by Benny Bedlam
When I first played Slender, I had no idea what to expect from the game other than the fact it was likely going to scare the living daylights out of me. I was skeptical at first, only because it’s been quite a while since a horror game truly had me at the edge of my seat. If a blockbuster title couldn’t scare me, what more could a small Unity 3d game like Slender do? However once I started, all my doubts disappeared and fear began to crawl up my spine as each second passed.
At the beginning, you start out at the edge of a creepy forest at night. The only tool you have is a flashlight that you can switch on or off. The battery is limited though, which means you have to conserve energy as you explore. You have no weapons, so all you can really do is walk around. The main objective is to find all the eight notes scattered around the vicinity of the enclosed forest. At this point, the game doesn’t tell you who or what you’re supposed to be avoiding throughout the game. As you collect more and more notes however, you’ll begin to have an idea of what you’re up against. There is no required order and time limit in collecting the notes so you can freely explore the forest. However, based on my experience, I’d prefer to spend the least amount of time possible in the forest and just get it over with.
It’s easy to get lost in this game, like actually, literally lost, especially if you’re someone like me who has a bad sense of direction. As you progress, you’ll catch glimpses of the Slender Man, the titular foe of the game. If you look at him too long, the screen starts to blur into static and it will end the game (and your life, presumably). It’s also not necessary to run, you only need to veer away from his direction. Slender is not really much of a character that will give you nightmares. He’s a tall and unrefined graphic block that looks like a streetlight from afar. Yet, it’s the paranoia behind the mystery and suspense of his random appearances that startles you.
The progression of the ambient sounds significantly contributes to the suspense of these glimpses as well. At first, all you hear is the sound of your footsteps and crickets. This aspect made me paranoid, since I played the Condemned series where you had to blast your speakers just to hear if someone is breathing or walking near you. The more notes you collect, Slender tends to appear more frequently and this tense development is accompanied by the sound of your character breathing and your heart beating heavily. Truly, Slender’s winning tool isn’t their eponymous character, but in the way they developed the game’s ambience. I’m sure the game wouldn’t be as chilling if you had the sound muted and had Gangnam Style playing the entire time.
Once you collect all eight notes, the game doesn’t end with you escaping the forest victorious. Instead, you’ll get to walk around for a while until Slender inevitably gets you and the game ends. You can finish this game in less than twenty or even five minutes if you’ve played this more than once. There’s a rumor going around that a newer version of the game, shows a clip where you actually escape or whatnot, but that’s never been officially confirmed.
There are different additions and modes to this game as various versions are released. For example, there’s now an option to have different types of flashlights or lanterns with each having its own strengths and weaknesses. I won’t mention all the modes so you can discover them for yourself. However, I will mention two notable ones called Daytime and Marble Hornets mode. Basically, Marble Hornets mode is formatted in homage to its namesake Slender themed YouTube series. Nothing changes really, except for the fact it looks like your playing a recorded video a la Blair Witch Project. In addition, Daytime mode is just playing the game in broad daylight. I found Daytime mode to be a weakness of the game since it exposes the unrefined graphics of the forest, which you wouldn’t normally see at night. I also found the daylight to be a serious detriment to the creepy atmosphere, but then again this mode is just optional.
Slender is not the scariest game in the world, but you’ve got to give Parsec, a small start-up, credit for recreating the nostalgic ambient horror present in earlier titles of Resident Evil and Silent Hill.