Slender Man, both the game and the idea, just kind of appeared out of nowhere. One day the internet was all cat videos and impotent rage, and then the next there were these weird reaction videos to a game called Slender: The Eight Pages.
As a horror experience, Slender: The Eight Pages is about as pure as you can get. It is the grand, reductive essence of horror: you wander a dark, wooded area, knowing at any moment the embodiment of your nightmares might materialize in your line of sight. There is no combat and there is nowhere to hide, but keep moving and you might stave off the eventual heart-thudding sight of the Slender Man, a blank, besuited vision of terror.
Effective as it was, the Slender trend seemed to be a one-trick sort of animal, all empty shock but without narrative heft or emotional depth. It was a haunted house inside a computer screen and little else. It was — for a great number of horror fans — a bit too thin.
However, the release of Slender: The Arrival hoped to change that. It’s a sequel, of sorts, but also a reimagining with some added content, kind of like The Evil Dead. And sure, yeah, the PC version was released last fall, but the PS3 and Xbox360 versions are out, complete with new levels, so it deserves a look-see.
Core horror fans might find Slender: The Arrival a bit lean on story and gameplay variety, but there are still plenty of scares to be found in the console version of this creepypasta run amok.
The idea of a Slender game can be best summarized by the “plot” of The Eight Pages: armed only with a flashlight, wander a darkened area and track down a collection of pages before the scary guy in the suit catches you. If the screen gets all wonky, run in the other direction until it subsides. Repeat.
It is an effective premise for a brief horror encounter, the sort of thing you might forgive in a short story but be put off by in a longer work. In no universe worth visiting is a Slender Man game going to fill eight hours. To their credit, the developers seem to understand the limits of Slender’s appeal, because the game does not stretch beyond its fairly insubstantial lore. It’s at best a two hour experience, even if you take your merry time to inspect each and every available inch of the world.
The moody opening is distinctly reminiscent of Gone Home, but otherwise Slender: The Arrival doesn’t stray very far from the basic “solve-puzzle, avoid-Slender” formula.
Overall, the game takes players through five distinctly abandoned environments, as the main character, Lauren, attempts to track down her friend, Kate. It employs a few neat story tricks using the camera but largely also clings to some of the more unappealing storytelling devices of earlier games. The narrative is delivered through found discarded and intentional correspondences, which work to wildly varying degrees.
Scrawled messages seem to fit into the realm of likely found objects, while printed out emails, unfortunately, do not. To be perfectly honest, nothing about the story really stands out in my mind, even a day out of finishing the game, but nobody comes to this sort of game for what draws the story along. The game’s narrative is really in service of the scares.
And The Arrival contains some pretty nerve-wracking moments, all things told. You’ve probably already played through the infamous “forest” scene, but some of the added content — including the Homestead — will offer several white knuckle moments of terror, almost guaranteed. I’m not much of a jumper, but I found myself reeling back at several critical moments throughout this admittedly brief experience.
Honestly, how much you enjoyment you get out of the game will depend largely upon (a) how susceptible you are to the particular kinds of jump scares Slender games deliver or (b) how forgiving you are of the repetitive nature of the tasks you will perform. You can tell the devs attempted to break the formula by introducing very minor puzzle elements to the exploration, but somehow it all still feels the same in the end. Pages or keys, it’s just looking for something to unlock the next area.
Graphically, the console version has some problems. I can’t speak for the Xbox version, but there were some pretty severe pop-in issues at some points on the PS3. During scenes with a relatively high rendering load, especially when multiple things were happening on-screen, there were also some issues with slow down, as well.
Otherwise, however, the game looks pretty good, particularly when compared to early versions of the game. Obviously, a high-end PC would run the game quite a bit better, but comparatively, the PS3 version isn’t half bad.
The Final Word: Slender: The Arrival has some effective scares, but they’re sometimes hurt by its repetitive nature.