Developed by Parsec Productions and Blue Isle Studios, Slender: The Arrival is the follow on for The 8 Pages. This time however we’ve got a full length game on our hands, and it aims to frighten. Like in The 8 Pages you’re still looking at the world through a video camera and you’re still alone in the woods. Slender: The Arrival is currently in playable Beta with the final game set for release on the 26th of March 2013.
You’re at some kind of summer camp, it’s dark, you’re alone and you’re hiding behind a video camera. On one side is a lake on the other a small canoe renting shack, but its night time so everything is closed, thank goodness for your flash light. You look around the little shack and find a few things, a set of rules, a cool looking sign, a brochure. So far everything seems fine, quiet pleasant; if you had a significant other with you it would feel downright romantic. Except for the camera of course, which is more Spring Break than it is romance. But you’re alone, and its dark, its clear there isn’t anything to do at the shack so you head off down the path, alone. It isn't long before you find a sign or a portable toilet or a tent, and pinned to it is a small sheet of paper… that says “Help me.”
You pick it up to get a better look but then that sound starts, like a heart beat but… different. All thought of bits of paper seem drowned out, then you hear a rustle in the bushes and some footsteps, you quickly turn to look but there’s nothing there. Romance be damned, it’s time to leave, so you carry on down the path, only to find another piece of paper. This one says “Leave me Alone.” The camera starts to bug out a little, starts going all static-y, and then suddenly you see something out the corner of your eye. You turn and focus your light but, nothing. You could have sworn there was something there, positive, but there’s nothing. At least the camera has calmed down. Stick to the path, always safest to stick to the path, and then you hear it, a screeching that stops your heart and turns your blood to custard, a sound that feels like someone has reached an ice cold hand into you and grabbed onto your very soul. Forget the path, you turn and start running through the woods, quickly sidestepping the trees, and once again the camera has lost its damn mind. You burst from the forest and find yourself in front of a building, somewhere to hide, and somewhere to be safe. You run through the door but, but you don’t feel as safe as it looked.
Inside somehow feels darker, claustrophobic, have you just walked into a trap? You want to get out but you don’t want to turn around, quickly you start looking for another way out then you see it, another damn piece of paper, no words just a sketch of some trees, with a man standing amongst them. The beating sound seems closer now and you realise that you’re probably going to die soon. All at once standing still is not an option, so you run, through the building and out of the first door you find. Straight out into the woods, the camera still not working properly the scream still echoing through your mind. Then there it, is right in front of you, screaming. You don’t get a good look at it because you just turn and keep running, desperate to get away desperate to find some kind of safety, sanity and explanation as to what the hell is going on! Then everything stops, the beating, the screeching, everything goes black.
I played this game for a solid hour before I had to stop, not because I was done more as I was exhausted. I hadn’t realised it while playing but the longer I played the more I tensed up, I was literally sweating for shock and tension. Going back the next day doesn’t make it better, knowing the something is out there hunting you doesn’t make you less afraid of it, if anything it makes it worse because you’ve got the added build up of 'when is it going to jump out at me?' I’ve not had a game get under my skin like this, possibly ever. It’s all the creepiest parts of FEAR mixed with the helpless 'I can see but can’t shoot' aspects of Doom 3, except in Slender if you turn of the light, you still can’t shoot.
I think the two things that really sell this game to me are the music, the eerie, just audible background music, coupled with the sound of the wind through the trees, the footsteps that might not be yours and the incredibly dramatic screech when something might be about to go wrong. Also that the character seems pretty helpless, when you run, you’re not running fast and you can’t really see because the light is not being held steady, your vision blurs when you move to quickly and you give out terrified gasps when things start going wrong. It’s very clear that you’re not some burly action hero who’s not afraid of dying, you are a petrified camper who has no idea what’s going on or what to do.
Obviously I’ve just played through the Beta, which is essentially a re-mastering of The 8 Pages. I can’t wait to see this game with a story line; I think it’s very powerful and could really have you running for your life (as long as they don’t fall into the Star Wars prequels trap and explain too much, badly). A big part of the fear is from not knowing, if they give it all away this game could very easily loose its magic. At its most basic this is a maze puzzle game, you run around a maze collecting dots and for each dot you collect the thing chasing you get faster. But it’s so much more than that, it’s got so much finesse and terrifying elegance, I just really hope they don’t mess it up in the full version, I also really don’t think they will.
And look, just because I’m excited for the full version, it doesn’t mean than I’m not scared. I'm warning you now, this game isn't fun… but good lord is it worth it.