The game begins surprisingly enough on a clear and bright day at the top of the road. The visual now has a camera lens to it, the time scrolling to the top right, the battery top left and you can zoom in with the camera, to catch and admire the lush and stunning visuals, the forest looking so bright and crisp it’s a joy on the eyes.
We’re at the top of this road with nothing much to go by, except a fallen tree is barring the way of our car, so we’ll have to follow this path. Once you start slowly descending a piece starts playing, tense and full of foreboding as you trudge onward, the occasional sounds of footsteps may make you look around yourself, from which you’ll notice the sky is getting dark, meaning it’s nearing nightime…or is it something else?
This is Slender: The Arrival, the not so quite a sequel though not quite a remake, this is the successor to the acclaimed and praised Slender: The Eight Pages which last summer terrified countless of people as well as introducing the world to the lank but terrifying entity called Slender Man.
So now that Slender Man has his own full release with a proper campaign, does the terror and game manage to withstand a full release or does it fail once Slender has bigger shoes to fit?
Well the premise is that we are playing as Lauren, a friend of Kate who decides to visit her, only to discover something is very wrong. Controls are simple with a sprint and crouch option and click to interact with objects. But for the life of me I can’t understand the opening and closing doors mechanics. I understand how they wanted to keep you immersed but swinging the door shut or open by pulling off the motion with your mouse is pretty broken and is just frustrating due to the fact you cannot change this option in options.
The beginning of the game did an excellent job of making me anxious and slowly raising the tension level as you slowly trudge towards the house (Many horror games forget about this tool, placing us in the midst of the ‘horror’ instead of slowly getting us there. The beginning in question could be compared to Silent Hill 2’s intro) and this is one of Arrival’s strongest points.
Many times throughout the game, it’ll be the ambient sounds as Slender is hot on your trail or the brilliantly atmospheric audio cues, without ruining too much, opening Kate’s bedroom door or about to enter one area in particular, could have been just that, doing tasks yet the excellent use of atmosphere and sound makes experience such as these memorable. Indeed the strongest point is the atmosphere and you can tell playing this game, that the developers know their horror genre well to know when and how to place certain elements.
Which makes it very underwhelming that The Arrival comes with only five stages, of which one is a prologue and two others quite short and most people, if they’re able to pull through, will probably finish the entire game within a couple of hours or so. One of the stages is a revamped Eight Pages, pitting you into a forest to once again collect eight pages. This time though the area is truly sinister and dark and the area is much more polished and running from one light to another as you go from location to location across high grass in the pitch dark is a sweat inducing experience.
Unfortunately while the experience is fun and running from Slender (only Slender? >:) is enjoyable, you feel that more diversity in the game would have only improved the experience, whether it could be objectives that don’t require finding x amount of objects or items you can interact with and carry around, it feels a shame that there isn’t much more diversity,in the game, which lowers replay level.
Though there is an incentive to replay the stages. As you progress, you’ll come across safe areas, the quite before the storm in other words, where you can find and collect 26 pieces to put into your scrapbook. Now a lot of game have collectibles and while it is fun to complete your collection, most of the time they serve no proper purpose. The Arrival’s collectibles should be collected, as each piece explains a little more back story and once you’ve completed your scrapbook, you’ll feel you understand the story a lot more.
And you’ll obviously want to understand the story more to understand the key protagonist of it all – Slender Man. Whereas in Eight Pages he was a simple 2D image, here he is much more defined, with tentacles animation that reach towards the player and this time his A.I is much more clever as he will be aggressive and try anyway to hunt you down, teleporting and even blocking your way to escape if you find yourself in such circumstances.
Now while I enjoy a challenging experience, I was left frustrated by Slender’s unforgiving pursuit sometimes as it seemed the game would just decide my time was up and force me to retry the level. Now I managed to finish the mines in one run but I’ve heard and seen that in this stage particularly (I won’t ruin too much just that Slender isn’t who you many only have to content with) feels more like punishment than an enjoyable experience.
So The Arrival sure does seem like one. Slender arrived last year and arrived this year in a full release. Both are horror experiences and it now just remains to be seen whether his arrival will be a brief one or whether Slender is here for good.
P – Great use of sound, truly frightening, plot interesting and collectibles aren’t just to collect they add to story, graphics especially during daylight quite stunning, normal and hardcore mode.
C – Clunky controls for doors, unfair A.I at times, ultimately falls shorter than expectations lengthwise, not too much diversity.
Fear – A horror experience as it should be, providing tension, scares, anxiety and a faster heart rate along with sweaty palms and brow.
Sound – If Eight Pages scarred you with its simple yet effective music, wear ear plugs to avoiding high levels of stress and tension this game is capable of offering.
Horror – Slender Man mythos is expanded and a proper storyline helps this character become even more mysterious.
World – Each stage is diverse, graphically beautiful and each one you’ll be able to remember long after you finish Arrival.
Slender: The Arrival continues what Eight Pages had done and that is to terrify you, this time with a campaign, improved graphics and enemy A.I as well as a few nice surprises. Unfortunately the length of the campaign, as well as no diversity from the gameplay and a couple of other points stop The Arrival from meeting the expectations I’m sure many of us had placed into this game. Strange to say, The Arrival feels as it were a prototype to a further full release so here’s hoping that if a Slender sequel is announced, more time is spent on development and the gameplay mechanics expanded. Until that time, play one of the creepiest and terror inducing games in a long while.