|System: Xbox One, PS4*|
|Dev: Blue Isle Studios|
|Pub: Midnight City|
|Release: March 24, 2015|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Violence, Blood|
by Travis Huber
Before I get cracking on this review, I have a confession to make. The whole concept of “The Slender Man,” scares the crap out of me. No lie. I am good with zombies, vampires, witches, werewolves, the Moth Man and whatever else. But for whatever reason, the Slender Man scares the bejeezus out of me. So naturally, when I received the download code for this game with no title attached to it, I asked what the game was. The only response I got from my editor? It’s a surprise. I should have known. To say I started sweating a little when I realized what game I was going to be reviewing would be a bit of an understatement, but I figured if I could survive P.T. without screaming like a little girl, I could do this.
The first thing I noticed was the absence of any lead-in to the story behind what I was about to experience. So I made my way down a forest path to a random neighborhood that apparently was being erected on the side of a mountain in the Rockies. A place where people could relax and unwind – at least that’s what the text at the very beginning said of this mountain haven. But what I soon realized is that something had gone terribly amiss. As I walked into the first house, nearly every door was open. There was no sign that there had been anyone in the house for some time. In fact, it looked like someone was either moving in or out at the time of their disappearance from the property.
So I made my way through the home and discovered a message on the answering machine that told me what I needed to know. Sarah, the woman who had lived in the house was trying to sell it and go elsewhere. And I, apparently, was going to help her do so. But upon my arrival, I found only one locked door in the whole house. Once I opened it with the key I had found in another room, I realized that something truly wicked had happened. The window was broken out and there were deranged drawings all over the room and nonsensical ramblings scratched on papers strewn about the room. Someone had lost their mind. I could only surmise that it was Sarah.
As I made my way through the rest of the property and investigated the grounds, I was met with internal monologues that told me that Sarah and I had played here, had history here, and that I really needed to find her. So I made my way further into the woods where other homes were in various stages of completion. At one point, and very suddenly, the video camera I was using to document my travels (the camera is the HUD for the entire game), started to crackle and short out. But when the anomaly ended, there he was. The Slender man. He was standing atop a nearby mountain…watching me. And then just as suddenly as he had appeared, my camera crackled and flickered and he was gone.
I won’t talk much else about the game itself because it is so short that if I mete out too much detail, it will be a complete and total spoiler for what is actually a very scary game. But not in the slasher, blood-and-gore, or even totally twisted plot kind of way. It is a total psychological thriller filled with the most unsettling and frighteningly sparse atmospheres in any game I have played in a while. Honestly, the closest comparisons I can draw to Slender are P.T. and Outlast, but they beat this game out by a long shot. What it had in scare-factor, it totally lacked in other ways.
Let’s start with graphics. I know this is an indie game. I know it’s a re-imagining of a free-to-play PC title. And I know that it’s only ten bucks. But seriously, if I had created a game that got enough of a response to warrant a re-imagined version on Steam and next-gen consoles, I would do my best to make damned sure that it would stand up and be counted among others in the genre. Again, Slender is thick on scares. It really is. But even having near infinite stamina and unlimited battery life didn’t help the fact that the limited controls and total lack of defensive capability make this game very hard to play at various points. Really, I don’t want to beat these guys up too much because (given my aforementioned phobia of the Slender Man) this game scared the s#!t out of me. But I’ll say this. If they want to compete, they need to step it up. This game looks like a PS2 HD remake or something, and is not anywhere near up to snuff on graphics for next-gen consoles.
And speaking of limited controls, let’s tackle that next. The controls were fine as long as nothing was going on. Everything seemed very fluid on the front end of the game, when everything was cool and I was just exploring. But when it all hit the fan, I floundered more than once with the defenseless and clunky controls that seemed infinitely more sluggish when you were trying to flee for your life. Now, I have never played Slender: Eight Pages, but I have a friend who has and loved it. So I asked him what the control scheme was like for that game and he said it was terrible but that the harsh controls were what made the game so much of a challenge. But then again, this guy thinks that Dark Souls is one of the greatest games ever made. So I guess the take-home message about the controls is simply this: If you like being punished for playing a game or like a challenge more than an experience, this should be right up your alley.