Spice It Up: with Slide Quest from Blue Orange Games

In 1981, my best friend Jon brought over a game for our family’s Apple IIe. Both of our families had one of the first 64k computers in town, when most had the TRS-80s and Vic-20s of the world. (Kids, these were early versions of the computing power in the watch you wear.)

Jon was a master at video games, with good twitch reflexes. I talk to Jon maybe once every ten years, because after high school he moved to the Pac NW. But I imagine that Jon is still banging away on Steam every night playing sci-fi desolate wasteland shoot ‘em ups, the kind I would have died to play at 13 but don’t even consider at *ahem*.

Anytime Jon was excited about a game, that usually meant it was good and that our circle of game playing friends would enjoy it.  One bright summer morning, Jon brought a game called Space Eggs, designed by Nasir Giselli and published by Siruis Software. (That name brings back memories!) Aliens attacked us, coming down the screen in multi-colored eggs. We shot at the eggs to release the alien ships so that we could destroy them. At 13 years old, we did not think much of the philosophy behind it all, we were just concerned about saving the human race / beating our friends’ best scores.

Jon left, I graduated from studies, and became entranced with card and board games instead of video games (after brief but torrid love affairs with Diablo and NCAA Football.) I mostly stay away from twitchy activities, but every once in a while a game comes along that rekindles my love of the video game cliche.

Recently, our mail lady delivered a copy of Slide Quest to Gumbo HQ, and in the midst of this great crisis, I thought it would be a great time to break it open and play. And I’m glad I did.

NOTE: Blue Orange Games was kind enough to provide us with a copy of Slide Quest for this review.

Slide Quest is a cooperative game for one to four players designed by Jean-Francois Rochas and Nicolas Bourgoin, with art by Stephane Escapa. It is a 2019 release from Blue Orange Games and carries an age range of 7+, although we had fun playing it with kids younger than that with modified rules.

PRESENTATION:

I remember a lot of my buddies on Punchboard Media talking up the production of this game back last year, but frankly, I had never seen it in the wild except for a brief glance. I had no preconceived notions as to what this game was about or what was in the box. I was pleasantly surprised to open up a surprising amount of bits and paper and a well-engineered production.

The game uses the box bottom as part of the contraption. Players set up the plastic platform element, and add four levers on each side of the box to be used to guide the platform. The game also comes with 20 challenge maps of ever increasing difficulty, a bunch of wooden and plastic bits including fences, rocks, arches, dynamite, and villains. Lastly, the intrepid ‘blue night’ (as little Gabby calls the hero) is included, and it is an ingenious little plastic piece that has a ball bearing instead of legs. Of course, this allows the knight to smoothly move across the maps.

A small but well laid out rule book is included, and we had no problems learning the game from the easy-to-read book. All in all, this is a fantastic production with cute, colorful art.

GAMEPLAY:

Gameplay is simple. Players grab a map or five, place the first one on the platform, stock the map with the required assets and villains, and then each grab a handle, or multiple levers if necessary, to guide the knight through the elements of the map. Lifting up a level causes that side of the platform to rise up, causing the knight piece to scoot in that direction.

The first levels are easy, and suitable for younger gamers. Each set of five presents new, harder challenges. (Or you can do a long campaign to complete all twenty maps!) And they do get harder! Soon, bad guys are scattered around the map, protected by dynamite. The object in many of the maps is to push the villains in numerical order into the right traps, then take out the big bad boss in the same way. The last five maps are truly diabolical!

Players will generally be tasked with sliding the knight from one side of the map to the other, staying on the “path of light”, and being very careful not to tip over sticks of dynamite or slide the knight right into a trap. Get to the other side safely, and the players have earned the right to get to the next map in the colored sequence. Finish five maps — or better yet, all 20 maps — for some kind of score.

But you can’t just play at break-neck speed with haphazard moves. Losing lives can end the game prematurely. Players only have so many lives to complete the series of maps, although some of the maps have spaces to re-energize the missing hearts. Lives are tracked on a side board with a wooden heart, and the knight will lose a life everytime something bad happens, like falling into a trap or knocking down a stick of dynamite.

The game even comes with a cardboard “save your game” piece, which marks which map the group stopped and what level were the hearts at the players quit.

BUT IS IT ANY FUN?

Slide Quest is one of those games that plays a lot better than the pitch or even the box covers make it to be. I absolutely love finding games that do that. The combination of cartoon graphics and chunky pieces puts gamers in the right mood for some silliness, and the short time play usually makes players say “let’s set it up and play again”.

I’ve played the game at all play counts — even solo play while waiting for church services to fire up on the old Facebook app (that’s something I never thought I’d ever type out) — and Slide Quest carries a great combination of speed and fun.

On the speed side, the game sets up in a few seconds, which is very important when you are playing with the younger set or my grown sons who are used to playing games instantly on Steam. Pop open the box, slip in the levers (after removing the cardboard insert, something I didn’t figure out the first time we played), populate one of the maps with rocks and fences and away we geaux. I like how the game comes with maps in sets of five, each different set ratcheting up the difficulty so that the game can easily be played with players of different physical skill sets.

On the fun side, I love how the game provides frequent stand up moments. There was a particular map that had a really tiny tightrope for the knight to walk between traps. Cheering everybody on as we maneuvered the knight through that tight squeeze created what would have been high five moments a month ago, and now just produces shouts of joy with the family.

I’m not going to lie to you and say that Slide Quest is going to appeal to everyone. Combining dexterity and cooperation and two minute game play (with or without the optional timer, which we have never used) is not a friendly matchup for every gamer. Stay away if you rolled your eyes at that description. For the rest of you fun-lovers, as long as you know the boundaries, Slide Quest should fit right into one of your family or casual game nights with ease.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This game is a perfect beer & boudin game. But, Slide Quest is billed as a “video game board game”, and although I reluctantly give a nod to the marketing team that came up with that tag line, it is not entirely accurate. If your kids — like mine — were expecting some quick playing shoot-’em-up or linear adventure crawl, they might be disappointed. Rest assured, if you explain to them that this is a real-time dexterity game where we are all working together to help a brave knight on its quest, then you might see some eyebrows raise up in interest. I know mine did.

The best description I can come up with is that it has the physicality of Ice Cool combined with the cooperative nature of any friendly card game like The Crew. Slide Quest doesn’t really have anything that has to do with those games, but the crazy skidding and sliding that the knight does around the board does bear a slight resemblance to the zany antics from flicking penguins. Plus, you just can’t beat the tense and cheering nature of finishing each level, similar to the way The Crew gets players to cheer each other on after a particular tough mission. .

Slide Quest is solid fun. It stands out to me in a crowded field of games right now, because there are few games in my collection that compare to its gameplay. Geaux into this game with the mindset that this is not some deep euro game looking for crunchy decisions, instead of thinking of it as a cooperative version of Klask. Do that, and you will likely enjoy Slide Quest as much as we have.

Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

— BJ @boardgamegumb

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