Slender: The Arrival Beta Impressions — Much Prettier Terror
Slender gets a new look (as does everything else) in Slender: The Arrival.
When Slender: The Eight Pages first hit the Internet, it was a pretty simple-looking title, whipped up in the Unity engine as a means of messing around by creator Mark J. Hadley. And despite its low-fidelity visuals, Slender went on to terrify many players.
I’ve discussed before why I like Slender, and why Hadley’s little game was so effective: It’s a powerful marriage of sound design and limited senses. Even though you’re moving through a fairly ugly digital world from a first-person perspective, the original Slender was oppressive, making it difficult to see, difficult to navigate, and difficult to protect yourself. Sound effects and music that ramped up over time only created an additional expectation of dread, and when the game started to throw in the lurking form of Slenderman and the associated jump scares that came with him, it hit a number of very frightening chords.
Slender: The Eight Pages was enough of a success that Hadley’s Parsec Productions has partnered with Blue Isle Studios to create a follow-up project called Slender: The Arrival. It also includes work from the writing team behind “Marble Hornets,” a well-known serial YouTube Slenderman project, and boasts a serious graphical update over the original Unity title.
While Slender: The Arrival is going to be a much larger and more involved game than The Eight Pages, and will include story elements and the like, the original format for Slender is still pretty effective, as numerous games indie titles copying the formula seem to attest. The Arrival is currently available for pre-order for $5 (which knocks off half the price), and nabbing it nets players access to a beta version of the game as well. The beta doesn’t include much in the way of new content, but it does take the original Slender: The Eight Pages idea and move it into The Arrival’s game world. It’s basically a much more beautiful version of the original game, and for the price of $5, it’s definitely worth a pre-order of The Arrival.
If It’s Not Broke…
The beta version of The Arrival is more or less the same game as Slender: The Eight Pages. Players are dropped into a strange outdoor environment with only the ability to sprint and a flashlight, with the goal of finding and securing eight pieces of paper scattered throughout what seems to be a park. The area is filled with different structures and elements: there’s woods, outbuildings, rusting vehicles and more, all of which serve as landmarks when exploring.
As time goes on and note start to get collected, things being to escalate. Probably the spookiest part about the game is the expert way in which Slender uses music and sound. The game starts out almost utterly silent, with only the crunching of shoes on the path and distant noises to break it. Pick up your first note and suddenly bass begins to hammer like a heartbeat. Instantly, it’s communicated that something is hunting you.
The musical cues in The Arrival’s beta are pretty much exactly the same as those in the original title. Along with the original premise of chasing down the game’s eight hidden notes, the beta release hits all the same notes as the original Slender. What made the original frightening is maintained here in working order, so if you’ve never experienced the original Slender before, The Arrival’s version will give the same basic experience, but augmented. That bodes well for the final release of the game, as well. Hadley demonstrated in the original Slender that he understood the ways to generate a foreboding atmosphere, and the musical cues and sound effects of the game are really what drives the action. The old model of the distant Slenderman was pretty poor; it didn’t move, it didn’t react, and seen in any sort of real light or up close, it resembled a giant wooden doll. But it was the pounding sounds of the music, signaling that the stalker was growing nearer, that really made the game frightening. All that fear makes the jump into the beta version for The Arrival as well.