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Friday, August 24, 2012

Mini-Review #2: Slender

My officially-submitted reason for not finishing Slender is "because f*** that s***," but I feel my credibility would be sullied somewhat if I really couldn't offer any better than that for a review.

Slender is a horror game, based on the Internet-spawned story of the Slender Man (I refuse to refer to it or anything Internet-spawned as a "mythos") , and takes a lot of cues from Amnesia. It fancies atmosphere above all else, forgoes combat, makes the fear of seeing the enemy secondary to the fear of knowing it's there. You are tasked with finding 8 notes, each near a landmark in a densely wooded area. You have a flashlight with limited battery and something hunting you. With each note you find, the enemy's pursuit becomes more intense. If it catches up to you . . . game over.

Given how little the notes communicate, it's unclear why finding them is so critical.
The pacing is perfect. Your flashlight's view is narrow and claustrophobic, and your character's pace is ploddingly slow; there's no way to just rush ahead quickly and complete this task. Worse, pausing or alt-tabbing out ends your game, so there's no way to take a breather when you get scared. Like Amnesia, looking at the enemy is a bad idea, as the note above suggests - staring for extended periods of time is a game-ender. The result is painfully suspenseful; it could be a long way back, it could be right behind you, and your only choice is to carry on forward.

I screamed. It was a prolonged and terrified scream.
It would be pretty easy to say that I didn't finish Slender for the same reason I didn't finish Justine - because I didn't like backtracking, I didn't like completing the same tasks again and again so that I could fail in the same place and start over. It would be true, probably. But it would be hiding the reason why I didn't want to do the same tasks again and again, which is because I was DAMN TERRIFIED the whole time.

This was my setup for playing. The adorable puppies absolutely did not help enough.
The game scared the hell out of me. I'm incredibly pleased about that, that a game so simple - the art and sound is nothing especially out of the ordinary - can come together so effectively and succeed so completely at its purpose. I want this, and games like it, to be successful. These little micro-experiences based on eliciting one specific response and focused on that are at the very least exercises in great game design, and at their very best, great games themselves.

But still, f*** that s***.

Slender game: http://www.parsecproductions.net/slender/
And for the hell of it, eleven drunk guys playing Slender (and don't forget part 2 [and for the record I do not condone the language used in the video but I do condone the suffering])

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