The first time I saw old Slendy in The Arrival was horrifying. I had just been searching a house for clues, and after stepping outside into the garden in hope of any other items of interest, there he was. Standing by the swings, looking rather smart in his suit and tie, just sort of looking at me. I stopped and stared back, and we met each other’s gaze for a good five seconds or so. Then, suddenly, the game realised I was looking at him, and he fizzled into nonexistence, making some kind of mechanical fart sound. He was a mirage, a scene-setting little jump scare, a heavy handed attempt at filling me with dread for what was to come. THAT was meant to be scary. You’re damn right I was horrified.
I don’t know what it was about that beta-of-a-half-made-game Slender: The Eight Pages, but somehow it actually worked. Sure, it lost its sting after a few playthroughs, but its simplicity was key and its ugly, bland visuals worked. You’re told virtually nothing, but you know you’re going to die, and it’s a matter of ‘when’. The Arrival’s crime is taking this formula and blowing it up to a ridiculous and overinflated extent. Its fluffy prologue and story sections seem to forget that the more you think about a tall man in a suit, the more stupid you realise the whole premise is. Finding journals of missing people, haunting stories of the evil man in the woods – all it serves is to draw attention to the triviality of the mythos. It’s like going to a haunted house and turning all the lights on.
Speaking of light, Blue Isle Studios, I realise you’re proud of how pretty your engine is. That’s fair, it’s a damn good looking game, but we need a lot more darkness. The beauty of The Eight Pages’ low-end graphics were that you could hardly see a few feet in front of you, meaning you could be going in hopeless circles, or indeed right into Slender Man. That ambiguity is essential, it keeps us on our toes, and gives the real sense of surviving in the wild. Having the playable area now comparatively bathed in light totally ruins this. I’ve been able to see Slendy from about a hundred yards, and too easily been able to work out exactly where I’m going. All I have to do is slalom around my pursuer to get there.
To give another anecdote from the prologue, I later saw a man’s silhouette on the horizon. It looked huge; from here the hill looked perhaps 30 metres tall, meaning the figure upon its crest must be a giant, perhaps a statue or a wicker man of the Slender Man. Finally, some spooky lore or anything interesting to behold, I thought. As I approached, I realised the hill wasn’t so big, and neither was the man. Again, he fizzled out of existence. That again was meant to be scary, a supposedly unseen being which I was allowed to stare at for 20 seconds.
Slender: The Arrival pulls this nonsense time again, it wants to give new life to the fiction but it can’t resist showing off the goods. It delivers a variety of levels and even a new enemy, but there’s no subtlety, no faith in Hitchcock’s old adage: ‘There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.’ Some say Slender: The Arrival is just regurgitating what The Eight Pages had. This is partly true, but it’s also forgotten that in horror, less is more.
[+Well-rendered world, even if it’s often too light] [+Some good sound design] [-A real lack of any subtlety] [-Plenty of manufactured scares that fall flat every time] [-Pacing is messy, and lacks the brilliant inevitability of death that the previous Slender had] [-The Slender Man no longer holds the dread he once had]