I’ve said before that cooperative games don’t really do it for me unless they have some sort of gimmick, and oh goodness, does Slide Quest ever have a gimmick. Similar to the labyrinth dexterity puzzles of yore, where you tilt a maze to guide a marble to the end, Slide Quest has players collectively tilting a game board to guide a hapless knight along his quest, either moving through the realm or fighting bad guys. As far as gimmicks go, this is a good one, and the components allow the gimmick to work.
But the question here, as with most games that rely on gimmicks, is, is the gimmick good enough to sustain the game? And that is the question this review seeks to answer.
Slide Quest is modeled after a video game, and there are twenty levels included in the box–four “worlds” of five levels each. Each level has different obstacles and objectives, and just like a video game, the obstacles and objectives get more difficult the farther you get and (presumably) the more skills you’ve gained. The objectives in Slide Quest generally involve moving the knight along a line from one end of the level to the other, and if the knight ever leaves the line, he has to be moved back to the line before being allowed to progress again. There are several 3D obstacles to either guide the knight or avoid–things like fences, rocks, and dynamite (which can be touched and moved but which has to remain upright)–and while it’s a little annoying to set up each level, the effect of seeing the 3D terrain is worth the minor inconvenience.
Every cooperative game will have to reckon in some way with the inherent problem of quarterbacking, where one player might be tempted to take control of the experience, making the other players feel like their roles are superfluous. Slide Quest partially addresses this problem through distributed actions: each player can touch their own (and only their own) lever(s) to tilt the game board. Even if one player wants to control the game, they will be met with the futility of only handling one or two of the game’s four levers. This is helpful, but it’s still possible in a game of Slide Quest for one player to order the other players around and get audibly frustrated with them if they aren’t moving the board exactly according to the quarterback’s plan. In some ways, I miss Magic Maze’s “Do Something” pawn and no communication, but the distributed actions do go some way toward mitigating this problem.
Each level of Slide Quest feels unique, and because of the variable 3D pieces included in the box and the gorgeous illustrations, it’s possible to move these pieces around to make fresh combinations. It’s easy to imagine more levels being released for the game since the basic components work so well.
And aside from each level feeling unique, each level also offers a unique challenge. After completing the first level of keeping the knight on the line, I was feeling pretty good. Do your worst! I felt like taunting the game. And then the game introduced dynamite, which can be touched and moved but can’t be overturned or you lose. All of a sudden the sometimes dramatic taps on the levers would be our undoing, so we had to very gently and carefully guide the knight along. After a few tries and with this skill mastered, then multiple sticks of dynamite appear, as well as various other obstacles. Fine.
But where the game really shines, I think, and feels different from being “just” cooperative labyrinth puzzles is when enemies appear on the board. Sometimes these enemies can be pushed anywhere (they’re defeated when they’re pushed into pits on the board); other times specific enemies are assigned to specific pits. And then there’s the big boss, who has his own destiny waiting for him once the goons are dealt with. The levels with enemies to defeat are my favorite because they feel like something new and exciting, along with offering a fun challenge.
Slide Quest has a very simple premise with a fun gimmick at its center, and it works remarkably well because of the quality components included. The ball-bearing knight moves freely, making the lever work matter–he truly will roll where the players direct. The terrain snaps into place on the plastic board holder, and the levers fit well into the notches on the side of the game box. Again, the illustrations are immersive, and the 3D obstacles add to the experience. The wooden components don’t feel very hefty, but they work well for the purpose, especially the dynamite: it’s heavy enough that it can be touched and moved, but light enough that knocking it over is a real possibility. And the enemies stay in place unless jostled by the knight.
I like Slide Quest, although I do have some reservations about it. A smaller reservation is that, while it’s possible to play with up to four players, and it can get zany that way, I think it’s best with one or two, where players have more to do with their hands and are in more control of the knight’s destiny. (Others may disagree on this point, but hey, it’s my review.) I wouldn’t turn it down with more, but I’m more excited about it when it’s a smaller, more intimate gathering.
The major reservation I have is the same I have with all games who rely on gimmicks for their interest: once the gimmick is mastered, will you want to play the game anymore? I’ve played around with Slide Quest several times, alone and with others, and at least for now, the challenge is difficult enough that I’m mostly still interested. I haven’t mastered the gimmick. I’m not sure whether, once I’ve played through every level and seen every challenge, I’ll still be interested in pulling this one off the shelf. (I should say, too, that while I enjoy Slide Quest, competitive dexterity games are still more my bag than this.)
Of course, in Slide Quest’s favor are the various modes you can play the game in. You can play a timed version, where you only have a certain amount of time to complete the level, and if you don’t complete it in that time, you lose a life and start over. You can play solitaire or cooperative up to four, and much like Magic Maze, each time you add a new player to the mix, it’s like you’re starting over from scratch: every person is a wildcard with how invested they’ll be, how on the ball they’ll be with their lever, how gentle they’ll be when it’s their turn to use it, and how cooperative they’ll be with other people telling them what to do.
Basically, I think if you like games like Magic Maze–if that one hasn’t become stale for you–you’ll like Slide Quest. There are enough different ways to play it and the multiplayer challenge is difficult enough that you can enjoy it differently with multiple groups, and it does feel a little like playing a video game. I definitely prefer it to the other video game simulator Loony Quest, which lost its luster quickly. I will say that my kids–four, five, and seven–had some difficulty with the game, but they got better as we went along, and while this is probably best suited for older children, if you can be patient through the learning process, you can probably play this with younger children as well. All told, Slide Quest is a fun and fast diversion. It’s not a filling main course, but for a quick dexterity snack that’s fun, challenging, and engaging, it might be just what you’re looking for.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Blue Orange for providing us with a copy of Slide Quest for review.