Published on October 28th, 2014 | by Dougie Wythe0
Slender: The Arrival – Review
Remember Slender: The Eight Pages from 2012? The game that infected Youtube with dark facecams and cracking voices that went up a few octaves when the smartly dressed Slender Man would pop up behind a tree. Well Blue Isle Studios are back with more of the same fear and cheap deaths that Slender Man offers with Slender: The Arrival. Despite being out for over a year on PC, it’s now time for Slender Man to give console gamers the “oh no, he’s behind me, isn’t he?” feeling.
The story can be equated to following a breadcrumb trail of confusing and worrying notes through several spooky environments, left by your friend for whom you are searching. Yet, this just felt like an excuse to lead you down an eerie rabbit hole and unsettling environments. You’ll have to find all the collectables and scattered notes to get the full story but even then, it’s not the most compelling sequence of events. I lacked any real connection to the undeveloped and lifeless characters involved and even forgot my goal after taking a break from playing the game. I would have much preferred to have been just put into a scary scenario with the simple task of “escape” rather than trudging from point A to point B for the sake of wedging in an unnecessary story.
Slender: The Arrival looks best when you don’t look too closely at the backgrounds or objects. The sun setting in a mellow orange, slowly casting the world into darkness looks almost radiant and settling, which is very impressive considering the dread that’s about to ensue. Look too closely at an object or the scenery, however, and you’ll realise it’s a flat texture pasted onto either a wall, much like most of the distant trees are, or just a 2D object, like the cornfield. The game tried to stray from the path of just darkness and wooded areas, but it’s in that darkness where it truly shone. It’s only in the brightly lit outside or when you can sit and stare at an object in safety for a few seconds that you realise you’re not supposed to look it for too long. Whereas, when you’re plunged into the darkness and have horrible creatures nipping at your heels, you don’t have the luxury to stop and stare. As much as my heart appreciates the few moments of daylight to rest, I can’t help but to wander around and look during these moments.
If there’s one thing I can praise the game highly on it’s the atmosphere it creates with the soundtrack. Or lack thereof. Most of the game is silence, only hearing your footsteps echo throughout dilapidated buildings or the crumple of leaves underfoot in a forest. This adds brilliant tension and a true feeling of loneliness on your journey. The music will start giving off a deep, bassy rumble when the game wants you to be scared. When you associate that tone with Slender Man and his cohort creeping up on you, you’ll be on the edge of your seat, sweaty palmed and putting on your bravest face.
If you’ve played the original Slender game, then you’re familiar with how to play and what to expect. There’s even an early mission very reminiscent of the first game; collect the eight pages as Slender Man becomes more aggressive and threatening. It’s the later levels, where Slender Man isn’t the sole threat. For example, the warehouse level requires you to turn on several generators in an echoing, abandoned building. Your enemy isn’t just Slender Man, but also small childlike creatures. Unlike Slender Man, they’ll chase you down and the only way to fend them off is by blinding them with your torch. Forcing you to face your fears. Whilst these new elements may be monumental in comparison to the very bare bones 2012 original, I can’t help but to feel they only scratched the surface of what they can truly do. The campaign is very short and whilst you explore some interesting locations, they only have a single objective before you’re ushered away to the next hair-raising location.
Slender: The Arrival is filled with jump-scares that your own fears will create. The very sight of Slender Man will make you jump in your seat and fear for the next corner you have to turn. Yet, that’s all this game really is. Jumpscares and the dread of carrying on. The randomness of how and where Slender Man will appear can sometimes be cheap and frustrating, especially considering the few and far between checkpoints. There were many times when I stopped playing because Slender Man had simple spawned either inside me, or in the exact space where I was going to put my next footstep, leading me to an unavoidable game over and having to restart at the last check point. This is extremely annoying considering these checkpoints are before or after you’ve done a lengthy and tense objective of collecting something. Replaying that to only get blindsided by something that’s impossible to avoid is plain unfair. It means I quit and I stop having fun. Whilst there may be an achievement linked to this happening, it doesn’t make it any more bearable when you have to replay the same level for the fifth time because of it.
For the length of the game and any depth it has, I don’t think I could recommend Slender: The Arrival to anyone vaguely interested. For a full priced indie title, it’s not worth it. Maybe when it’s on sale then it’s purchased out of curiosity or when your library of games just isn’t doing it. It may do it’s job of jump scares and eeriness but it’s all over too fast and lacks depth. Whilst Slender Man mercilessly hunts you, the game can give you new experiences due to the randomness, it can often feel unfair as he pops up exactly where you need to go or where you are. The only genuine enjoyment I got out of the title was at 2 am after a night out with my friends, when we all sat down and I played through it with the lights off. Scares were had, but it’s not a title I would replay.