Despite its brevity and some questionable design decisions, Slender: The Arrival is a strong horror game that no fan of the genre should miss.
During the past few years there has been a resurgence of horror-themed video games. Titles such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Condemned, Dead Space and Penumbra have become extremely popular among fans of the genre. Without a doubt, Slender: The Eight Pages has been one of the most popular games in the genre and it was only a matter of time before a company tried to capitalize on the success of the indie-developed survival horror title. But is Slender: The Arrival true to its predecessor? And more importantly, is it worth your while if you haven’t played Slender: The Eight Pages? Despite its brevity and some questionable design decisions, Slender: The Arrival is a strong horror game that no fan of the genre should miss.
For the uninitiated, The Arrival is based on a free downloadable game called Slender: The Eight Pages, which at the same time is based on an internet urban legend that was born in a well-known forum. The antagonist of both titles is known as Slender Man. A thin, tall, faceless creature who follows you around as you try to locate various items. Come into contact with Slender Man or stare at him for too long and static will start blurring the screen. If you fail to escape, a game over will occur.
Unlike its predecessor, Slender: The Arrival has a story, albeit a pretty shallow one. A woman called Lauren is visiting her longtime friend Kate after her mother has died. Since the path to Kate’s house is blocked, Lauren parks her car at the entrance of the driveway and decides to walk the rest of the way. When she arrives to her destination, Lauren realizes that no one’s home. Not only that, but all the doors are open, the phone’s dead and there are drawings of Slender Man all over the place. From here on, the main protagonist needs to obtain clues which will hopefully help her locate her missing friend.
To justify the fact that you have to pay for it, Slender: The Arrival has a few additions that weren’t present in The Eight Pages. The first new feature comes in the form of a new mechanic. To open doors and windows you need to click the left mouse button and then drag it in a specific direction. Sadly, this mechanic is extremely cumbersome and doing what you’re asked to and obtaining undesirable effects is infuriating. For instance, one of the chapters asks you to close all doors and windows and while it’s easy to understand the decision behind this mechanic (it generates tension at the same time it engages the player,) it’s annoying. As a consequence, you’ll find yourself pounding on buttons because the unresponsive controls refuse to react to your input. To be fair, you’re not constantly making use of this mechanic and apart from using it in some very specific moments, closing doors and windows isn’t a recurrent part of the game.
The other feature comes in the form of a new enemy. Apart from Slender Man there’s another menace known as Proxy, a creature similar to the witch from Left 4 Dead. If the creature hears your footsteps, it’ll try to hurt you with its claws. Thankfully, there’s a way to keep it at a distance: you can either crouch (crouching makes less noise than walking or running) or you can click the right mouse button to aim a powerful beam of light to the creature’s face. This temporarily blinds it which gives you ample time to run in the opposite direction. The fact that there’s an enemy other than Slender Man represents a nice change of pace, since the game involves much more than just running away from the fictional character. If only the level design was more consistent.
Most of the missions involve either obtaining a specific number of items or activating a specific number of devices. The problem is that as you get more and more items, the enemies that pursue you become more and more aggressive. Having more items means that you have more chances of being caught and when you’re forced to restart the mission for the umpteenth time, tedium ensues.
Moreover, the layout of the levels and the locations of the items is completely random which means that carefully planning your route is impossible. Sometimes the items you need aren’t far from each other which makes a given mission a cakewalk. Other times though, items are located far from each other or inside small rooms, so you have more possibilities of perishing in the hands of an enemy than finding all the required items.
The random nature of the environments is completely detrimental to the experience, since you never know where to go next. Although this encourages you to explore each level meticulously, it’s maddening to have to go through the same level again only to find the same items. In addition, while there’s usually a checkpoint at the beginning of a chapter, there’s no way to save in the middle of levels. So you better not exit the game in the middle of a chapter or you’ll be forced to replay the entire section all over again the next time you launch The Arrival.
Finishing the prologue and the five main chapters should take you a couple of hours. But despite its brevity, Slender: The Arrival retains what made its predecessor so popular, at the same time it incorporates some new additions that make the experience feel fresh enough. Fans of the genre will definitely find a lot to like here, but cumbersome mechanics and an inconsistent level design make The Arrival a game that only those who follow the genre closely will appreciate.