Popslinger — Stop, Pop, and Roll

Pop 'til you drop.

Fight blob monsters with soda in Popslinger.

It’s just one of those days for Ria. She wakes up to find her city is deserted other than blob monsters, that she’s made a deal with a ghost, and that the only hope for her home is if she takes up a soda powered pop gun and battles through the hordes. Many would be confused or concerned, but not Ria, who is more than a little excited to be the hero of her story. So, with the stoic, ghostly Gin in tow, Ria sets out on her adventure in Popslinger. We’ve all been there at some point or another.

After a brief introduction, you’re dropped into your first stage as Ria. You’ll move from left to right on an isometric field, shooting different coloured blob monsters with your pop gun. Occasionally you’ll reach an area in which you need to fight off waves of blob monsters, or the occasional boss. On its own, there wouldn’t really be much to it, but the colour of the monsters hold some significance. 

Popslinger monsters
You often have to face multiple different colours of monsters at once.

Defeating four of one colour and then four of another in a row results in the background music increasing in intensity, and Gin offering you a power up to use. Taking out eight of the same colour doubles the effect, but being hit or shooting the incorrect colour will reset you back to nothing. It’s a neat system that adds something to what could otherwise be a pretty generic gameplay loop. The fact that the excellent music really comes into its own as you get higher and higher combos pushes you on in a way that a simple score boost might not.

The problem though is that Popslinger just isn’t that much fun to play. As enjoyable as the soundtrack is, with its combination of funk and more modern dance music, without enjoyable gameplay you’re not going to have a great time. Ria feels unresponsive and floaty during combat, and her slow movement speed made getting into position to shoot an enemy without being hit yourself quite difficult. The dodge mechanic could help with this thanks to its generous invincibility window, but it’s unreliable and sometimes doesn’t come out as quickly as you need it to, or sometimes leaves you facing the wrong way.

Shooting doesn’t fare much better thanks to your weapon having a very short range whilst facing enemies that can move faster than you, or attack you from off screen. Bosses can be especially aggravating thanks to their abilities such as attacking across wide areas with little to no wind up, or teleporting right on top of you. You can pick up different weapons as you progress, but they don’t make a huge difference when you can be attacked so easily. The bonuses you can get from Gin are helpful, such as shields or turrets can help, but they don’t alter the way the game plays overall. It’s a small mercy that the stages are fairly short, meaning those inevitable deaths won’t set you back too much.

Popslinger story
The story isn’t a huge focus, but it is well presented.

I honestly didn’t have a fun time playing Popslinger, but the presentation was generally excellent. The old school anime art style looks really good during the cutscenes, and the voice acting is tremendous for such a small scale game. Then there’s that music which is just tremendous and well worth a listen on its own. Playing through the game and listening to that soundtrack made me feel as though the developers had come up with a soundtrack first and started trying to build the game around it, and really not hitting the mark with the latter aspect.

Whilst I didn’t hate Popslinger, I really didn’t have a great time playing it. There are some elements from which you could derive some enjoyment, but it isn’t something I would strongly recommend. I hope Funky Can Creative spend some time creating a new game with an equally excellent soundtrack but with more fleshed out gameplay in future.

Popslinger is available now on Nintendo Switch.

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