13 October 2012

[SquareGo] Review: Slender: the Eight Pages

The unknown and the unexpected are the bread and butter of the horror genre – and an indie PC game quietly released in June 2012 fits the bill, coming as it did from the relatively unknown developer Mark J. Hadley of Parsec Productions, and unexpectedly becoming one of the most terrifying games of the year.

Read the rest of the review over at SquareGo or click below to read more!

Slender: The Eight Pages' inspiration comes from an internet myth, a creature created by members of the website SomethingAwful – in the original web-legend, Slenderman is a freakishly tall, faceless entity wearing a dark suit that steals away children with its numerous tentacle-like arms, can move around without being seen or heard, and frequently stalks its victims through the woods where it can hide among the trees. Slender drops the player into a forest at night - armed with only a torch - with the objective of finding eight pieces of paper in some way connected to sightings of the Slenderman. It's an unsettling experience making your way between the trees, knowing at any moment that you'll turn around and find Slenderman standing right behind you.

The gameplay of Slender is fairly simple: the player slowly makes their way through the forest using a torch that slowly runs out of power the longer it is kept lit – at any time, you can turn it off to conserve power, but it plunges you into darkness and you can only make your way by starlight and the silhouettes of trees. The player can sprint, but only briefly – and this is best kept for when you feel the presence of Slenderman nearby. As you collect the eight pages scattered around the level, you'll come face-to-facelessness with Slenderman, accompanied by harrowing noises and bursts of white noise and static. Looking at him (it?) for too long – or being too close to him/it – results in a flare of white noise staccato with Slenderman's absent face staring out at the player, before the game ends. Depending on how the player navigates the woods, the whole game can be finished in about ten minutes – though it's not uncommon to have the torch batteries run dry, leaving the protagonist in darkness as Slenderman closes in.

The audio in Slender is a very understated affair, with the only “music” being present at the game menu scene – the rest of the game is populated with the ambience of cricket-chirps, the crunching of the protagonist's footsteps through the undergrowth, and the disturbing electronic peals that signal the presence of Slenderman. Much like the rest of the game, it's a perfect example of the maxim of “less is more”.

It should be said that Slender is not a technological marvel, nor is it as well-polished as other games of its ilk – but it doesn't have to be. In fact, it could be argued that Slender proves itself as being worthy of its praise because it's not advanced in its technology: the fact that it manages to deliver a terrifying, immersive experience nonetheless just goes to show how quality games can be crafted without the (sometimes unneccesarily) high standards and budgets of bigger game development studios.

An interesting side-effect of Slender's publishing method – Parsec Productions uploads new versions every few weeks – is that with each new version, everyone experiences Slender quite differently – some people may have gotten an ending that wasn't there in the original, some may have been thrust into the game from the second they loaded it up instead of seeing the main menu, some may have found secret modes that have since been removed... it's an interesting reflection of the Slenderman mythos, and myths in general – the story is the same, but key details may be added, omitted, or changed entirely.

All in all, Slender: The Eight Pages is a fantastic addition to the horror genre, and a great example that truly terrifying experiences can be created at any level of technology. Parsec Productions have recently announced that there will be a sequel to the game called Slender: The Arrival – if you can't wait, the PC game Slender Man's Shadow is another good independent take on the story, and there are many fantastic Youtube series, such as Marble Hornets or TribeTwelve, that have been instrumental in bringing the mythos to a widespread audience and exploring different facets of the Slenderman legend.

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