By: Casey Curran
Slender: The Arrival really caught me off guard. From Resident Evil to Eternal Darkness, I have never really been that scared when playing a horror game. I have enjoyed a few of them for the atmosphere and story, as well as recognizing how they use horror effectively. I just have trouble actually being scared with games.
So when I had to turn off The Arrival knowing I would lose a half hour of progress just because screaming my ass off was wearing me out, you know it’s a scary game — and more importantly, I was excited for more after I put myself together. While this feeling did not persist throughout the entire experience, Slender: The Arrival nonetheless left a very strong impression on me.
In traditional horror fashion, Slender: The Arrival does not have the most polished controls. Both moving and looking around give a very low budget feel. Fortunately, the game does not need super polished controls as interacting with the game is based around exploration rather than precision. However, when trying to run away for extended periods of time (which occurs often), they do take the player out of the experience a little.
Interacting with the environment works fine for the most part, although there are two areas that bring the controls down. The first, ironically, comes from the menus. They are a little too touchy, which normally would not be a problem except the game does not ask if the player is sure when quitting. Considering this option is near looking over notes, I did end up accidentally exiting when trying to read a note.
Opening doors is also annoying as the game requires the player to drag it open by holding a button/key and using the right stick/mouse to move it manually. It felt largely unnecessary.
Slender: The Arrival has some of the most basic 3D graphics you will find today. Unlike most low budget games, it does very little to mask its low technology under the guise of artistic style. However, the developers excel in one area: lighting. Here you’ll spend most of the game in dark areas with just a flashlight to see a dim glimpse of what lies ahead. This adds a lot when stumbling onto a particularly unnerving sight, aiding the horror.
Sound is just fantastic. Music is very dim and spooky when it does play, which adds to the atmosphere. The little sound effects are what really elevate the horror, however. Footsteps, rustling leaves, and noises that sound like something out of this world sound shockingly realistic, creating a sense of vulnerability and that you are not alone.
Slender: The Arrival gets off to a very strong start. The game opens with main character Lauren heading toward a house once occupied by her friend Kate, who mysteriously disappeared, armed with only a video camera (which the game cleverly uses for its interface, mimicking found footage movies). The game tells the player nothing else and instead chooses to give more information using notes and other trinkets scattered around as well as the visuals. The recurring theme is that there is a very tall, unnatural looking man known as Slenderman lurking around. This being spends the sections pursuing Lauren as she tries to uncover the mystery behind Kate’s disappearance.
As someone who never had seen Slenderman before (apparently he’s a popular internet meme), he made a great horror villain. His unnatural appearance gives off an unfamiliar yet threatening aura. The manner in which he follows you adds to this, as he does not actively pursue you. Not only this, but his motivations remain unclear for much of the game, which only makes him scarier.
Unfortunately, the objectives behind what Lauren is doing are not as well thought out. One early section is based around looking for objects in an area that is hard to see a beyond a few feet in front of you while the rest are on the same level. These objectives work wonderfully in terms of scaring, but not so much in creating compelling gameplay. Early on, the horror does enough to make up for the gameplay, but as the game continues, it begins to grow tedious.
Though the game does drag on during the later selections, the early parts of Slender: The Arrival are so good that I highly recommend it for any fan of horror. It gets that nothing is scarier than uncertainty and runs with it. Whether the mystery behind the game is enough to keep you playing depends on how much you enjoy horror games, but if you’re looking for a good scare, the early parts alone are worth the asking price.