A Night with Slender: Gaming’s Recent Horror Sensation

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.

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  1. It’s a game made for a certain subset of media enthusiasts out there, namely, grown-ass men (or women) who are still afraid of the Boogie Man…and in some sick way…like it.

    I count myself as belonging to this group…someone who was kept up for a week after first seeing Paranormal Activity. The 28 year old man who runs past the living room window after the lights are all turned off because he imagines the unspeakable horror looking in, the guy who sits at his computer reading the latest top entries from NoSleep (http://www.reddit.com/r/NoSleep) well after the sun has gone down, even though he knows it will crawl up his spine and tickle his brain well into the early morning hours making him a zombie the next day at work.

    Not sure what to call us, wusses, immature man children…I like to think I just have an overactive imagination.

  2. The creepiness or horror element of this game appeals on a very base level of fear. It’s like the video game equivalent of being told a slow-building campfire story with a jump scare at the end. It’s creepy and will make the hairs on your arms stand up but it’s not going to give your nightmares. Atmospheric is a good word to describe it. This isn’t “gore-heavy”, which I think some may confuse for horror these days, it’s more “dark-basement of someone else’s house scary.”

    If you’ve ever read a ghost story and had to look behind your back even though you knew the room is empty but you had the creeps anyway… well then you’ll dig this game.

    Play it in a dark room with the sound cranked up. Tell me you don’t jump.

  3. Slender is not so much a video game as it is an experience in the nuts and bolts of fear and paranoia. You know something is coming for you, but you are unable to look at it. If you can’t look at it, you can’t know how close it is, or if it is still there. Whereas at first Slender Man is easy to avoid, the more notes you collect the more aggressive he gets the faster the music pounds and the more you are just running for your life in a panic wondering where the hell you are, where you are going, and where the Slender Man is. In the words of Stephen King “You aren’t running. You’re scampering.” This is a brilliant mechanic and a great blow struck by independent gaming to show that you don’t need a massive budget or great graphics and tons of loot to make a killer gaming experience.

  4. Tim W. hits the nail on the head.

    It’s the element of being watched that gets to me the most…that you know he’s behind you, and he knows YOU know he’s behind you…but there’s nothing you can do about it… *shivers*

  5. This game sounds fantastic. I hadn’t heard of it either, so I’m so glad you wrote this review, Benny. Personally I’m ecstatic that there are some horror game designers placing the emphasis on atmosphere and sensory perception instead of reward-based exploration, combat, or gore. That’s the scary sh*t, right there.

  6. There is nothing remotely scary about this game. You’ll be more scared if you roam around the wasteland in Fallout in the middle of the night only to turn around to a Deathclaw in your face.

  7. This game is actually similar to the movie Paranormal Activity, it tests your imagination. Whether you overreact or underreact to elements or just hints to scare you.
    If you’re scared to hell, damn right you got a wild imagination.
    Plus, I haven’t really heard of another horror game that’s gone as viral for a while now, so let’s cut this some slack!

  8. Best Slender mode? 20 dollar mode. Every time you face towards the direction that Slender is in, some song pops up singing “Gimme 20 dollars, Gimme 20 dollars” Sooo funny.

    But other than that, Slender is scary in that it plays with your imagination. Who here hates going into basements?(excluding those who’s room is the basement)Attics? Its the thought that there is something there that isn’t that makes those places scary. For instance, I hate my basement for the simple fact that every time I go down there I think that some killer is gonna pop out and kill me. Actually going to happen? 70 percent chance that it will…I don’t know thats why its scary. Hence why Slender is scary, is he there be hind you? 70 percent chance that he could be, you turn around and…NUU! He is there!

    *shifty eyes* I’m also a very paranoid person…*shifty eyes*

    By the way there are different versions of the slender game.
    There is the mansion(which is even scarier than the original) the sanitarium, the elementary, and the very new, maze. (Which was released just a few days ago.)

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