When the original free-to-play Slender: The Eight Pages first came out in 2012, it became something of a phenomenon. It’s simplistic yet foreboding design made it one of those titles that people wanted to share with everyone. And if you weren’t one for horror gaming, don’t worry — it became a YouTube sensation with “let’s play” videos abound for your viewing pleasure. It was a short and mostly satisfying experience that could be done well within an hour, but if you were like me, you couldn’t help but wonder if the concept could be stretched out into a more fleshed-out game. Enter Slender: The Arrival.
In the original, you were tasked with collecting eight randomly generated pieces of paper. There was no narrative and it really never needed one (there’s always Reddit for those lore-seekers). Collecting those eight pieces of paper was fun at first, but I couldn’t help but wonder how Slender could benefit from a wider variety of gameplay — my imagination ran wild. Unfortunately, the folks at Blue Isle Studio didn’t seem to share that same mindset, as they’ve opted to just give us more of the same.
That’s right; all you’re doing is running through the same “do a certain action a certain amount of times” gameplay. There’s even a “homage” level where, surprise, you collect eight pieces of paper in the woods at night. Turning on six generators while avoiding Slender Man (or one of his proxies) or closing a certain amount of windows wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I wanted the concept of the original Slender to be more fully realized. Because of the stretching out of the original game’s design, repetition quickly sets in, as does some seething frustration. And no, the random-generating of the objects does not alleviate this.
I mean, it’s not very compelling to have your efforts be awarded with “hey, do what you did again but it’s okay because we’ve re-skinned the level.” It’s especially not rewarding to have cheap-ass deaths where Slender Man or a proxy is literally right behind you with no warning or chance to evade them — it’s infuriating. Can you remember the last time cheap A.I. insta-kills were fun? I can’t. It takes away from the tension of the game and can really sour the experience.
There were also a couple times where the game crashed and froze on me, and at one point I even fell through the map after going up an elevator after completing a level. It didn’t happen a lot, but it warrants mentioning.
Now that I’ve been able to vent about the negatives right off the bat, I can get to how, thankfully, Blue Isle was able to really knock sound design and atmosphere way, way out of the park. The development team was able to design freakish sounds, skin-crawling screams, and an ominous score that add tremendously to the strong sense of almost over-bearing dread that permeates throughout the experience. All you have to do is mute the volume and you’ll understand how intricate the doom-and-gloom sound design is to this game’s world.
Immediately after starting it up, you’ll appreciate the much-improved graphics from the last-gen consoles. When things aren’t pitch black and the sun’s still bleeding some light, it actually looks darn-right pretty. The autumn-colored grass and warm tone not only make for a good visual but a hell of a deep sigh of relief from the oppressive darkness that the majority of the game takes place in. There’s also a story here that you can piece together if you find enough collectibles, but it never amounts to anything truly engrossing.
Slender: The Arrival is a solid experience with some genuine scares and a very real sense of dread. It’s just a shame that the frustrating and repetitive nature of the gameplay can turn it from being a terrifying experience for you, to being a terrifying experience for your controller, as you start to feel the urge to strangle the little guy and throw it out onto the street.
That being said, this is far from a terrible port, and the $10 price tag definitely makes it worth checking out for those truly interested in ol’ Slendy’s terrifying ways. But if Slender: The Eight Pages didn’t do it for you, you’ll probably want to, like the game’s protagonist, keep running in the opposite direction.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version, which we were provided with.
Slender: The Arrival exudes excellent atmosphere and genuine dread, but recycled and repetitive gameplay deeply hampers a potentially enjoyable horror experience.