Imagine it, you’re walking down a dirt road in the woods at dusk, it is autumn the leaves are turning orange and red. You come across an abandon vehicle on the road. The sun quickly sets, leaving you in the dark without a flashlight and suddenly, you aren’t alone anymore. You are being watched and stalked by something. It feeds off of the power of your video camera, which is the only way to see it (I guess).
When your video camera flickers, it is closing in on you. It is drawing the power from the batteries as it draws near. It is Slenderman. A tall thin humanoid creature that looks over you from afar from hilltops. The creature that opens the doors that you just closed. The creature that your only defense is to not look at it. To wish it away as you cower in fear by looking at the ground. No… just run away until your video recorder stops flickering. How do you run from something that just teleports in front of you? You can always walk backward.
This is Slender: The Arrival, less of a game and more of a first person experience along the lines of Dear Esther and Gone Home. It preys on your fears. It has a great, creepy atmosphere and great sound design. You have little in the way of controls, left stick to move, right stick to look, a sprint button, flashlight button, zoom button, and a use button. There are other buttons, but they feel redundant.
The game dumps you in and never explains why you’re there. Not just the first chapter of the game, but over and over again, its the same thing, you start at dusk in the woods and go into the night and then find an abandon building. Each chapter has a different task, such as turn on X generators, find X pages in the woods and close X windows. Simple things, but you’re just stuck with something that can be anywhere at anytime that will warn you when its near. The more things you collect, the more intensely you will be harassed.
As you wander in the dark you quickly come across an average house. Depending on where you enter, it looks like there is nothing wrong. Just a normal house for sale with a playground in the back. Soon enough you’ll find things scrawled on the walls and rooms in disarray. Eventually, you’ll find a flashlight that will help you. The idea of wandering in the woods might seem like an easy way to get lost, but as you roam the darkness, you’ll be enticed by audio and visual cues such as paths, lights and dozens of arrows pointing in one direction that will guide your way.
If you think you’ll get used to Slenderman, once you progress far enough, eventually you will reach an abandon facility and have a follower. Perhaps it is a follower of the Slenderman, but it follows, chases and strangles you. This isn’t a creature like Slenderman, so it doesn’t have magical powers other than it is getting closer, running after you. You’ll hear its footsteps running up to you. Your only defense is to focus your flashlight and blind it. That adds something different to the game. Getting trapped in a side room means there is no way out and no where to run away from the follower.
It is a toss up if this experience is for you. If finding stuff in the dark isn’t for you then skip it. You’ll be searching open areas for sometimes tiny things (sheets of paper). Lost in the woods and abandon buildings. Being thrown off your direction from having to run away and forced to figure out where you’re going again in an area that is mostly woods. If you can’t handle bobbing and weaving cameras, avoid this game. It might be a nitpick but sometimes the camera seems to be at a person’s waist. The height of a sink or a doorknob.
I couldn’t really recommend Dear Esther or Gone Home. They were both beautiful and immersive, but I didn’t feel anything playing those games like I did with Slender: The Arrival. Is it worth $10 for an hour or two of gameplay? I feel like I was engaged and always challenged by a single strange foe with powers to teleport anywhere.