Gamersledge Review – Slender: The Arrival
Let me be the first to tell you that there are few things that truly scare me in just about any medium. TV, Movies, Books – nothing has made me jump as Slender: The Arrival. I happily paid my $15 to get both the full game, access to the Beta (which you can watch the video review of here), and the soundtrack to the game.
For those of you still unfamiliar with the Slender Man saga, it’s a game/meme that became popular on the internet, as a new form of urban story/myth. A faceless man that is taller than normal, with tentacles, abducts children and terrorizes people for unknown reasons; generally leading to them either doing horrible things or becoming gibbering braindead people.
Slender: The Arrival aims to flesh out a bit more detail to the story.
The game is a first person shooter setup, but you’ll find you have no guns and no way to attack (most of the time). You can interact with doors in the prelude/introduction, but beyond that, you are armed with only your trusty flashlight, which you can narrow-beam if you desire, and the ability to run.
And run, you do. I played on a Macbook Pro (the game is available for both Mac and PC), and although I had to turn the resolution down, it runs well, except for one spot in the prelude where it always sticks for about a minute while walking on the road. Beyond that, it runs pretty well, and controls are responsive.
You can only see where you point your flashlight, and in the beta, the level is completely at night, so it was nice to see some daytime graphics in the beginning of several stages of the game, showing off the beauty of the graphics engine.
But make no mistake; you’ll do most of your playing in the dark, with your pulse racing and your heart beating as you desperately look for what you need to move away from danger.
If you look directly at Slender Man for too long, it’s game over. And he chases you with vigor throughout all the levels. He is aggressive, and will take you. There is no map, other than the one you make in your mind. If you fail and retry, everything (after a certain point) is reset in different areas, meaning each playthrough will be unique. There is definitely a risk/reward rush from this game, and it crafts it in the most wickedly fun way possible.
The game does flesh out the story of two friends who have shared experiences from when they were children. Suddenly, one begins writing to the other about those memories and what’s happening to her now. You play a young/middle-aged woman who has come to check in on your friend, only to find her house ransacked, strange letters and emails to you, and a scream in the woods. You follow out the back gate to find yourself being chased by the Slender Man as you collect his pages and try to find your friend, who appears to be headed towards something.
Is there a ton of story to this game? No. The gameplay and presentation is really what this game is all about.
I’m really glad that Blue Isle Studios gave us some glimpses of the game engine in daytime, because I found it to be more than impressive. The graphics are beautiful and scary in all the right ways; the difficulty to see adds an oppressiveness to the game. But where the game truly shines is its soundscape. From nature sounds to a thrumming base chasing you, to squeaky violins and guttoral screams that make you want to run all that much faster, the game drives you.
I’ve seen a little glitchiness (mainly in the mine level), but overall it runs smooth and is presented well.
Slender: The Arrival isn’t by any means a perfect game. In fact, some of the things that attracted me to the original 8 pages game (Which is the first full level of this game) they steered away from in the later levels. In short, they gamified it. 8 Pages felt different because of the confusion of not having a map, having a limited field of vision, and most importantly — no idea where entity that could kill you could end up next. Picking on a particular later level, without being too spoilery, Slenderman has help. Help you can see. Help you can somewhat control. And at that point, I lost the terror of running in a maze from a nondescript *thing* and focused on what I could see (and control) in front of me.
That being said, with a fantastic look/feel, amazing soundscape/design and a truly enjoyable (if not scary) experience, it is a game I would recommend to anyone who likes a good scare, or wants to scare their friends. It is a unique experience in an ocean of platformers, rpg fetch quests and action adventure games. In cooking, they say that sometimes the simplest dish wins. At no point does Slender: The Arrival get bogged down in control schemes and things to do. Run and survive is as difficult as it gets, and Blue Isle Studios have done that one thing very, very well.