Slender: The Arrival has been around since March on PC, but just made its debut on Steam and is supposed to be making its way to several of the online marketplaces for consoles. It features The Slender Man, the internet's very own boogie man. Created by a user on the Something Awful forums, Slender has ballooned into a sensation and phenomenon all on his own. He's creepy, frightening, weird and mysterious. Even though we know he's made up, it's very interesting to be around to witness and be able to document the creation of the next Bloody Mary.
That being said, even though we know he's fake, he still lends himself very well to horror. For the susceptible or the horror minded, you can't help but look over your shoulder or turn on an extra light in a darkened house after thinking too hard about the hulking horror of the Slender Man. His elongated limbs, blank, soulless face and desire to do horrible things to the unsuspecting after the sun has set makes him a very intimidating figure. Mark Hadley took advantage of the character, creating a game called Slender: The Eight Pages. With the popularity of the game and the character in mind, it was expanded into Slender: The Arrival, a chapter based horror game.
Not having played The Eight Pages, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but I went forward into the game. There was no manual and no real education on the control of the game, which was a cause for alarm right from the beginning. I'm supposed to play a game where I'm being stalked by a supernatural entity who can murder me just for looking at him, but I don't know how to move around properly? Having played computer games before, I made an educated guess as to the basic commands (I was right!) and moved on into the game.
I walked my character down to an isolated home, walking in through the wide open door. I closed it behind me, keeping in mind that something was supposed to be stalking me and I wanted some warning before it came after me. I started walking through the abandoned home, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with myself. The entire mood was oppressive, dark, disturbing. There wasn't anyone else around, nothing to distract from the fear that was creeping its way into my subconscious. At one point, I walked towards the front door and my screen started to distort, to shift. I heard a nasty static noise and I ran away from the door. I didn't know what was going on, but I knew it was bad. And at one point, while looking out of the windows, I saw HIM.
The Arrival does an amazing job of creeping the player out. The sounds, the footsteps, the dark corners, wandering roads and uncertain path in front of you does an excellent job of keeping you on edge the whole time you're playing. I wasn't sure what to expect as I moved from chapter to chapter. I wasn't sure what to expect with each step I took further into the game itself. There's something to be said for progressing though a course of action, knowing deep in your heart you're doomed no matter what. That's what this game was. It was a slow, inexorable crawl towards certain death and doom that I kept doing anyway, scared out of my mind the whole way.
Or at least I was, until Slender started becoming a little less scary and a lot more annoying. When traveling through the game, there are multiple sections where your objective is to find X amount of a certain object. The pages, from the first game. Generators, new to this game. It's all well and good in small dosages, but I found it a little tedious after a while. Added to that is the fact that the game randomly changes around the terrain when you restart. It adds challenge, yes, but it makes it a little annoying when each time you turn on the chapter you get stuck trying to find just that very last object you need to progress. You can't reliably go for all the objects next time you start, because everything is going to shift position on you.
And the whole time you're chasing these things down, you're dealing with Slender. He chases you, stalks you, terrorizes you and tries to steal your soul. He increases the frequency of his sightings the longer you've stayed in an area and the more time you take to complete your objective. The closer you get to finishing, the more he shows up as well. And let me tell you, after a while, he stopped being scary and starting being really annoying. I stopped jumping and stopped feeling my heart pound when I caught a glimpse of him in the distance. I started calling him very unflattering names as I hunkered down into my seat, muttering about finding the last object I needed.
Added to that are the annoying minions and the method of dealing with them. Slender has creepy, demonic soul stealing helpers. He probably calls them Bill and Tom. I call them probably the most annoying part of the game. When you encounter them, you're instructed to change the shine on your flashlight, making it a narrow beam to momentarily blind them. Once they're blinded, your job is to run as fast as possible to get away from them while continuing on your mission.
Let me tell you, those little bastards are fast. They're obnoxious. And they jumped at me from around multiple corners and long hallways, giving me very little time to get away from them. In short, they were an awful mechanic and I hated every second of dealing with them. Not only am I running away from Slender, I'm running away from these fast hell stalkers who can end my game in two or three shots if I'm not fast enough or quick enough.
If you can push past dealing with these guys and you can swallow your frustration long enough to deal with the object hunting (or have a much better sense of direction than I), you will be fine with Slender: The Arrival. The team involved did an amazing job building the mood and atmosphere. I'd love to see them produce another project with him, but maybe with some updated and revamped mechanics. They've got the basics down - they scared the beejezus out of me the first time I caught a glimpse of him and it continued long enough to sell me on their skills in that capacity. And that is the most important part of bringing The Slender Man to life. As a matter of fact, I...wait. What's that outside my win...
Slender: The Arrival is now available on Steam.