Publisher: Blue Isle Studios
Developer: Parsec Productions
Platforms: PC, Mac
Release Date: Out Now
When Mark J. Hadley released his seminal Slender: The Eight Pages last year the overwhelming reaction was a mixture of terror and praise. As a result the announcement that not only would Hadley be teaming up with Blue Isle Studios to release a full Slender Man game, but the writing team behind the cult YouTube horror series Marble Hornets were coming on-board to work on the game’s story led to understandably high expectations.
It is a pity then that Slender: The Arrival falls short of its hype. Before addressing the game’s disappointing shortcomings it is worth mentioning the areas in which it excels. The Arrival sees a distinct graphical upgrade from the original, with its autumnal forests, abandoned houses and gloomy mines exhibiting an impressive level of detail for the Unity engine. The audio design is the game’s strongest asset, contributing to the unnerving and tense atmosphere which is best exemplified by the prologue chapter. Above all The Arrival succeeds at being scary with its third chapter ‘Into the Abyss’ being particularly deserving of praise. Set in a condemned mining facility, this chapter introduces a new enemy, the Proxy, who has her own distinct appearance, movement style and attack pattern which will induce panic in even the most hardened Slender veterans.
However, this is not enough to overcome the myriad of flaws which blight what had the potential to be an incredible release. It becomes abundantly clear after only a short amount of playtime that Slender: The Arrival needed a longer development cycle. There are serious motion blur issues with the camera and the collision detection system lacks precision; these are faults which should have been identified and ironed out during the play testing phase. While these may be dismissed as minor quibbles, what cannot be overlooked is the alarming number of glitches and bugs left in this game, which in some cases can render sections unplayable. Simple actions can cause the game to crash or the player to inexplicably plummet to their death through seemingly solid scenery. Such major bugs are simply unacceptable in the final build of a full-release game.
Even more disappointing is how underdeveloped the plot is, unravelled through cryptic notes which offer little insight into the motives of the characters, and how exasperatingly formulaic the approach to the levels has been, with each stage essentially boiling down to ‘collect or activate x number of objects before something horrible catches you’. This formula worked excellently for The Eight Pages but cannot sustain itself across a full title. The game is also far too short; it can easily be completed in under an hour. All of this combines to give the impression that Slender: The Arrival was a hastily constructed effort. With its inconclusive ending hinting at further sequels, one can only hope that future entries to the series will be more polished offerings.
By Steven Balbirnie