Review: Slender: The Arrival
A few months ago, Parsec Productions unleashed their free, highly experimental horror game, Slender: The Eight Pages. A simple goal of collecting pages in a forest was complicated by the ghoulish Slenderman, a tall, faceless man who follows you through the forest. It was a cult smash, and spawned hundreds of Youtube playthroughs. Following up on this is Slender: The Arrival, an expanded and evolved sequel, boasting five levels, and larger environments to get lost in.
In Slender: The Arrival, you’ll take the role of Lauren, looking for her friend Kate. As you progress, you’ll find clues to her whereabouts, and this intrigue keeps you pressing onwards through the nightmare. You’ll travel through dark, oppressive woods, rusty abandoned factories and even some lush, outside areas. The variation is nice to see, as it could have very easily taken place entirely in the dark.
The Slenderman himself retains the air of mystery and horror that he did in the first game. His design is identical to the last game, tall, skinny, faceless, and wearing a rather fancy suit for a woodland horror. As you move through the levels, you’ll catch glimpses of his silhouette from afar, and each time this happens the panic wells up anew. If he gets too close to you, it’s game over, so you’ll spend a lot of time running away in a blind panic. The worst part is that he only moves when you stop looking at him, but looking at him causes your vision to fuzz up, forcing you to wheel away and flee.
Slenderman also has a new friend, the Proxy. The Proxy is a kid, a slave to the Slenderman, who chases you around the abandoned factory level. This foe has no qualms about your flashlight, and will run right at you, forcing you to keep moving. Often, while running from the Proxy, you’ll run right into the Slenderman himself, causing pants to be changed.
As scary as the enemies can be, their propensity to cheat undermines their effect. In the second level, which is essentially a remake of the original, free Slender game, you once more have to collect 8 pages, scattered around the map. It starts off easy enough, but by the end, the Slenderman will be actively teleporting in front of you, ruining your run through no fault of your own. Many attempts on this level will end with 7 of 8 pages collected, by way of the cheating enemies.
This is not to say that Slender: The Arrival isn’t scary, as it provides some great, genuine scares. The problem is that replaying levels over and over because of the ridiculous enemy movement manages to suck a lot of the atmosphere and tension out of the experience. Each of the levels follows a similar structure, collecting X number of Ys, further adding to the feeling that you’ve done this before. The gameplay lacks the variation shown in the environment design, and will have worn out its welcome well before the end.
The atmosphere (before gameplay distractions) is great, and the audio and visual design take a lot of the credit for this. The whole game is displayed as camcorder footage, with the screen fuzzing up and glitching when the Slenderman is near. This flickering is sometimes the first indicator you get that he’s near, and makes sense within the premise. The audio is top notch too, and as you progress the sound helps provide that ever increasing sense of dread and panic. The occasional sounds of footsteps, or doors banging will stick you on edge every single time.
The plot additions within the game are interesting, and it’s nice to see an actual mystery in the game, but this gets balanced out by the repetitive, unfair mechanics. The story is pretty interesting, but you won’t care by the time you reach the conclusion. Slender worked better as a single, focused experiment, and the original title never outstayed its welcome. With The Arrival, you’ll be praying for it to be over, but via boredom and frustration, not via the scares.