Slender Man has become an internet phenomenon. Originating from a ‘Something Awful’ thread, the popularity of Slender Man has increased ever since. There are tonnes of mythology behind the character, who appears to be 8-15 feet tall when captured in photos and 6-8 feet tall when captured on film. Slender Man is a figure who has a plain white face with no facial features, wears a black suit with a grey, black or white tie and has generally normal shaped hands. He has been appearing in photos and videos on the internet since the beginning of his existence. He has become synonymous with creepy horror stories on the internet for years; he now has his chance to scare you in video game form with the latest indie PC game, Slender.
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Developed by ‘Parsec Productions’, this PC only title has you take control of an unnamed character with a simple task; collect 8 pages scattered through the woods. Sounds simple right? Wrong. You are only given a flashlight and the ability to run for short bursts. Not only that but you have Slender Man himself on your tail throughout the entire journey. Starting from the first page collected he begins to follow your every step.
The game world is basic, with only trees surrounding you along with some key features that usually house 1 of the 8 pages you need to collect. The game world is surrounded by a fence, keeping you within the confines of the game. The game has no narrative to speak of, the basic premise is the only task you are set.
When you first open the game you are thrown into this world, the only noises you hear are crickets, owls and your own footsteps. However, when collecting pages ominous music slowly builds up to intensify the situation, along with the sound of his footsteps becoming louder as you continue. This is one of the best features of Slender; the atmospheric music is able to set an amazingly tense situation. As you know you are being followed your anxiety starts to increase as you tend to panic when you cannot find any pages, knowing Slender Man is after you.
Slender Man cannot be looked at, once you look at his expressionless face for too long you are treated to a static screen and exited out of the game, meaning Slender caught you and did goodness knows what to the character you were controlling. When moving around the forest you will eventually catch glimpses of Slender Man, when you look back, he might now be gone. The first instance gave me shivers, the helplessness is portrayed brilliantly and you feel like you are an animal being hunted down for the slaughter.
Though this is also one of Slender’s biggest flaws, simply put if you keep looking forward and avoid looking back whilst looking for pages, Slender becomes nothing more than an afterthought. Once you realize he will always appear behind you and won’t do anything out of the ordinary, makes the tense nature of the game drop drastically. Sure, the first moment caused me to react, but after that the concept became stagnant. Apart from looking back you are able to be caught in a few of the key environment pieces around the forest, one being the bathroom stalls. Again though once you figure out how to avoid being seen, it loses all the intensity it had built up.
Slender gives you no help when it comes to navigation. Obviously this was an idea to make the game even more horrifying, having no clue where you are in a forest where everything looks alike. Fact is, this makes you wander around the game for minutes upon minutes, doing absolutely nothing. As previously stated Slender Man is a one trick pony so knowing you are safe wandering around the forest aimlessly looking for pages the size of a coin, well, it becomes boring. After a few minutes the ominous sound loses all effect, the tense situation feels like it has lifted and you feel like this game has nothing else to offer apart from the initial scare.
When you are eventually captured you will be treated to a close up of Slender Man’s expressionless face. Sure this was meant to be an intense heavy scene to strike fear into the player, but this did not resonate with me. As I said the intense initial reactions were lost long before this occurred. Opening up the game for a second try unfortunately means you are not even treated with the initial scare factor, the creepiness has departed. The game now just becomes a chase for pages with some suit wearing stalker following your every move, the intensity vanishes.
Each game ends up being the same as the last; it feels repetitive and even though it is a free game. It feels as if it is a simple Flash game barely worth the attention it has gained. Sure it is able to give that initial scare, but the fact that you replay the same thing over and over without any variation, well, what is the point of replaying? This game will definitely entertain if you are showing to new players, but eventually they will fall into the same mould as I did.
I can see what Parsec Productions was trying to do, for a free indie game it is definitely worth trying out and it certainly had some great potential to be that true horror experience. I personally feel that the game did not provide that “true horror experience” once the initial reactions had passed. This may be a game designed to only be played once, yet even then that first play through feels more like a chore then a terrifying adventure.
Would this game become as popular as it has without the name Slender attached to the project? We will never know.