Being scared is fun. I wrote recently in an article about E3 that I was concerned that legitimate scares are going the way of the dodo in gaming. Resident Evil has co-op and is more action, Dead Space 3 looks like it’s following that trend more and more every time I read something new about it……where are the scares? Where is the game that you want to play at night, with the lights off, alone? What will take you back to that first time you played Resident Evil or Silent Hill and even though the graphics were lame and controls were wonky, you felt like you were THERE and not just sitting in your living room? Oh, that game is called Slender? And it’s free, right here on the internet? Yes.
It’s going to be tough to review Slender in the a traditional sense. First and foremost, the game is short and simple, but I’ve never finished it. “Beating” the game would probably only take 20 to 30 minutes. But story or game play….these are secondary things for Slender. It’s game about atmosphere.
The game is very basic. First person perspective, you start in a dark forest, in what seems to be some sort of park area. There are some paths and landmarks, such as a large tree, a broken down pickup, or some silos. You are directed to find eight pages, and this is the only direction the game provides. The pages are in random locations, so the goal is to explore the area and find them. This sounds easy enough until you pick up the first page…..boom. What was that? boom. What could be making that noise? boom. The ominous thudding isn’t explained, but instantly the mood changes. The page you pick up might say that HE follows, or that you can’t run. The booming gets louder and closer with each page picked up, each step closer to your goal means the Slender Man becomes that much closer to catching you.
Who or what is the Slender man? I have no idea. Apparently he was born on internet message boards, but that doesn’t matter. What does is that he’s a faceless humanoid in a dark black suit, whose limbs are longer than that of any human. You never even see him move. You’ll turn a corner and he’ll just….BE there. Every split second you look at him brings you closer to death, more so if he’s illuminated by the one thing you have at your disposal, the flashlight. So when you spot the Slender man, the best option is to turn off your flashlight and run like hell. And hope he doesn’t somehow make it beyond the next corner waiting for you again. Which he does….a lot.
Slender doesn’t have great graphics, the textures are bland and repeated and there’s really no character animations to speak of. But the audio is top-notch. The crunch of your feet on the forest floor. The thudding then more piercing sound of the Slender man’s pursuit. The breathing of your character as she sprints deeper into the forest. It doesn’t matter that the game looks bland or doesn’t really have a story. The atmosphere is so good that all of that melts away and you’re just left with trying to live and find the pages.
I realize this is short, but there’s really not much else to say about Slender. It’s terror. It’s a small game that is specifically designed to freak out those playing it, and it succeeds at this in grand fashion. It’s certainly not for everybody. Those of us who still value games that can create a sense of isolation, that can get past the whole “game” feel and just get inside your head, that’s who Slender is made for. The best part? It’s free. Turn the lights off and try to find the pages. I haven’t managed to collect all 8.