Slender: The Arrival PC
It’s a common fact among fans of horror that the more a seemingly frightening element is overused, the less scary it becomes after repeated encounters. Just ask Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and whatever the invisible demon from Paranormal Activity is called. That is why whenever a horror franchise or icon achieves success, it becomes a bloody double-edged blade. This example, of course, applies to horror-based videogames as well, including Resident Evil and Silent Hill: two franchises once known as the pinnacle of interactive terror that were eventually stripped of their power due to mainstream over-saturation.
The Slender Man will soon share the same fate as these titans of terror; created in 2009 by a member of the Something Awful forums, the silent-yet-snappily-dressed stalker quickly reached internet notoriety in the form of original YouTube videos such as Marble Hornets and also stretched its elongated fingers over to the videogame world with “Slender: The Eight Pages”. Originally a free PC game created by Indie developer Parsec Productions, the first person scavenger hunt was a short but frighteningly effective experience that had players wandering a large forest area in the dead of night to collect eight scattered pages while avoiding eye contact with the faceless Slender Man (whose motif consists of silently watching his prey but never acting until its victims stare at him face-to-faceless-face).
Sure enough, the game became a cult hit that has now inspired a sequel. After all, the real secret to resurrecting a dead menace is determined by the darkest of rituals: fame. This time developed by Blue Isle Studios and distributed by Parsec, Slender: The Arrival is a bigger, prettier, and all-around more ambitious game than its predecessor. Also it costs money this time. The most important, question, however, is whether or not it’s also scarier.
Unlike Eight Pages, Slender: The Arrival features a minimalist story behind the premise: players assume the role of a first-person character armed with a video recorder and flashlight scouring multiple areas for a missing friend who may have been taken away by the Slender Man. Like the original game, one such area takes place in a dark forest that requires the retrieval of eight pages while avoiding the titular terror. Succeed in completing that task, however, and players will unlock additional areas with their own objectives, which either consist of another numbered task (such as turning on all the generators in an abandoned mine) or wandering toward a specified location. Regardless of the objective, something spooky is bound to follow, and making direct contact with any of the things that go bump in the night will result in players being bumped off in the most psychedelic fashion.
Like with most Indie horror games releasing after the highly successful Amnesia, Slender features no way for players to defend themselves against enemies; the only available strategy is to run like crazy while wandering the intricately detailed environments. Speaking of which, the visuals in Slender may not reach the level of Dear Esther or other aesthetically-focused games, but it certainly gets the job done of creating a believable and unsettling atmosphere. This is further heightened with a video recorder HUD consisting of a dwindling battery and zoom function, although this can be toggled off with the push of a key. The only noticeable notch against the presentation is the physics concerning interactive objects such as doors and windows. Anyone who has played Amnesia (or its predecessor Penumbra) will especially notice how flimsy the object interaction feels in this game.
But there is no denying how terrifying the game can be. Whether or not you are no longer fooled by the traditional jump-scares of classic horror, the way Slender Man silently shows up in your line of sight with each turn of the camera is bound to cause a few goosebumps to rise, while the increasingly jarring static from glancing at the silent creature will only add to the intensity. The game’s most terrifying monster, however, can be found in the third area and (without giving too much away) does not even feature the titular monster. Anyone who makes it that far is bound to cause a frightened reaction or two worthy of streaming posterity.
Make no mistake, Arrival can be quite challenging at times, as the ease in which players can be overcome by the faceless horrors can occur rapidly, almost giving the game an Arcade-like feel resulting in multiple retries to advance. This runs the risk of ruining the horror, atmosphere, as repeated deaths can lead to frustration rather than fright. It becomes especially annoying as the large areas lack any kind of map, often leading to repeated circles across the same location over and over. There are also cases where players may find themselves at a corner with no chance of escape, though that could also be considered an effective reproduction of a typical horror movie fate for hapless victims. Less intentional are the occasional technical glitches, though many of them have been sorted out thanks to a recent patch. In regards to key binding, however, the game lacks a button to revert keys to default without typing a console command (which is easy enough to do, but also a bit of an oversight on the developer’s part). The game also supports controllers, but doesn’t feel quite as natural as using a mouse and keyboard; this is coming from someone who generally prefers controllers.
In any event, fans of the original Slender game owe it to themselves to experience the sequel. The overall experience may be familiar, but hasn’t grown tiresome yet to affect its scare-factor. Grab some headphones, turn off the lights, and try not to wake up anyone living in the same household with your screams of terror.