Game Review: ‘Slender’ (Or: Virtual Constipation Reliever)
Sometimes with all the hype and promotion happening around the big releases in gaming it’s remarkably easy for something low key to slip right on by the average punter. Even if you set your sights on the indie market there’s so much on offer that a game freely available via the web is easy to miss until it’s brought to your direct attention.
Fortunately there are many, many people happy to bring Slender to your direct attention, mostly to see your response to it. At face value Slender is a very simple first person survival horror game. Your goal is to explore a forest and collect eight randomly scattered pieces of paper that are stuck to key locations throughout the small play area. The controls are simple and while they can be a bit sticky they are functional. Aside from movement and looking you can joke for a brief period and turn off your flashlight in order to recharge it. It’s a claustrophobic game area with the trees closely spaced meaning that you’re never able to move in the straight line.
At this point the game may not seem very remarkable. What makes it worth playing is the atmosphere and the use of popular internet myth the Slender Man. Quickly for the initiated: when Something Awful hosted a competition that involved users digitally manipulating images and trying to pass them off as real on paranormal forums. User Victor Surge created some photos that featured a creepy, tall and disproportionately limbed figure called ‘Slender Man’ who stalked children. The character took off and turns up all over the internet these days, most notably in the youtube series ‘Marble Hornets’. Throughout the game Slender while collecting eight pieces of paper you are being stalked by the Slender Man. And he will scare the living crap out of you.
The atmosphere of the game begins to get under your skin from the get go. Plenty of aesthetic sounds – wind, the crunching of the gravel, the sounds of insects – creates the sense of being in a forest and with the closed in environment and crushing darkness you’re already feeling somewhat nervous. Only a small area in front of you is illuminated by a torch that will slowly diminish in strength you don’t routinely turn it off occasionally. Things are creepy enough up until you find the first piece of paper…then the music starts. Just a softly beating drum to begin with the soundtrack become more intrusive the longer you play, and the longer you play the closer Slender Man will get.
First rule of playing Slender: don’t turn around. Because he’s following you. When he’s in your vision the screen will pick up some static (that’s your cue to run your terrified ass away) and if he catches you then the game is over. If you keep looking at him then he will get you quicker. That’s right – your best chance of survival in this nightmare is to ensure that the scary-as-fuck creature stalking you is behind you and out of your sight. Did I mention that when you run you have to hold the torch downwards?
As the game progresses and you collect more pieces of paper, getting closer to escaping, Slender Man becomes faster, lurks closer and can occasionally appear in places that you know FOR A FACT he wasn’t there a moment before. The most terrifying moments come when you decide to bite the bullet and turn around…and he’s not there. And you just know in your bones that when you turn back…
Slender sounds like something only a bloody lunatic would get enjoyment out of, but as a gaming experience it’s pretty hard not to recommend to anyone feeling brave enough to play it. There aren’t many games, even games in the horror genre, that can provoke such a raw reaction from players and it’s worth it just for that. The design is simple and the chills are almost minimalist. Slender Man himself is not even animated – he just stands there – but damn if he isn’t one of the most frightening things in gaming history.
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If your nerves are feeling a bit frayed after a play through, then enjoy this video of Bane playing a round.