Slender: The Arrival Review: Much to Fear, Including Repetition
I snag my third page off the side of a car and go sprinting down the dark dirt path before me. The music pounds in my ears as static intrudes on my vision, hazing the edges of the superimposed video camera’s REC light and timer. He’s close.
Suddenly, a flash, and the towering, suited menace is standing right in front of me. I freak out loudly in my darkened apartment — pause to make sure no neighbors are about to bang on my door — and let out a long breath. Slenderman caught me. Again. And I freaked out. Again. In Slender: The Arrival, I’m starting to think maybe the jump scares are piling on a little thick.
Arrival, the retail remake/sequel/re-release of Mark J. Hadley’s free “Slender: The Eight Pages” Unity game that slunk across the Internet last summer, is a thing to behold. Like its predecessor, it manages to be truly frightening and maintains that horror throughout its entire run. But where The Eight Pages was a perfectly encapsulated experience of thick dread and climactic freakouts — even despite its weak graphics and clunky Slenderman model — The Arrival might be a little too repetitive for its own good. There are a lot of great additions to the game that make it more than its predecessor, but the game would have benefited from its core mechanics expanding along with the scope and graphical fidelity.
Slender: The Arrival
Platforms: PC (Reviewed)
Developer: Blue Isle Studios, Parsec Productions
Publisher: Blue Isle Studios
Released: March 26, 2013
It’s hard to divorce Slender: The Eight Pages from Slender: The Arrival, and the latter knows that. There’s a reason the game resonated so well with players on the Internet a year ago; that game tapped something, and The Arrival hopes to tap it again. For the most part, it does a pretty great job — when the game starts on a dirt road through brightly lit autumnal woods, beams of light streaming over distant mountains and through drifting leaves, The Arrival puts you on edge by messing with sound design. You’re trudging along in relative silence, only to suddenly realize the crunch of sand and stones beneath your feet isn’t coming from beneath your feet. You spin, searching for the source of the footsteps, but none presents itself.
You’re being hunted from Minute One in Slender: The Arrival, and that the game manages to keep you feeling that edginess through its entire (albeit somewhat short) run-time is a feat unto itself.
But you don’t always know what’s hunting you, or exactly why, or exactly with what veracity. As you continue down that dirt road, information starts to flutter before you by way of notes and signs you find along the path. When darkness falls and you enter a nearby house, you realize you’re supposed to be there — you’re Lauren, searching for your friend Kate, who was corresponding with a mutual friend CR by email and letters. Kate and CR were experiencing hallucinations. Something was wrong.
As you explore Kate’s house, learning more about her, you eventually start to see the iconic Slenderman imagery that was part of The Eight Pages, and before it, other Slenderman fiction on the Internet. One of the big boons of The Arrival is that there’s a great deal more story content on offer than in the past, part of which is the result of involving the writing team behind the Slenderman video series “Marble Hornets.” There’s a mystery to solve here, and though it’s conveyed by way of lots of collectible notes, it’s not so scattered as to be irritating to find all the pieces.