When Slender originally released on the PC, it was a welcoming reminder that classic horror still has its place in gaming. Completely dependent on atmosphere and sound, Slender embraced its simplicity much like the original Blair Witch Project. Slender relied on mystery and lore to carry its narrative and gameplay. The horrifying, albeit brief, journey beautifully orchestrated a sense of isolation and panic that insinuated vulnerability by giving players a single tool as means of survival, a flashlight. The sequel offered a similar venture, although the poor performance got in the way of the scares.
Unfortunately, Slender: The Arrival on Playstation 4 is releasing a little too late. The horror genre has flourished over the past two years, and Slender now seems archaic and underwhelming. While the game has received a commendable technical overhaul and runs almost flawlessly, the scares don’t carry the same weight as they did a few years ago. As a result, Slender has lost its cult status allure. Slender: The Arrival has its moments of atmospheric brilliance and an intriguing lore, but the painfully brief journey is no longer worth the asking price.
"The horror genre has flourished over the past two years, and Slender now seems archaic and underwhelming."
Slender’s narrative is revealed through collectibles and environmental clues. You’re visiting your friend Kate who recently lost her mother and is trying to sell her house. Upon arrival, you find the house in disarray and Kate missing. Soon you discover mysterious notes hinting at an eerie figure, and you begin tracking down clues to uncover the mystery behind Kate's disappearance. The game’s visual overhaul is immediately apparent and I applaud the developers for going the extra mile in polishing the PC’s horrendous performance. On the flip-side, the controls are terrible. Slender: The Arrival on PS4 plays like it's been lazily stitched together with poorly implemented Xpadder settings. The movement is unnatural and choppy.
The Slender experience is reminiscent of a haunted house ride. You’re more of an observer than an active participant. Most of the chapters are simple fetch quests. The once creepy Slender has become nothing but a nuisance, with constant jump scares creating moments of brief distress followed by frustration and anger. The second chapter is practically a direct re-imagining of the first game as you walk around the woods collecting 8 mysterious pages. Fortunately, the environments are more distinct and you don’t find yourself running in circles anymore.
"I enjoyed both Slender titles on the PC when they originally released, but the next-gen version isn’t as impactful anymore. It is no longer the cult phenomenon it once was."
Further tasks involve collecting parts to activate various devices, but it’s ultimately the same exercise over and over. More of the same is not necessarily better in the case of Slender, especially when such a large portion of content is filler material. The original Slender can be completed in less than twenty minutes, which is a suitable length for the type of gameplay, but the sequel is unnecessarily long (even though it only takes an hour to beat). Making matters worse are the cheap deaths that only serve as an illusion of challenge. Once a certain point is reached, a new antagonist is introduced who oftentimes teleports right in front of you and can claim your life in an instant. It’s lazy and takes away from what could have been an eerie experience.
Where Slender truly deserves the utmost praise is in the audio department. To genuinely experience the terror of being stalked in the middle of nowhere, Slender has to be played with headphones (or a solid surround system). The echoing of your own footsteps conjures up paranoia as you frantically react to every crackle and whistle. One moment you’re listening to the grass crunching underneath your feet, the next you’re sprinting away from the onset of static as Slender inches closer.
I enjoyed both Slender titles on the PC when they originally released, but the next-gen version (despite being a technical improvement) isn’t as impactful anymore. After playing titles like Outlast, Slender feels outright boring. It is no longer the cult phenomenon it once was. For anyone curious about the Slender series, you’re better off playing the aging original. It still carries a nostalgic charm that’s been tainted by the mediocre sequel.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 4