Back in 2012, a two-man development team at Parsec Productions created a PC game called Slender: The Eight Pages as an experiment. The Eight Pages was based on the tale of The Slender Man, a tall and faceless paranormal figure who would stalk, traumatize, and abduct anyone who may come across him, particularly children. The goal in The Eight Pages was simple: run for your life and collect eight randomly spawned pages before "Slendy" gets you. It was a basic, effective, and scary game that helped to reinvigorate the horror genre.
Last year Parsec Productions teamed up with developer Blue Isle Studios to create a sequel/re-imagining of The Eight Pages, and now a year later that game, appropriately titled Slender: The Arrival, has crept onto the Xbox 360. Built on the Unity Engine, the game doesn't always look impressive in the graphic department, but it oozes atmosphere the second you boot it up. When you're met with the warning "you're on your own, and your survival is up to you" before you hit the main menu, you know you're in for a tense ride.
The story elements in Slender: The Arrival aren't openly given to you — you could play the game from start to finish and, from chapter to chapter, have little idea what's going on. Instead, the narrative plays out like a crime-scene puzzle, and it's up to you to enrich your own Slendy experience by piecing together the events by finding letters, photos, and objects as you progress. This style of "You want it? Go find it!" storytelling is a cheap, yet effective way to keep the tension high, knowing that once you put down the letter, Slendy might be behind you.
The Arrival is broken down into nine chapters. Playing most of them as Lauren, and armed with only a video camera, you visit her friend Kate's house after she went missing. Most of the nine chapters are continuations of the original concept in The Eight Pages, in which you have to collect or interact with a set of randomly scattered items in the environment to complete the chapter. If you die, you will automatically restart at the beginning of the chapter. This is at its best and worst in Chapter 3: Into the Abyss, where you have to activate a set of generators to escape an abandoned mine, while being pursued by Slendy and one of his proxy — a small figure in a white hood and mask. Slendy and his little minion are a dangerous team. As you keep the crazy hooded kid at bay by shining your light on him, Slendy may suddenly strike when you turn around to run. Unfortunately, this handicap match is also a prime example of how unfair and repetitive The Arrival can sometimes be. Normally, you will hear the echoing sound of the proxy's footsteps as it spawns and heads toward you, but on many occasions it will suddenly spawn right behind you and pounce without warning. On one occasion we were attacked and killed inside an enclosed elevator, which was halfway up and left us with nowhere to run. There was nothing we could do to escape, which forced us to restart the chapter.
In addition to Lauren's adventure, there are two new chapters what weren't in the original PC release (which we factored into the total nine), both of which slot between the first few chapters and act as flashbacks that take place before the game. In one you take control of a child and see the world of Slender from a more defenseless prospective. If you thought Slendy was already tall and scary, the kid's flashback chapter turns the dial-up a bit more. In the other new chapter you play as a side character as you investigate a small farm with an ominous and foreboding cornfield in the center, which you must constantly travel through to get to the other locations. We won't give too much away about what may or may not be residing in the cornfield, but we will say that it's one of the more terrifying environments in The Arrival, and it will have you on the edge of your seat.
The driving force in Slender: The Arrival isn't the story, the jump-out-of-your-seat scares, or even Slendy himself... it's the audio. The sound design is phenomenal and always has you on edge: whether it be ominous score, noises surrounding you, or calm-before-the-storm silence. It can be uncomfortable and disorienting at times, to the point where you might turn down the volume to save your ears from bleeding — figuratively, of course. This is clear in Chapters 2 and 6, which are remakes of Slender: The Eight Pages. The more pages you find, the more the music gears up, and by the time you get to page eight, there are echoing drums, static, and screeching, and, depending on how long you have hunted the last few pages, it can be piercing.
Slender: The Arrival is a must-play for any horror fan who hasn't played it on PC. You may get frustrated with it at times, but overcoming any cheap moments makes beating each chapter and the overall game all the more rewarding. If you play it alone, you can easily get enough scares out of it for price, but we highly recommend that you play The Arrival with the company of a couple of friends, turn up the volume, and turn off the lights.
One, two, Slendy's coming for you...