What do you get if you cross memorable “urban legends”, disturbing source material and a truly haunting, oppressive presentational style? MTV’s ‘Geordie Shore’ – but also (more importantly) an exclusive, contemporary PC survival-horror game called ‘Slender’!
From start to finish, Slender is the kind of game that unearths that long-lost sensation inside of you (assuming you’re over the age of 18) whereby you’d play a game for the addictive novelty value it possessed and not the budget that was thrown at it. This feat has been attempted numerous times recently; developers such as Valve (Left 4 Dead) and ThatGameCompany (Journey) have tried to replicate those emotions – focusing on creating likeable universes that have their own distinctive set of rules and objectives that gamers respect and enjoy playing with. It’s enough to say “here is a wrench, over there is a broken pipe – do the math”, but when that pipe becomes a ‘pipe-bomb’ and the wrench becomes a meat cleaver and the math becomes a zombie – then it’s a whole new kettle of fish. Slender’s rules are simple: you are very alone, you’re stuck in a forest and you’re being chased by a paranormal creature known as “The Slenderman”. Chuck in the hook of collecting 8 scattered notes and you have yourself a recipe for some terrifyingly addictive gameplay!
Mark J. Hadley (the games’ indie developer) has successfully created a template for a game that can turn players from intrigued to terrified within a matter of frames. The budget is low, the game is often buggy and yet that lack of polish just feeds into the games fear factor – it’s a nuts and bolts piece of work that has enough backstory and spontaneous jump-scares to outwit any hard-core horror gamer. The aim is simple, try and collect 8 scattered notes that re-spawn across the map randomly before each play through. The more you collect, the faster (and luckier) you must be to try and avoid bumping into The Slenderman – because if he catches you it’s a very violent game over. It’s a simple premise that works really well here, although it’s definitely something that has to be given a few tries to appreciate fully.
Graphically the game is what you’d expect from an indie PC game (it looks like something you could have played in the late 90’s) but to contradict popular gaming culture, this isn’t actually a big deal. If anything the poor graphics, the dim lighting, the claustrophobic environments, the repetitive sound, the slow default speed and the creepily designed enemy all feed into the horror aspect. Think of it like Jumani; this is an underground game that’s being circulated by gamers in the know and it’s bat-shit terrifying. In fact, it’s so good at what it does that in little under a month the game has been downloaded over 2 million times and even has a YouTube community of “reactions” akin to that of 2 Girls 1 Cup.
As a massive horror fan I’m proud to hold my hands up and say I’ve found a true gamers game that is both charming in its execution, clever in its novelty and disturbing in its history. It really achieves what Amnesia (a game it’s being heavily compared to) couldn’t and after a decade of replaying Silent Hill 2 I can finally put down my controller and pick up my PC, because horror in gaming is back in its rawest, most addictive form.