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Slender: The Arrival

Nintendo Switch Video Game Review

Written by Ryan Noble

Released by Blue Isle Studios

Developed by Blue Isle Studios and Parsec Productions
2013, Rated Teen
Nintendo Switch version released on 20th June 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)

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Review:

The legend of Slender Man has been around for years now, ever since the success of the Something Awful thread shared in 2009. Since that date, the tall, suited-and-booted demon has been teleporting from one thing to the next, with the latest thing being a Nintendo Switch release of Slender: The Arrival last month, a game that was first released in 2013. Memories of the horrors that awaited me in the 2018 Slender Man game, Slender: The Eight Pages are still fresh as I begin my journey into the mysteries of Slender: The Arrival.

The Arrival takes the concept of the first game – trying to collect eight pages before Slender Man can catch you – and gives it a bit more depth and narrative. In this game, you play as Lauren, a woman who travels to the town of Oakside Park to help her friend Kate with plans to move house. Naturally, when you arrive, she’s nowhere to be found, the house is trashed, and the walls bear insane scribblings and drawings.

Side note: Kate is rumoured to be the girl who picked up the eight pages in the first game, so it’s no wonder life hasn’t been an easy ride for her...

Even just in this first area, which you arrive at within minutes of starting, the teams did a great job of building up the tension that the legend is known for. In the short walk from your car to Kate’s house, a bright autumn day and gentle music give way to the darkness of night and complete silence, besides the sound of your own footsteps echoing through the house.

Considering the game is quite short, the teams made the right choice by plunging the player quickly into the darkness and tension where Slender Man likes to spend his time. From the moment you enter the house, you feel... watched.

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We’ve arrived, but where are we going?

With a sudden scream that cuts right through me, I'm led through the back garden and into the woods behind the house in search of the screamer, presumed to be Kate. Again, once the oppressive silence takes hold, the powerful sound design steals the show. Each footstep, shaky breath, and unexplained bump in the night slices through the nervous quiet, and I often will my footsteps in enclosed spaces to be quieter, so as not to be found. Wishful thinking, for sure.

After heading into the woods behind Kate’s house, the game follows quite a similar pattern. Arrive at a new area with a different setting – such as woods, mines, or houses – and find items to progress in your search of Kate.

Sometimes this might be an important key or note, but mostly this follows the same formula as The Eight Pages, in which the player is hunted while searching for a complete set of whatever it might be. For example, in the mines you must find six generators to power the lift out of there. As you’d expect, you’re not alone.

You’re not alone, but neither is Slender Man...

Throughout the game, you expect for Slender Man to be in pursuit of you, looking dapper in his black suit, red tie, and blank expression. But what you don’t expect is that he’s made friends. They go by the name of The Proxy, and these are people who have been possessed and now do his bidding.

Whereas Slender Man can appear absolutely anywhere, yet remains completely still and creepy as hell, The Proxy are the opposite. They’re essentially deranged humans who are very much present in our reality and will run after you. If they catch you, they’ll knock you to the floor and wail on you and if they catch you a few times you’ll die and must restart the section. They’re still scary as hell, especially in the echoey mines where their frantic footsteps can be heard as they get closer.

Luckily, your torch beam can be narrowed and if shone in their face at just the right time, which is sadly closer than I ever want them to be, they’ll flinch back and you can sprint away in the hope of finding the next generator before they’re back on your heels. It’s incredibly tense and although it’s technically just a variation of the gameplay in Eight Pages, it still delivers the scares you’d hope for.

There are more than eight pages to find...

While the gameplay itself isn’t groundbreakingly original, The Arrival does try to add depth to the mysteries of Slender Man. There are plenty of letters and notes that try to fill in some of the blanks in the narrative. These are optional additions since you often have to go off the beaten path to find them, so how much of the paranormal picture you fully understand is up to you. Personally, I still don’t understand a lot of what happened, but I’m okay with it since I sometimes prefer not knowing all the logistics behind the legend.

One area of gameplay that does add a bit more variety is flashbacks, allowing you to play as a number of other people who have gone missing as a result of Slender Man; notably a little boy called Charlie, a reporter trying to uncover the story behind missing Charlie, and Kate herself.

