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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Salt and Sanctuary.

Transcript Edit

Remember a while back I said we should stop using the phrase "Dark Souls clone" just like I once said we should stop saying "Grand Theft Auto clone" and then Sleeping Dogs came out and I had to say "Spoke too fucking soon!"? I got nothing left and I can't call Salt and Sanctuary a Dark Souls clone. If you put a banana on its head, I could call it "that game that has a banana on its head", but until that day, let's keep calling it a Dark Souls clone.

Games like Bloodborne and Lords of the Fallen are certainly Dark Souls-esque, but nothing less than "clone" feels adequate for Salt and Sanctuary, the only main difference being the paltry fact that it's a 2D platformer. "That sounds like a pretty fucking significant difference to me, Yahtzee!" Well, of course you'd think that, voice in my head. You're obviously a technically minded sort or you wouldn't keep trying to get me to buy knives.

A third dimension does not a Dark Souls make. Dark Souls is in the tone, the muddy visuals, the grim futile atmosphere of the anxiety dream of a medieval knight with galloping syphilis. There are plenty of gameplay differences and there's the fact that Dark Souls never had a deformed character art style reminiscent of an edgy webcomic from the early 2000's drawn by someone who wasn't very good at anatomy, but considered it very important that there exists a portrait of a Furry Jesus Christ trying to remove his knob from a stillborn fetus.

But despite all that, there are moments when Salt and Sanctuary could almost be a direct 2D adaptation of Dark Souls with the names changed into slightly shittier ones. Quick example: Blighttown was a good name for a ramshackle colony on a poisonous bog, Mire of Stench not so much 'cos it's kind of redundant and immediately reminds me of that David Bowie film.

Anyway, in Salt and Sanctuary, you are drowning in semen - whoops, my mistake. In Salt and Sanctuary, you are a drowning seaman who wakes up after the traditional impossible opening boss fight to find themselves on the shores of a mysterious haunted land consisting of fragments of dead civilizations crammed together like six piglets in a duffle bag, haunted by the undead and the occasional top half of a person grafted onto something that isn't one of the very small number of things that is very appropriate for the top half of a person to be grafted onto.

You set off to find the princess you were supposed to be escorting but the game puts in very little effort into pretending that that is the actual plot, so we set off to explore the open-ended landscape and gather the salt from our enemies, which is different to souls because you can't put souls on your chips. But otherwise it's just as useful to upgrading your character at bonfires- Whoops, I mean sanctuaries. When you die, you lose all your salt which is a bit counter-intuitive because getting killed gets me fucking salty, and also a percentage of your money.

Ah, that's something different! In Dark Souls, you charge everything to your souls account whereas in Salt and Sanctuary, money and salt are separate things. I'm not sure why though, 'cos the only things money can buy are low level items that stop being useful about 30 seconds into the game, and you do all your weapon upgrading with salt and with specific items of vendor trash that dying enemies puke out like reverse vacuum cleaners. So every time I died and the game waggled its finger informing me that it was taking a percentage of my cash, I was like "Oh no, please don't. I hate having to manually pull my trousers down."

Another difference is that you can populate sanctuaries with NPC vendors and must decide if it's worth giving up a precious blacksmith token to be able to get your sword upgraded at the summits of Mt. Bumfuck, except there's also a vendor that lets you teleport between sanctuaries so just add one of those in as many places as you can and stick all the other vendors in one or two of the nice sanctuaries with the affordable beachfront real estate.

Now you understand I'm not complaining that a game is reminiscent to Dark Souls 'cos me and Dark Souls is like your mum and pies, but certain important things are lost in the shift to 2D. For example, Salt and Sanctuary could really do with a fucking map. Dark Souls can't have one 'cos there's too much verticality, but it also doesn't really need one 'cos it's got the scenery pawn thing. "Better look around and figure out where I am. Oh, I remember now! I'm in a fantasy nightmare world, and I'm making my way towards that vast brick palace in the distance. Gosh, can't wait to find out how many things want to murder me there!" You don't have that in 2D. In 2D, what you've got is "Gosh, I can't wait to see what's past this 20 feet stairway I'm currently looking at." In Dark Souls, whenever I walked up to an old bonfire, I never had to wander about a few minutes trying to work out where the fuck I was in relation to everywhere else. So, map please! You don't have to be a pushover about it, make it kind of abstract or fire scorpions at my mouth every time I look at it.

Combat obviously loses some complexity in 2D, but Salty Sancho admirably recreates the most important characteristics of Souls combat, by which I mean dodge-rolling behind people as they attack always works and the hit boxes are absolutely fucked. Where the combat rubs up against the border between Dark Souls Town and Symphony of the Night-ville is when you get hit by a heavy attack and your character goes flying gaily across the screen like a happy little tear-gas canister at a protest against police brutality, which wasn't that annoying in Symphony of the Night 'cos there was no fall damage, but guess what there's gobs of in Salty Sancho, along with the platforming emphasis which means you're never more than ten steps from a death drop, again just like your mum and pies.

Of all the many times that I died in this game, about 60% of them was from being knocked off a ledge and 30% of them were from failing to grab a ledge 'cos the PS4 analog sticks misbehaved. But Salty Sancho's flinging fuckery was also its downfall 'cos the final boss somehow managed to clip me into a wall in such a way that it couldn't hit me but I could hit him 'cos I was using a greatsword about half the length of my dick. I then beat him with ease thinking to myself "Well, I was probably just about to win anyway." And that, people, is how easy it is to fall to the Dark Side! Mind you, some of the flying bosses fucked me up by initiating their attacks from off-screen so I guess we can call it even on the naughty cheating front, Salty Sancho!

On the whole, I seem to remember enjoying my time with Saltine Crackers, but I've never been the same since the stroke. As you may have noticed, I have trouble moving past the Dark Souls comparison, so it's possibly struggling to find an identity. The cartoony art style is pretty appropriate and the game as a whole feels like a big-headed chibi version of Dark Souls Marlon Brando midget style, with its smaller kind of samey environments and more frequent boss fights that make it feel thinly spread. I don't know how much of my absorption came from the game itself and how much came from it reminding me of my happy place, but who gives a shit? It's Dark Souls with Symphony of the Night plugged into the gaps and I liked both games, so I'm having a blowjob while snacking on fun-sized Mars Bars!

Addenda Edit

  • Full of piss and vinegar: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • I can't wait for the sequel where you have to upgrade yourself with garlic pepper and MSG
  • Try to resist the urge to lick yourself

Screenshots Edit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

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