This is the one hundred fifth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

This next random selection from the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality has left a faint, sticky trail behind it. It’s The Sword and the Slime by Possum House Games, and its tagline in the bundle reads:

The buddy cop movie no one asked for.

Reader, I can confirm that I did not ask for it.

The Sword and the Slime is kind of like a puzzle platformer, except it isn’t really about platforming. Controlled entirely with the mouse, players assume the role of a sword spirit, awakened to defend the other fae from encroaching goblins led by a gargantuan ogre. The mouse cursor is the spirit, which cannot directly interact with the physical world, but is followed very closely by its flying sword, which very much can. Moving the cursor around the screen is all that’s required to have the sword swoop about, dodging obstacles and occasionally slashing an enemy with a quick mouse click. But the sword can only fly while it is in the light. Enter an area of shadow and its magic is sapped, causing it to fall lifeless to the floor.

That’s all that’s needed for some early puzzles in the first few levels, but soon enough the titular slime shows up. Reminiscent of the infamous gelatinous cube from Dungeons & Dragons, it grows in size whenever it consumes something (an enemy’s remains, fruit) and shrinks when it takes damage. More importantly, it tries to follow where the sword leads, so careful positioning of the sword lets players control where the slime moves. Early on, puzzles center on controlling the slime’s size, by strategically feeding it, protecting it from incoming attacks, or even trimming it down on purpose to fit through a gap. If the slime is large enough it can weigh down large pressure plates which open new paths forwards. Later, the slime gets to act as a portable light source, a buoy in the dark that lets both sword and slime make it to the exit.

This leads to a nice variety of puzzles throughout the adventure. Some ideas repeat a few times, but not enough to grate, and I enjoyed exploring this world with my slime companion. It helps that environments feature some lovely pixel art. The palette is mostly grey and green, but that’s perfect for the ancient, overgrown stone structures that the sword and the slime must traverse, and on occasion there’s a gorgeous background to gawp at. I loved how these offered hints about the world too. I was sent off into battle without much explanation, but coming across a massive, bleached skull near an equally huge rusted sword led me to believe that this isn’t the first time ogres have tried to attack the fae. At one point I came across another sword like mine, its blade old and pitted, with fae around it wondering why it won’t wake up. There are a lot of humorous moments and jokes in the game, but I loved these little somber scenes when they appeared.

The Sword and the Slime does frustrate on occasion. There are two levels of lag built in to the controls: the very slight way the sword lags behind the spirit, and the much larger lag of the slime’s movements. Tracking these can be difficult, especially when trying to maneuver the slime through a trap-filled corridor, or across some moving platforms. I would be watching the sword and its relative position to the slime, but lose track of where my mouse cursor — the spirit — actually was. This always led to a moment of disconnect, where what was happening on the screen didn’t match what I thought should be happening, and ended with the slime careening into danger, or the sword hurtling out of the light and dropping to the floor, with no way to revive it. These failures can be sudden and jolting, and require restarting the entire level. Granted, levels aren’t that long, but sometimes I failed a tricky section multiple times and wished there was a checkpoint. There are enough awkward moments like this to prevent The Sword and the Slime from being an unqualified recommendation.

But it’s still a recommendation. I love the concept and much of the execution, and it’s got great art and some cool music to boot. And it’s not too long. I finished its 23 levels in two sittings, but it could easily be done in just one. If playing as a flying sword guiding a slime through some ancient ruins sounds interesting to you, definitely give this one a try. If you missed it in the bundle, The Sword and the Slime is sold for a minimum price of $5.

That’s 105 down, and only 1636 to go!