The latter two flashbacks come in the form of playable VHS tapes, similar to those that appear in Resident Evil 7a game you absolutely need to play if you still haven’t. The tapes are great for adding some immediate variety and distance to an intense game by putting you into a different and equally intense scenarios. They’re short, fun moments in the overall game and I do believe the game is stronger for it, even if I would have liked Kate’s VHS to be a bit longer, showing off the true effects of a mind plagued by Slender Man.

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Even beloved demons aren’t perfect

It’s rare that any horror game is perfect, and The Arrival is no exception to this rule.

For one, the game – and some would even argue, the myth it’s based on – is pretty dated. The original release was six years ago and has many gamers wondering, “why now?” for the game’s Switch release. I’m never one to complain when more people get to experience a horror they maybe hadn’t before, especially seeing it brought to life on Nintendo’s latest console, but the visuals haven’t aged too well over this time. Textures are murky and many things ‘pop’ into the scene as you get closer, though there are still some nice mountain views with pines stretching into the distance; imagine one of the early Elder Scrolls games, but with a much more sinister narrative.

And it’s not just the artificial stuff, because so much of horror is about what you hear and feel, rather than what you see. The Arrival also occasionally suffers from unclear direction, in that I sometimes found myself searching for the right path to the next area for longer than I’d have liked, one time stumbling onto it and another time having to briefly consult a walkthrough to find that the way that looked like a sheer cliff was actually the way to go.

Another issue is that the player has stamina, but this doesn’t seem to be mentioned during the game and there’s no visual representation on display, either. Considering that the ability to run at full speed may be the only thing that saves you from Slender Man or his Proxy, this feels like key information. On the flip side, walking also feels slow when in wide-open, no-chase areas, so a jogging default might have been better for pacing than walking...

Sadly, the game’s conclusion also feela a bit lacklustre. Without spoiling anything, the ending doesn’t feel quite as chilling as I’d have liked, and Slender Man doesn’t appear again in the final scenes, which feels like a wasted opportunity when it’s really all about him.

Back to where it all started

When you complete the game, hardcore difficulty is unlocked — although why you’d torture yourself with that is beyond me — and so is a new level. This level is called Genesis and it’s a polished version of the original Slender: The Eight Pages game. After the ordeal of the full game, I actually felt much calmer than normal and managed 7/8 pages before he caught me in the enclosed halls of a small building. I shouted, “suck a d*ck, Slender Man”, and thus my time with Slender: The Arrival was finished.

With the additional stage there are six in total and only a few hours of gameplay if you get lucky in finding the necessary items to progress in a few tries, so it’s definitely not the longest game. However, with the intensity of the scares and the minimal price tag, I think that might be just right for this game.

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Summing up Slender Man’s Switch escapade

Overall, Slender: The Arrival feels a lot like the Something Awful it comes from. It’s terrifying from the moment you pick up the first page (and even a bit before) to the moment the credits roll, and it truly makes the most of the tall, dark, and horrifying creature we know and love, even going as far as to give him a friend or two.

On the other hand, the game already feels quite dated even though it’s only just come to the Nintendo Switch. If you played this game when it first released in 2013, there’s probably not much reason for you to pick it up on a new platform unless you’re just that into Slender Man. But don’t get me wrong... If you didn’t play Slender: The Arrival first time around and you love being terrified, there’s intensely fear-filled fun to be had here.

In other news, I have a wedding coming up and I’m thinking a black suit with a bright, red tie. It’s on my mind and I’m not sure why... What do you think?

Grades:

Story: Threestars
Graphics: Twoandahalfstars
Gameplay: Fourstars
Sound: Fivestars
Replayability: Threestars
Overall: Threeandahalfstars

About The Author
Ryan Noble
Staff Reviewer
If Ryan isn't watching, reading or playing some form of horror, he's probably writing about it. He used to be an Editor at Indie Game Magazine so he has a soft spot for independent creators, especially when they're creating fear. Whether you're one such creator, or a fellow horror fan, let's speak about spooks on Twitter or email.
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