GDC 2022 Impressions: Slaycation Paradise

Monday, March 28th, 2022

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Slaycation Paradise | LogoDeveloper: Affordable Acquisition
Publisher: Merge Games
Platform(s): Steam, PC, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One/Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 2022

During GDC 2022, I was lucky to be able to go hands-on with an early demo of the just-announced Slaycation Paradise from Affordable Acquisition and Merge Games. Slaycation Paradise takes two genres- tower defense and twin-stick shooter- and mashes them into one.

The story is that you are a family who – thanks to the help of your alien travel consultant Barry at the Slaycation Paradise vacation facility that exists elsewhere in the galaxy – can murder their way through a variety of alternate reality Earths where everything from luchadores to sex bots have taken over. When you are dropped into a new world, you have a certain amount of time to build various defenses on the map using scrap materials that you harvest from objects you find around you before a wave of enemies spawn. Once the enemies spawn, you have to stay alive long enough through using both your tower defense traps and your various equippable twin-stick weapons for the exit timer to count down to zero so you can escape out of the portal that pops up. Once you do that, you can head to another location and another reality to slay in. If you instead die, then you are ‘revivified’ (resurrected) at the central hub to go back into that alternate Earth to try again.

During my hands-on demo, I tried out two worlds: Metro Mexicand and New Amsterdam and I only played as one character, the dad, though I was told that the mother and two children would be available to play as in the final game. The first thing you need to understand is that the maps are huge. This is not a tiny mobile-like tower defense game that you are also shooting enemies in. Instead, the game cleverly incentivizes you to move beyond where the exit portal will appear by requiring you to ‘scrap’ objects in the environment (helpfully lit up by a green outline) and collecting the yellow orb drops to have the resources necessary to build your tower defenses. This is practically required because no matter how good your twin-stick shooting skills are, you will quickly find yourself overwhelmed by enemy hordes if you don’t lay tower defense traps down across the map to help winnow out those that want to stop you from escaping.

Slaycation Paradise | Hub Spot

You depart from Slaycation Paradise, as seen in these images, to various alternate Earths to murder your way through while on a family vacation. (Images courtesy of Merge Games.)

Slaycation Paradise | Hub Spot

On both alternate Earths (of which I was told that there would be a minimum of five total worlds to explore and murder through), I found myself happily collecting and laying out auto turret and buzzsaw traps, setting up fences to both barricade or guide the enemies down to the murder tower defense traps, and more. The traps themselves appear laid down on the map as part of a snapgrid, and I found it very intuitive to choose from the submenu and then insert into the game. The tower defense element was expertly crafted for this early demo of the game, and I honestly think would have been able to support the game by itself if the developer (a one-person team!) chose to go that route.

In addition to the traps, you are also allowed to use two weapons at any time- a standard weapon and a power weapon- for the twin-stick aspect of Slaycation Paradise. These weapons range from the more conventional (think handguns and automatic weapons) to the insane (a wizard wand that sends spell blasts all over the map and a train whistle with the ability to summon a train to mow down your enemies). As you explore the map, you can pick up and build more and different weapons. Interestingly, a lot of these weapons will come from blueprint designs that you will find through harvestable spots on the map that can also summon enemies at the same time. I loved using these weapons, and the twin-stick aspect was both very snappy in control response and easy to utilize effectively in gameplay execution. Just like with the tower defense aspect, Affordable Acquisition could have easily built the entire game around the twin-stick experience and it would have worked beautifully.

Slaycation Paradise | Combat twin-stick shooting

Combat takes place through both twin-stick shooting action and by laying out tower defense traps across the gameplay map. (Images courtesy of Merge Games).

Slaycation Paradise | Tower defense layout

What really made the Slaycation Paradise demo shine for me was how the tower defense is married to the twin-stick. Instead of feeling like this was two genres mashed together into one uneven product, the developer integrated them together so well that I could not imagine playing one without the other. For example, I found myself mowing down enemies with my wizard’s wand while simultaneously setting up a murder ‘hallway’ of fences with buzzsaw traps that would lead all roads to me. The twin-stick gameplay and the tower defense gameplay added a whole other layer of strategy to these genres and it made me excited to keep playing this demo and see what each alternate Earth is like. Even though I died before I could get the exit portal to spawn in both worlds, the gameplay never felt ‘unfair’ or like the hordes were ‘cheating’. Instead, I simply didn’t strategize well enough to utilize the gameplay tools available to me in order to win the level.

In summation: if this early demo is any indication of what the final Slaycation Paradise release will be like, then I cannot wait to explore every corner of this Earth multiverse later in 2022 when this game is released.



You can wishlist Slaycation Paradise now on Steam.

What do you think of this blend of gameplay genres? Let us know in the comments below!

About Quentin H.

I have been a journalist for oprainfall since 2015, and I have loved every moment of it. Do you want to do an interview? You can reach me at interviews@oprainfall.com