Simple Mechanics Fall Apart in This Retail Sequel
Earlier last year (that being 2012 at the time of writing) the freeware PC game Slender: The Eight Pages was released. Inspired by the urban legend spawned from the Something Awful forums, It was a rather straightforward horror game in which you searched for pages in an abandoned forest while the monstrous Slender Man hunted you down. To the surprise of some, the game was a huge hit with countless Lets Players doing their own play throughs of the game and it even getting mentioned on major TV networks such as Adult's Swim's Toonami.
And so a year passed, and now we have a retail sequel to the game which was backed by a budget and the writing team of Marble Hornets, a Youtube series also based off of Slender Man. How is this sequel to the a game that is by some considered one of the best horror games in recent memory? Underwhelming, to say the least.
The first thing that you might notice once you start a new game in Slender: The Arrival is the gorgeous environments. While nowhere near mind-blowing the game does manage to paint very beautiful mountains and forests that appear to be convincingly expensive in the rare moments when you can safely explore an area in the daylight. But it isn't just the environments that have been given a graphical bump, but good old Slender Man himself has been given a much more intimating model making him learner and taller than his blow-up-doll-esque model from The Eight Pages. Also worth mentioning is The Arrival's excellent sound direction. You'll hear the crunching of leaves under feet that aren't yours, your character's video camera will blast static and make horrible scratching noises when the Slender Man is near, heck, some of the game's best scares from the use of sound to give you this constant feeling of being watched.
Another major notable addition is something that resembles a story. You are implied to be Lauren, a woman who feels compelled to film everything that happens in her life as she searches for her missing friends Kate and CR. Quite masterfully, nothing is ever explicitly stated. Everything that happens in the game is implied by the environments and by notes you pick up throughout the levels. Even the identity of the protagonist requires some searching and thinking to put together. The graphical updates, sound direction and implied story all pile together to create an excellent and unnerving atmosphere. So what could possibly go wrong?
The game play. The game play of The Eight Pages was originally meant for a brief game that doesn't take longer than ten minuets before you either get all of the pages or are caught. When adapted into a much longer game this model falls apart quickly. Nearly every one of the game's five levels consists of a "go collect X number of things" type of objective. This type of game play manages to get old very quickly, and it doesn't help that the game has a tenancy of pulling cheap shots on you. Yes, Slender Man, and in one particular level, his minion, will sometimes aggravatingly appear right by you or right in front of you meaning instant death. You are given no chance to escape in this scenarios and these cheap kills quickly go from horrifying to simply annoying. You'll find yourself repeating the same level over and over again until you have the layout memorized while simultaneously killing the atmosphere and finding yourself more annoyed with the monsters than terrified of them.
On top of this repetitious game play model, the game is also extremely short. If you manage to actually get lucky enough to finish all five levels without any sort of cheap deaths or bugs you'll find that the game can be finished in about thirty minuets. But you will probably won't be that lucky, and you'll find that being forced to repeat levels countless times due to cheap deaths not only dulls the impact of that game but also pads it out from a thirty minute affair to a three hour one.
Slender: The Arrival is a tough game to recommend. While it certainly uses its budget on the technical aspect well the game play suffers from a repetitious formula better suited for it's prequel than a seemly full length commercial release. It's hard to genuinely say that it's worth the ten dollar admission price, seeing how you're paying for repetitious and counterproductive game play stretched out over three frustrating hours. If it ever drops down to five, then I suggest giving it a look. Otherwise, you're better of playing The Eight Pages.