By: Brian Gunn
Slayaway Camp is the first title from Blue Wizard Digital, a studio created by PopCap co-founder Jason Kapalka. Leaving behind one of the biggest names in puzzles to make another puzzle game was a risk. Was it worth it in the end?
Slayaway Camp is a slider puzzle game, and so pretty much only has one action. Click the direction where you want your character to go and they’ll go all the way they can in that direction, whether it’s toward your latest victim or a trap.
Options to easily rewind and restart are thankfully included as some of the later puzzles can get pretty complicated where a single misstep ruins things. I did have a few moments where I’d mis-click and send my avatar in the wrong direction, but it happened rarely enough that it wasn’t a huge issue.
One way to make your puzzle game stand out from the crowd is a unique visual identity, and Slayaway Camp nails that aspect. The horror movie trappings add a lot of charm, from the varied killers to the gruesome executions.
It’s all presented in a relatively cute way though, so it never becomes too gory or sadistic. Everything’s wrapped up in a campy little bow, and even aspects of the menu or loading screens show a clear love of movies.
Typical bloodcurdling screams and ominous ’80s music are draped liberally over the game. There’s the aping of the famous Friday the 13th murder music every time you’re killing someone and every execution is satisfying. It never feels like it offers much new and favors homage a little heavily, but it’s still pretty impeccably designed.
Slayaway Camp presents its levels in themed packs around a schlocky horror movie franchise. So for the first 10 or so you’re in the first movie, while in the fourth you might be in the poorly regarded sequel that had nothing to do with the rest of the series and was ignored when audiences rejected it.
The clearest inspiration for all this is the Friday the 13th and its hulking star Jason, though many other horror mainstays make appearances or have themed areas.
Each level has a simple goal of killing all the hapless teenagers and then escaping. This starts off relatively simply but quickly ramps up in complexity. Police officers start popping up, and if you end up in their field of vision, it’s game over.
There are many hazards you can scare campers into, though you can launch yourself into them as well. Finally, the exit itself can be hard to reach; frequently requiring specific patterns to arrive at the end. One misstep and you could clear the level of victims but fail because you don’t have a victim to brace against that could send you into the exit.
This ends up becoming pretty frustrating. It creates a scenario where the greatest challenge is not the traps and officers, but rather planning things out to reach an arbitrary exit. You can freely rewind at least, but it’s still annoying to work out a 12-step plan to find out Step 3 screwed you up,
While each section of the game is a different movie, you can earn coins to unlock new villains to play as, or new executions to unlock. Every completed movie also has “deleted scenes” levels that are often among the most challenging puzzles.
There’s clearly a lot of love and care put into various aspects of the game, like for instance the movies having a back cover where you can read a detailed synopsis. It makes for a lot of goodies and optional stuff to find and unlock.
Slayaway Camp is an amusing puzzle game with some frustrating design aspects. However, the visual trappings are enough to make it worth a look, especially for fans of horror movies.