Slenderman may have a keen eye for fashion; he wouldn’t be caught dead in a three piece monstrosity from Primark. But this fellow is anything but smart when it comes to his nightly activities, which usually involve stalking around forests, frightening young women, and generally causing a bit of a havoc for any gamer wanting a few honest scares.
Slender: The Arrival provides a genuinely harrowing horror experience that adds a bit more variation to the repetitive formula of the original title. It may be able to cause cold sweats, and perhaps even a few heart palpitations here and there, but old Slendy’s scary adventure is often marred by some clunky controls, ugly environments and one mission in particular that is frankly awful.
The gameplay of Slender: The Arrival is simple: you roam around an area in first person, searching for a particular number of items, while a tall, supernatural being frantically chases after you. This may seem like an easy premise, but unfortunately, the supernatural being in question is quite a determined entity. Arriving on the scene after the first item is collected, he comes complete with a number of unsettling ambient noises, which increase in ferocity as you progress in order to create a constant and supreme sense of dread. Additionally, he also has the ability to teleport throughout the area, making him an unstoppable force; you never truly know where he is going to appear. These elements are combined together successfully to generate an amazingly scary scenario through the exploitation of the player’s senses; it is a wonder how frightening a faceless man, and a few stomping sounds, can truly be.
While the first main stage remains true to the original game, The Eight Pages, in which you run around a pitch-black woodland in search of eight creepy notes, the chapters that follow are more varied in their design. The second level takes place in an underground facility, where the game’s protagonist, Lauren, must activate six generators to power up an elevator in order to ascend to a higher, and safer, area. As if the enclosed space and tight corners didn’t make this place chilling enough, there is also the addition of a new and demonic adversary: a hooded girl that can attack Lauren on sight. This not only doubles the threat of this stage, but it also creates a new use for the flash light, as it can blind this creature and allow you to make a quick escape from its vicinity.
While Slender: The Arrival is able to keep gameplay fresh through a unique level progression, the areas themselves are often frustratingly difficult to navigate. This is due to the stages, especially those indoors, having very little in terms of discernible markers. The first level may have some monuments in place to find each of the notes, but after that, each one becomes a rather chaotic affair of orienteering. I am aware that this may increase the tension when faced with a labyrinthine zone, but it quickly becomes frustrating when a bunch of insta-death-causing creatures are thrown into the mix. One of the final levels is a muddled mess because of this, failing to provide a visible goal due to it being set in a hazy forest full of fire and smoke; everything is a horrible mash of oranges, reds and greys. It refuses to elicit any fearful reaction because of its truly infuriating design.
Despite the levels themselves being graphically superior to those of the original game, they don’t look so great when accompanying the PlayStation 4’s hardware. Shadows and lights may be well utilised here to add to the game’s sombre and foreboding tone, but certain indoor environments simply look dull and blocky. And although some outdoor sequences shine pleasantly in the sunlight, night time brings another set of problems. Fog appears randomly to obscure environmental markers, and trees are strangely crooked in the torchlight.
Not only is the game hampered by its lack of graphical fidelity, but it’s also held back by its clunky controls. The option to sprint is provided, but the slow-paced nature of this mechanic is little use when it does nothing but wobble the screen needlessly during frantic chases towards safety. Turning is also a slow affair, making a simple corner take an eternity to manoeuvre. Hindering the player’s movements may emphasise their current dire straits, but it also adds another layer of unnecessary annoyance to an already burdensome experience.
Slenderman and his ghoulish friends are certainly able to stir up a plenitude of frights across a few decent levels, through an awesome use of optical, aural and psychological intrusions. Unfortunately, the scares often subside when confronted with some lacklustre controls, poor visuals, and a level design that borders on the frustratingly manic. It’s fun in the long run for those that enjoy the odd bit of masochism on the side, but generally tedious for all others.