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Developer: Parsec Productions
Publisher: Blue Isle Studios
Platforms: PC, Mac
ESRB Rating: N/A
Genre: Survival Horror
On June 26th, 2012, Parsec Productions released Slender: The Eight Pages to the world. It was an unnerving – albeit bare bones – game that inspired nightmares and frustration in everyone who played it. In a good way, of course. Steep as its difficulty curve was, the chilling atmosphere and unique experience of the game kept bringing people back for more.
Following the unanticipated explosion of interest that followed the original, Slender: The Arrival picks up precisely where Eight Pages left off – both in its gameplay philosophy as well as its overall story. Without spoiling too much, the sequel sees you playing a young girl exploring an abandoned park, a mining facility, as well as several other befittingly isolated environments. Once again, you are left with merely a flashlight and limited sprinting ability for protection. And of course, you are frequently pursued by a tall, faceless monster in a dapper suit and tie. Suffice to say, the developers knew what wasn’t broke and thankfully didn’t try to fix it.
The concept of the Slender Man has been banded around the internet for several years now, having become one of the more popular viral urban legends we tell each other across the digital campfire in the wee hours. Originating on the SomethingAwful forums, he has since become one of the most recognizable faces (har-de-har) in the echelons of creepypasta. Many have attempted to ride his terrifying coattails, but only a few have been able to successfully capture the true horror associated with the character.
The creators of internet series “Marble Hornets” are one such group. They took the Slender Man idea and turned it into an online YouTube horror series, combining a well crafted mystery story with the found footage genre while adding a sprinkle of nightmare fuel here and there. It was here that the seeds for Slender: The Arrival were first planted.
Having seen success with Eight Pages, Parsec Productions teamed with Blue Isle Studios and the writers behind Marble Hornets to create this fully realized Slender experience. An enormous leap forward in graphics, sound design, and immersion, is it possible that Slender: The Arrival could eclipse the grueling experience that the original game provided?
With five main chapters – not to mention hidden bonus chapters – it seems like the game has already been opened up to a much larger spectrum of terror. Unlike Eight Pages, Arrival doesn’t just drop you in the woods with the promise of the worst game of hide and seek you’ll ever play. Instead, it forces you to walk gradually into Oakside Park with the intent of finding your missing friend. It plays masterfully upon feelings of being powerless and alone, paranoia and weakness, desperation in all its forms. As an experience, it’s hard to find a game that more aptly describes the term survival horror.
Graphically there have been significant alterations. The woods themselves have seen an upgrade, now complete with falling autumnal leaves and sunbeams that wave to you through the branches as if saying farewell to any hope you once had. The environments look and feel as impressive as anything you might expect from a big time developer, only these guys managed to nail the oppressive ambiance to match the graphical overhaul that the game world has received. Even Slender Man has gotten a face lift. No longer the cheap, blocky Minecraft reject – his character model is now so horrifying that you probably won’t be sticking around to admire it for very long, lest you get the infamous close-up of him as he bears down upon you.
The story to the game is somewhat scant, in that there isn’t much apparent storytelling at all. Much like the first game, you are placed in a situation and left to draw your own conclusions. Considering the length of the game (roughly sixty minutes if you’re an adept player), to tell anything of the plot would be massive spoiler territory. As such, I will merely say that it does a good job of making you theorize, which at the end of the day is all a good Slender Man fan wants. Besides, if anyone played Eight Pages and went into this one hoping for a meaty, dialogue-heavy script, then I’m not sure they played the same game I did.
The game can sadly be a tad repetitive. The developers clearly knew they had a winning formula and chose to follow it as far as they could go. There is a chapter based very specifically on the Eight Pages game, where the player has to gather the mysterious notes left behind in a forest whilst simultaneously avoiding the titular terror. This is then followed by a section where you must activate generators in order to power an elevator, all the while being chased by nasty things in the dark. Lather, rinse, repeat for a couple more chapters and there you have it.
Fortunately, the developers manage to keep things interesting by changing the dynamics of the environment each time, even creating a rather spooky tower defense-esque chapter where you have to close all the windows and doors of your house to keep Slender Man outside. But even with these fancy new clothes, it’s painfully obvious that there wasn’t much else that could be done with this concept beyond “click things while you avoid bad guys.”
If anything should be praised in this game, it’s the sound design. Even in Eight Pages, it was the haunting soundtrack that kept you awake at night – not the low-res, graphically challenged Slender Man model. The music and sound effects in Slender: The Arrival will not just encourage you to flee for your life, but will also make you want to pause and listen for a moment. There’s something to be said about a game that can evoke as much emotion from standing in a glade and watching the leaves fall, as it does when you’re being hounded by demonic creatures in hot pursuit of your blood.
Overall, Slender: The Arrival is a remarkable game. It’s not going to challenge your skills – there are no puzzles to speak of, and the game literally tells you what you need to do to proceed – but it will challenge your nerve. It isn’t particularly long, but the experience sticks with you far longer than you may be comfortable with. In a world where survival horror is quickly being equated to third person zombie shooters, it’s nice to see a game not just returning to the roots of the genre, but going even further back and exploring the root of human fear. Loneliness, isolation, and helplessness.
Oh, and a really tall faceless dude in a suit.
- Huge improvement over the original
- Graphics and sound are very impressive
- Guaranteed to scare you out of your wits
- Very, very short (1-2 hours)
- Repetitive gameplay mechanics
- Last half of the game much shorter/easier than the first half