The original Slender: The Eight Pages is one of the very few games to make me genuinely terrified. Every time I ventured into the dark forest in search of the eight pages I felt very much on edge – it was a nerve-racking experience to say the least. No horror game to date compares to my first encounter with the first Slender game.
It is an ever so spooky tale, and one that I believe needs retelling.
With a few drinks down us, of the alcoholic kind, myself and a few friends started up the game knowing little about what to expect. Given our lack of foreknowledge, the sight of the slender man was a truly horrific experience. Every time its face appeared, and the screeching static distorted the screen, it felt like our hearts stopped.
After a few hours of sitting through failed attempt after failed attempt, punctuated by some rather impressive scares, it was time to see my friends leave. By now it was very late into the night. With everyone gone and a house to myself, I decided to shed some light on my living room.
I was greeted with the fright of my life – the bulbs exploded with the flick of the switch. For a moment I was petrified and left motionless in the dark of my own home. The fear that was sent rushing through my body gave me such a shock it felt like I’d been hit by a bus. As you can imagine, a sleepless night followed my first Slender ordeal.
It was with little surprise that the confirmation of its sequel, Slender: The Arrival, left me very excited indeed. It’s simplistic and basic design proved a great formula for a true horror experience and The Arrival would no doubt only improve upon this, in what is very much its own game despite surface similarities.
The way Slender: The Arrival plays will feel familiar. With only a torch to help, you find yourself venturing, yet again, into the dark in search of answers about mysterious disappearances, with the slender man close behind. This time, though, there’s a form of narrative, however weak it is, and a change of scenery, all resulting in a longer Slender experience.
The dark forest was the only form of scenery in the original, but it was successful because it was difficult to learn the layout even after multiple playthroughs. In the Arrival you’re faced with an eerie abandoned home earlier on which sets up the tense atmosphere for the remainder of the game. From your first steps you feel desperately alone. Swings sway unsettlingly in the night and through the bedroom windows you catch a glimpse of a deranged figure hiding in the dark – it’s the perfect start to a horror game.
As you discover clues throughout the house it leads you further into the forest where, for no apparent reason, you again find yourself hunting down eight pages with the slender man hot on your heels. As showcased in the beta, the new area for the eight pages level is a far cry from the original. The forest is more dynamic with varying topography and lighting.[drop2]Arguably the eight pages section to Slender: The Arrival is the best part of the game. At first it’s a tense experience: you never know what hides behind the next tree line or sharp corner. The suspense is brilliant. As this tension reaches its climax and the infamous slender man appears in your sight, with the deafening static getting louder by the second, you find yourself running for your life in panic.
The way the quiet, dread-filled tension suddenly breaking to all out madness is something I feel is unique to the Slender games.
However, after repeated playing, collecting the pages feels more strategic than spontaneous. Within no time at all you’re already planning how to gather all eight. This strategic approach almost takes the scare out of the game. The sight of the slender man, although still frightening, instead becomes an annoyance. This is, really, only natural after repeating the same thing over and over again.
Finding all eight pages leads you to next challenge in The Arrival. This time you find yourself exploring a long abandoned mine, whilst being hunted down by a creepy hooded child. Once again you have to collect a certain amount of objects to progress, six generators to be precise. At this point I felt there could have been a little bit more imagination and ingenuity to the way the game plays, instead of being faced with what was essentially the same challenge as before. This time around the task feels a lot more tedious, to the point where frustration arises.
This is where I feel The Arrival loses its way a little. There’s no denying that the first dozen attempts at completing the mine level aren’t scary, because you’ll get your fair share of jumps, I assure you. However, as before, with repeated attempts the game becomes monotonous and frustrating, with the horror itself taking a backseat. What also arises is a sense that the game treats you unfairly, as you’ll see below.
Using a cheap scare multiple times to stop you progressing isn’t scary, it is annoying. I find myself fed up of playing this mine level now, as I live in fear not from the slender man, but from the possibility that’ll I’ll be kicked in the teeth when I come close to beating it. This shouldn’t be the case in a horror game at all. With that being said, this is probably just a case of my bad luck.[drop]My own experiences with the game are also slightly dampened by the low resolution that I have to put up with in order for the game to run smoothly.
It’s clear that this isn’t an issue with my system (although it’s not the best), as I can run more taxing games such as BioShock Infinite at a good quality, so expect some performance issues.
On the other hand the audio is sensational. It’s eerie, creepy, and fits perfectly with the nature of the game.
Plugging in your headphones to get the best out of the background music is highly recommended if you’re looking for immersion (which you should be).
Despite The Arrival’s flaws, it remains an extremely worthy horror experience which I cannot recommend enough. The lingering soundtrack and lowly torch light combine to create a tense atmosphere which, when broken by the slender man’s powerful presence, translates into all out fear and panic.
The new environments and randomised locations of pages and generators help the game feel fresh with every play through. With repeated attempts the fear will recede a little, and the game can be a little unfair in certain situations. Whilst this boosts the difficulty and longevity, players lacking a bit of skill or luck won’t have an easy time reaching the game’s conclusion.
You can download Slender The Arrival here for £6.64 at time of writing. There are even some fancier versions which include the soundtrack and downloadable paintings (apparently). If you’re looking for the original Slender then you can download that here for free.