In need of some good ol’ fashioned scares? The sequel to the independent horror sensation, Slender arrives in less than two weeks. Those who preordered the game received access to a beta version of the game. Three of our bravest (or most foolhardy) writers descended into Slenderman’s territory to discover whether or not Slender: The Arrival is a worthy successor. Here are their impressions.
What were your reactions to the original Slender?
Javy: I was a big fan of the original Slender. I think it’s an excellent demonstration of effective minimalist design. There isn’t really that much to Slender, gameplay wise: you hunt for eight creepy looking pages while avoiding a supernatural (?), freaky looking entity dogging you during your search. It’s a spooky little game that sent more than a couple of shivers up my spine.
That being said, Slender doesn’t have much replay value. Once I had played through the game two or three times, the antagonist ceased to be frightening. I did play all the way through just to collect the pages, but, without the scares, it was the equivalent of a tedious Easter egg hunt in the dark. Not much fun. That’s why I got excited when I heard the game was being expanded into a fully-fledged game. I was hoping that Parsec and Blue Isle Studios would craft several levels or maybe even change up the gameplay a bit in order to create incentive for multiple playthroughs.
Martin: My breath shortened, my body seized up and then I screamed like a little bitch. I never actually finished the original because I couldn’t man up and endure being mentally and emotionally drained.
Still, I hold the experience as one of my most memorable in gaming. Immersion is everything to me, so when a game grabs me by the testicles and squeezes, reducing me to a squealing pre-pubescent boy, you could say it’s got my attention.
Chad: Despite being a man in his early twenties, I’m not afraid to admit, Slender: The Eight Pages scared the living crap out of me. I played the original with no previous knowledge on what Slender actually was – just told “It’s one of the scariest games ever made”. Let’s just say I didn’t go to sleep that night.
The simple approach in design is what really made the original Slender all that more terrifying. No HUD, no tutorial, just you stuck in a forest, with a dying flashlight and the words “Collect eight pages.” Throw in some excellent sound effects (that slow pounding pulse is STILL in my head) intelligent use of pacing and the fear of the unknown, the original Slender is one gaming experience I won’t forget.
Is The Arrival still scary?
Javy: Unfortunately, since the gameplay in the beta is modeled exactly after Slender: The 8 Pages, it suffers from the same issues that plagued its predecessor. Slender: The Arrival is very, very scary—initially. The lack of a tutorial, the new hand-held camera POV, and, of course, Slenderman himself are quite frightening. But desensitization soon sets in; it’s the difference between seeing the Xenomorph from Alien for the first time and the hundredth time. Slender: The Arrival is game of diminishing scares.
However, I must admit, that those first two or three times through are terrifying. And, like most good horror films, the scares don’t all come from what you’ve see on screen. The majority of them arise from what you think you see. There were several times where I peered out into the darkness and thought I witnessed something float from tree to tree, only to turn around and look up into the blank, yet monstrous visage of Slenderman.
Martin: If The Arrival doesn’t scare you then I doubt any film or video game will. There is a reason so many people post reaction videos to playing the game and terrifying ‘the shit’ out of people is it.
Even comparing it to the terrifying Amnesia undervalues the horror of an evening with the skinny, faceless prick. Its only fair equal is the experience of a nightmare; with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from the lanky monstrosity who’s going to get you…probably.
Chad: Yes, yes and yes. Despite knowing what to expect, credit must be given to The Arrival for still making me question every corner I turn. A new polished environment, subtle atmospheric sounds from the forest (such as other footsteps) and of course that pulsing imminent music all still manages to send chills down my spine. Slenderman himself has also received some nifty buffs, now able to slowly move instead of being just a static being, which on discovery made me panic for the ESC key.
Does the game try anything new?
Javy: Truth be told: not really. There are some nice visual additions—we’ll get to those in a bit—but this is still very much the same game we played last June, albeit with a facelift and a new environment.
Martin: Nothing major, but there’s a handful of minor changes; you can now run with your flashlight raised which also has two levels of brightness, the forest sounds creepier and Slenderman is less likely to pop up in front of you. Basically he’s more into foreplay this time around before shoving his knobby head in front of your gaping face.
Chad: In terms of gameplay, nothing. The beta thus far is more of a HD remake of the original than anything else. There are visual enhancements such as the camera POV and the obvious makeover of the forest, but this is very much the same experience we got last year. Just prettier.
How does it look compared to the original?
Javy: Good. Real good compared to the first game. However, it actually ends up working against the game thanks to some odd choices. For some reason, Slenderman has a colorful aura surrounding him—probably related to how he’s messing with the camera—that makes him look like he’s engulfed by a doughnut made out of rainbow. It’s actually much more frightening to glimpse his fingers jutting out from behind a tree than to see the culprit.
The visual effect of scrambling your camera’s image as Slenderman approaches also quickly becomes aggravating more than it is legitimately frightening.
Martin: Graphically it outshines its predecessor – environments are sharper and objects better detailed – but its premier aesthetic achievement is simulating the experience of a dream. Something I believed impossible until now. The combination of tree silhouettes and leaves swaying in the wind imbed a very eerie feeling in your player. Pick up a piece of paper and that anxiety multiplies as the sound of danger echoes around you. If you enjoy non-human beings chasing you in your dreams with no way to fight back you’ll cream over this, or crap yourself.
Chad: Considering the original was only made by a single person, and The Arrival now has a studio backing, its one hell of a renovation. The terrain itself has had a major overhaul which introduces a more vertical, interesting landscape than its predecessor. The upgraded lighting and fog effects also do an exceptional job of boosting that ‘uneasy’ state of mind in addition to the little touches such as trees and leaves swaying.
What do we want from it?
Javy: More levels and variety. I want a reason to keep playing. Also, there are some bugs that need to be fixed. I got stuck in a wall at one point and apparently if you restart the game, the flashlight has unlimited battery. Oh, and bring back 20 dollar mode.
Martin: Considering Slender: The Arrival already delivers in spades what it sets out to do there’s very little it needs to offer other than more levels and pages to collect. Moaning bitches would argue unclear rules as to why the skinny bastard suddenly appears next to you are frustrating, especially for those attempting to finish the game. But Slender is not something you play for fun, it’s a trauma you suffer for the thrill of the experience – like burning your copy of Aliens: Colonial Marines.
Chad: Personally, something more than collecting pages. The original Slender was an Internet phenomenon, there’s no doubting that. But the main problem for me is that it’s more of an ‘experience’ (similar to Dear Esther) than a traditional game. After collecting those damn pages and a quick underwear change, I had no desire to go back and play it again. Not because Slender made me scream like a little girl, but purely due to a lack of variety in gameplay. If every stage in Slender: The Arrival has me collecting pages, then count me out.
So what do you think of Slender: The Arrival? A classic horror game in the making or just a one time experience? Let us know in the comments below!