me an embarrassing two minutes of pressing buttons at random until I found the right one. It’s shift, by the way. You’re welcome.
Like I said, Sloth Tales is more of a neat little interactive trailer than a full game. The story is therefore minimal.
During his travels, Jimmy bumps into various other animals, all surprised to see him out adventuring. Over the course of some slightly stilted dialogue, it is revealed that Jimmy is on a secret, dangerous mission: to find his biological father. The plot is thin on the ground, but a couple of the character interactions made me chuckle, and the ending (which I won’t spoil) left me pleasantly surprised.
There’s not much to Sloth Tales. It’s short, there’s very little story and the gameplay is formulaic. But there’s very little wrong with it either. This reviewer could have done with either a more consistent control scheme, or more consistent tutorials. But otherwise, Sloth Tales is a decently cute way to while away 30 minutes to an hour or so. And it’s left me curious to see what Dracula’s Cave do next with Lion Quest Infinity.