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I'll admit I have a love for difficult action-platformers with pixel graphics, so my interest in Slain!, from a purely aesthetic and theoretical perspective, is no surprise whatsoever. I was recently able to get my hands on a pre-alpha build of the game and I'm glad to report that it shows a lot of promise. Konami might not want to make Castlevania games the way they once did, and Slain! says they may not have to.

Originally known as The 7 Towers, Slain! is an action-platformer with an incredibly dark streak, both tonally and in terms of challenge. It follows the comfortable hack-and-slash formula where you're a capable warrior taking on the forces of evil alone. Enemies spawn all around you -- sometimes on the ground, sometimes in the skies -- and will turn you into a bloody mash if you don't get to them first.

Your main method of monster dismemberment is through your sword. You can swing it vertically as your normal hack attack, while you can perform a horizontal slash that decapitates enemies as well. Jump-slashing is possible, but it stops your momentum cold. Don't expect to kill something while jumping over a pit unless that something is you. You don't get any points for suicide, kids. There's a magic system as well, but it seemed like it wasn't fully implemented in this build.

Progression through the demo was pretty straight forward. I had to make my way to the tower. That meant killing a bunch of enemies to unlock a door, slashing through some poison brambles and killing the tower guardian to get inside. Up to here the game moved horizontally, but once in the tower, your goal is to get to the top. From here the moves vertically, though it's still just as deadly. There are traps, new enemies to fight, and a boss battle at the top.

Slain! is on a path toward greatness, but a few of the elements I experienced need to be polished up before release. There were a few times I died because the enemy attack hit me noticeably from too far away, and there were others where the enemy seemed to attack right through my own, over and over with no escape no matter what I did. It's hard to fault a pre-alpha build for these types of things, but they are of note and worth watching for in future builds. It already has so much right that I'd be surprised if these issues were more than temporary.

Those attending EGX in London can play the game starting tomorrow, as the pre-alpha build will be on the showfloor. Anyone who can't but is still interested should keep their eyes on the development blog for future updates. Release is planned for March 2015 on Windows, Mac and Linux.