Haunt Brings Gorgeous Look, Wider World to Slender Games
HorrorScope is a recurring feature exploring the horror genre in gaming and drawing attention to its elements, its tropes, and its lesser-known but still scary titles.
Here’s where you can download Haunt: TRSG
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I’ve played a lot of Slenderman-inspired games in the last eight or so months. They continue to freak me out.
There’s a purity of experience in Slender: The Eight Pages and the games that it has inspired since, even if they are relatively simple. They’re all about exploring the unknown, matching a player’s need to make sense of the game world — to give it order, purpose, objectives that need completing — and the risk of chaos encroaching. In all of these games, you’re ever pursued by a faceless entity. It stalks you, closing in if you stay in one place too long, if you venture too far into the unknown, or if your gaze strays in the wrong direction.
So at the basest level, if you’ve played any of the Slender games to pop up in the last few months, you’ve got an idea of what Haunt is like (it was formerly called Haunt: The Real Slender Game). Like Parsec Productions’ Slender: The Eight Pages, which inspired Haunt, the goal is to explore a park, gathering scraps of paper and photos, while avoiding being killed by the ghostly “Slender”. (It’s worth noting that this technically is not “Slenderman” as you usually know him, but an original character with its own lore, based on Slenderman.)
What’s covered on those scraps of paper is a bit different, however, and like other titles such as Slenderman’s Shadow and Slender’s Woods, you’ll move through several different environments and buildings through the course of the game. In an abandoned house, for example, you’ll find the key you need to climb to the top of a lookout tower, which will provide the key to another door, and so on — creating something more of a linear progression than some other Slender-inspired titles might provide.
All that documentation you pick up along the way conveys the game’s story, which does a nice job of providing a little context. But where Haunt really shines is in its visual fidelity. The game carries some nice textures to begin with, but its the art direction of mixing those textures with a wispy, atmospheric haze that really sells the feeling of fear in Haunt.
Like maybe you can’t trust anything about what you’re seeing, including the air around you.
Haunt takes place during a rainstorm in the middle of Green Park, and while it’s not pitch black, the night is oppressive. It’s even better accentuated by the occasional distant lamp over the walking trail or illuminating a nearby map, but even these lights sputter and often burst as you approach them. It’s possible to see distant structures outlined in black against the angry sky, but whether those silhouettes are real places or ghostly apparitions can often be difficult to tell.
And there’s the static. With Slender constantly in pursuit, the reverie of walking Green Park’s paths is often interrupted by a quick flash of static — which seems to be an indicator that the enemy is drawing near, although it might not always be that. The static alternates between being completely oppressive to the player’s view by taking over the screen in bursts, seemingly popping up at random, and flowing in gradually, distorting things. The slow-burn of the loss of understanding of reality is where the real power of this element is, because it’s rarely clear if you’re getting an early warning, or reeling headlong toward your death.
All of these things collude with some slick audio design to make Green Park both a huge, open place, and an oppressive, claustrophobic one. The paths through the place are clearly marked, but while panic might send you sprinting into the underbrush or the trees to get away, this option never feels really viable — more like suicide, slightly delayed.
And then there are Haunt’s buildings, all of which are tight, frightening affairs. The first house I came across in my playthrough was almost completely empty except for a cryptic warning (“Don’t look back”) and an inundation of the screen-contorting static. Venturing deeper in is just as dangerous as venturing out, and Haunt does well to keep the player from ever feeling even remotely safe. This is made even worse in a few key locations, like a bunker in which the player must venture down a tight hall to find one of the game’s objective photographs, but with the full knowledge that the way back up may well be blocked by the faceless creature.
But if there’s a way in which this version of the Slender formula distinguishes itself, it’s in the game’s visuals. Haunt does a great job making a lot out of a little, and augmenting its atmosphere and nighttime aesthetic with rain and lightning is brilliant. Slender games, like many horror titles, thrive on holding back information from the player, and the addition of Haunt’s weather effects does this job by obscuring sound, adding red herrings, and occasionally giving you a sense of just how much ground you have left to cover.
It might not be too different from Mark Hadley’s original Unity game, Slender: The Eight Pages, but Haunt is worth your attention, if only to see what a different team makes of similar material and what other ways it finds to scare you.