If I were to tell you that the best game I have played in a while had neither good graphics, nor cost more money than I would normally spend on groceries, you would think that I was either lying or had finally gone crazy. It’s true though, Slender is the best game I have played in a long time.
First of all, I like the horror genre, either in movies, TV, art, novels, and yes…games. Not the kind of horror that shows grotesque scenes of graphic violence. After all, Freddy Krueger lost his appeal after the first movie. I like something that grabs you, terrifies you, and has you looking over your shoulder when you turn the lights out.
Slender is a free, Indie title from Parsec Productions. Little is out there on the company, researching it, all I can come up with is the main site, and a few reviews of this game. The game itself is a first person horror survival title, based on the internet legend of The Slender Man, a paranormal creature that appears as a faceless man in a dark suit, tall, thin, with incredibly long arms. Slender man haunts children, and abducts them. References for Slender Man are easy to find, but until this game, were largely unknown to me.
As the game itself, there is no real backstory. No voice acting, nothing. The game starts out with the sound of footprints, someone scaling a fence, and then dropping to the ground. You find yourself in a fenced in enclosure, with thick forested areas interspersed with multiple paths. The size is really indeterminable, it’s dark and all you have is a flashlight.
Though there is no story, you get the sense that the character is a thrillseeker, someone investigating a legend. You are literally thrown feet first in the game, with nothing to fall back on. You don’t know WHY you are there, and honestly, that adds to the terror.
The objective is to collect 8 handwritten notes, each detailing some small tidbit about Slender Man. Each note looks like something that would be drawn by a young child who is emotionally disturbed. Soon after finding the first note, Slender Man appears and begins chasing you, getting closer, sometimes disappearing, once he gets you, the screen fades to static, and all you see is his featureless face.
Slender does not have top of the line graphics. Nothing is there to wow you and grab your attention like a puppy watching TV. Even on its fullest settings, the game resembles something on the level of Half Life, in terms of graphic quality. In the version I played, the only options available were to change the resolution.
While something like that might be a negative point for many gamers, myself included. Slender makes up for its apparent shortcomings by transforming the game into a terrifying, psychological, heart pounding thriller.
When you look at the game, you see things that do not make sense: A cross shaped brick wall where one note sit; building with entryways, but no doors to open, nor windows or furniture inside, save for one overturned chair, a tunnel, that serves no purpose as it is above ground. The thing is though, the only thing you can see clearly, is the stars above you. Even with the flashlight on, objects and terrain features creep up on you. What you see may not make any sense, but it adds to the terror…
Wow. The effects are not studio quality in most cases, but Parsec hit the nail on the head when it comes to inspiring emotion through sound. At first all you here is the crunch of your footsteps on the ground, until you grab the first note. Immediately the sound shifts to something akin of a stressed, heaving heartbeat. The pounding almost affects you, and you begin to feel the effects of stress yourself. I know this sounds crazy, I know I can’t explain it, but at one time or another we have all felt afraid about something. I found those familiar levels of fight or flight kick in, I sat forward, and I jumped out of my seat on more than a few times. The music and effects shift. The first time you see Slender Man, off in the distance, staring at you, you will jump. And when you turn around to see him there, closer, you will run. It’s amazing to me, but Parsec Productions pushed every button to engage my fear response, and succeeded.
As mentioned, all you do is walk around and grab pages. There are eight in all, and Slender Man does not appear until you grab the first one (at least in my various playthroughs). Each page is located at one of several static locations, and you may find more than one in a few areas. Because it is dark in the game world, you won’t be able to easily find them. Couple that with the forest, and the fact that your flashlight can run out of battery power, and it is a bit of a challenge. With each page, Slender Man is closer to you, and at one point, you may have to run blindly just because he appears next to you. Turn around, and he is not there, face forward, and he is right in front of you, run and you get lost, tired, and he catches you.
Slender touches upon all the primal fears people have. Alone in the woods, no weapon, a flashight that is almost dead, and something watching you. The distinct lack of features makes Slender Man all the more disturbing, as you keep wanting to see a face, but it is not there.
Though there are paths, and the actual stars as you can see them though the trees act as a guide, allowing you to save flashlight power, you still end up getting turned around easily. You start panic running, and stopping to see where Slender Man is, he will either disappear, or end up closer than you think. All of these serve to disorient you, and leave you running like a screaming sissy, crashing through the forest in a random direction.
Playing the game is terrifying, but so is watching someone else play it, as my own wife sat down with me, I saw her jump out of her seat a few times. For someone who does not game at all, she felt the game was superb.
You simply have to. You will not get all the pages the first time through. At most, I have retrieved 6, but spent so much time running and sprinting in the game, my characters unmarked stamina level was too low to run away when Slender Man came for me. Each time, I had to get up and do something else. I felt drained, strung out like being up too long on mission tempo. Honestly, it was weird feeling that way after a game, but I did.
The game is free. How much more value can you ask for?
I have played many horror titles. Games like F.E.A,R. and Amnesia: The Dark Descent, where you could do nothing but flat out run like hell sometimes. These games touch upon our natural fears of the unknown, and somehow trigger your stress responses. Slender is like that, a free, visual effect lacking, simple game, that will scare the ever loving hell out of you.
These two videos below are of me playing the game, you get to see firsthand how I react, even after playing it multiple times.