Developer: Parsec Productions
Publisher: Blue Isle Studios
Platform: PC (Web)
Release Date: March 27, 2013
ESRB: N/A (M suggested)
A download code was provided by the publisher for this review
Slender: The Eight Pages started a phenomenon in the horror gaming world. Although there have long since been examples of horror games that leave you weaponless, this has been mostly abandoned by modern developers. Amnesia: The Dark Descent managed to stoke those fires again, although it was with Slender that a new boom began in indie-based horror game development. Much of these games are based off the modern urban legend of Slender Man.
Mark Hadley developed Slender and released it while probably never expecting the massive fandom that would soon surround it. Since then, he decided to give the game another shot and make it a more fleshed out, better-looking experience. As such, Slender: The Arrival was born and has recently been unleashed to Slender-hungry fans everywhere. Is this game a worthy response to the original or has it lost its ability to scare?
For the most part, Slender: The Arrival is as scary as its predecessor. Changes mostly seem to have been made to expand the audience to more than horror or indie game diehards. This is done primarily by a tremendous upgrade to the graphics. If there was one criticism to be said of the original, it was that the visuals definitely did not inspire fear. Sure, they didn“t hinder it, but the board-like Slender Man and otherwise weak visuals were off-putting to many. In this game, graphics are on par with modern releases. If you had any issue immersing yourself in Slender due to graphics, than this game should have you covered.
The biggest change that is realized upon playing the game is the story. Sure, there were notes to collect in the original, but that was the majority of storytelling involved. In The Arrival, you get a bunch more information, although it never feels like the game is overloading you with unimportant content. This is a tough balancing act that Parsec Productions got right. There are still eight main pages to collect, but there are also other bits of information strewn on letters (or walls) that further fill out bits of the mythology.
You begin the game with little knowledge of what“s going on. As protagonist Lauren, you are forced out of a car due to a tree toppling over directly in front of the road. Where was she heading? She was on her way to her old friend Kate“s house. Walking the rest of the way there, the tree leaves rustle in the wind as the sun slowly sets. Although nothing appears wrong yet, the atmosphere is immediately a bit off. Night falls as you enter her house, finding it in disarray, and realize that something is definitely wrong since Kate is nowhere to be found.
Searching through her house feels ominous, and this feeling never really leaves the player, even when exploring beyond the â€œsafetyâ€ of her home. There are a few distinct areas to explore and each is a fearful experience, although all are not perfect. For example, one area pits you against an enemy which appears skewed toward much more boilerplate horror. That“s not to say that Slender Man is an incredibly innovative horror antagonist, but it manages to be much creepier than this other being presented later.
To say too much about Slender Man“s use in the game would be destroying some of the game“s scariness. What I can say though is that the effects surrounding this entity are quite cool and good at generating more fear in the player. There is not too much use of â€œbooâ€ scares, which makes it even more appealing. As with a Silent Hill game, you are most often tipped off to nearby danger thanks to technical malfunction. In the case of The Arrival, your video camera screen shows distortion.
Speaking of which, the entire game is played through the lens of a video camera. This may excite fans of Marble Hornets as that web series is framed as a documentary. In a way, the game feels like an extension of it, and only adds to the mythos surrounding Slender Man. It also adds some personalization to the game, as if you really are behind the camera and trying to uncover secrets with Lauren.
One important facet of horror media is audio. The Arrival absolutely excels in this department. From the onset, there are sounds such as footfalls crunching in leaves slightly off time with your own, which makes you worry something else is in the woods. Then there is general audio in the background which attempts to unnerve as it quietly plays in the background. For most of the game, it wouldn“t be considered music, although it is definitely tracks and not purely natural game audio. Only later does something closer to music come in to heighten the atmosphere.
It should be obvious by now that this game is quite good at being a scary experience. There“s also no doubt that it is a massive improvement over Parsec“s first game as well. Still, one point that may bother some players is the length of the game. There is only about an hour of play included to see the experience from start to finish. Sure, some notes may be missed on the first playthrough, but you can see most things in a short period of time. If you absolutely need replay value in games then this is one to pass on. Otherwise, the hour play time is justified as the story is able to convey itself well in the short time frame. The end does come suddenly, but it seems hard to see what could have been changed.
Slender: The Arrival is a horror game that both newbies to Slender-based horror games can enjoy as well as those who loved the first. The developers show that they have a strong sense of what makes games scary and this translates to a game with a very foreboding atmosphere. It may or may not scare you, but there“s a neat little story and mystery to unravel while playing. Give it a shot if you“ve longed for more â€œtrueâ€ horror games in the sea of unscary drivel coming from big name developers.
+ Smart sound design
+ Interesting story that sparks curiosity
+ Genuinely creepy encounters
- Introduction of bothersome enemy
- Relatively short experience
Overall Score: 7 (out of 10)
Slender: The Arrival manages to trump its origins to offer a modern horror story in the form of a video game.