Back in the summer of 2012, Slender: The Eight Pages was released on the PC and Mac, and in a short amount of time, this free, short and experimental horror game became an instant hit. With big franchises like Resident Evil and Dead Space going heavy on action rather than horror, Slender revitalized the horror genre by taking things back to basics; the simple task of walking through a creepy forest trying to find clues while being chased by an ominous figure was, and still very much is, a frightening experience.
Fast forwarding to more recent weeks, Slender’s new iteration, Slender: The Arrival, comes packed with everything that made the original so spooky while adding in a handful of new things. Unfortunately, these new things add deadweight to an otherwise impeccable experimental gaming experience.
The Arrival keeps the same experimental formula of the first game and delivers a true horror experience to its players by having one of the most menacing enemies: Slender Man.
The way the game presents this character is so elegantly done that it is impossible not to be scared of him when you spot him. His persistence and randomness evolves as you collect pages, which only makes the game more frightening as it develops. You can’t fight him, either. You can’t stare at him or be too close to him, your only fighting chance is to run from him. This makes him much more terrifying than most game monsters out there.
The outstanding sound design that is in this game compliments Slender Man perfectly, too. Your footsteps in the forest or inside the house are spot on and only add to the immersive nature of the game – something a horror game must accomplish. Your footsteps aren’t the only thing that make you cringe, however. The static tearing of the camera your character is holding is unnerving as is the ambient soundtrack and the creepy noises you’ll hear throughout the course of the game. A good example of this is when you turn on a generator inside the mine level; you can hear the whole mine react to that generator as it powers on different sections of the mine – it immediately makes you think: “Oh, crap. What kind of evil have I unleashed?”
The places you’ll visit accompany Slender Man and the amazing sound design as well. From the dark forest to the new locations like an abandoned house and a creepy mine, The Arrival’s upgraded graphics look great (whenever it isn’t pitch black, anyway) specially compared to the first game. They don’t only look good, but they feel right, too. They make the player relate to the environments around them.
So far so good, right? Sadly for a paid-for title, having these things done impressively well is not enough. Aside from the new graphics and a few fixes over the first game, The Arrival doesn’t do much to make this game feel better than its free predecessor.
Throughout the game, you will find yourself collecting objects while an enemy stalks you; this was perfectly fine for the first game, but doing this over and over on different locations makes the game feel more like DLC than a sequel.
It really doesn’t matter if you are finding eight pages or eight generators, it all feels like you are doing the same thing, and repetitiveness in a game this short is just bad.
Which inevitably brings us to the game’s length. This isn’t to say that a short game is bad, but if a short game is repetitive and at times hard to beat, we have a problem.
The Arrival introduces a new enemy type known as The Proxy once you reach the abandoned mine. The Proxy is a little kid with a knife that will run at you with no remorse. It’s creepy beyond belief, but at the same time, The Proxy can be extremely annoying. On our first and second playthough, this little kid appeared out of nowhere and attacked without giving us room to react, and this wasn’t four generators in either.
Slender: The Arrival is a simple take on the horror genre that delivers scares like no other game has in a while. Playing it at least once should be considered, specially if you are a horror fan. Do this while in a dark setting, with your headphones on, and you’ll be set for some really good scares.
With that said, the game has not evolved enough to be considered a complete new game – it is more like an update or DLC. The Arrival still holds too tightly to its predecessor rudimentary mechanics, and because of it, it makes the game suffer as a whole. That plus the extremely hard and at times unfair difficulty of the game may turn off some players. It’s a shame really because otherwise this is a great horror game.