The original Slender, released in the summer of 2012, was an experimental horror game that dropped you into a spooky forest with nothing but a flashlight to guide your way and a faceless entity known as the Slender Man following your every step. Despite having rough, simple graphics, it was a chilling gameplay experience. Slender: The Arrival, a reimagining of the original game, once again sets players up to encounter the enigmatic Slender Man, this time with a much more robust story, improved visual design, and just as many scares.
The Arrival has you play as Lauren, a young woman who is visiting her friend Kate. Kate is selling her isolated family home after her mother's death, but upon your arrival, you find Kate's house mysteriously empty. The doors are wide open, there's furniture knocked around, and there's several mysterious notes about repressed memories and hallucinations... then you see a strange figure watching you from outside the window. It isn't long before you realize something terrible has happened to Kate, and it's up to you to find out where she is and why she disappeared.
One of the first things you'll notice about The Arrival is that along with a significantly overhauled visual design compared to the original, it features a very dark and foreboding atmosphere that does an excellent job of keeping you on edge, if not outright terrified. Whether its hunting down those eight infamous pages in the remake of the original forest level from Slender, or scrambling to turn on an elevator in an abandoned mining facility, you'll rarely feel that you're in a safe enough spot to stand still and catch your breath. And after your first close encounter with the game's titular antagonist (or his new sidekick) you'll begin to develop a certain level of paranoia about your surroundings and start to dread any time you have to deal with enclosed spaces.
Much like the original game, you're almost completely defenseless, and all you have with you is a flashlight and the ability to sprint for short distances. However, you'll have to worry about how often you use your light and how much noise you make, since your pursuers rely on both to track you down. Deciding between whether you should try being stealthy and risk getting lost in the dark environment, or dashing to your objectives as fast as possible knowing that you're more likely to run right into the Slender Man's open arms, can be an unnerving choice to make. The implacable Slender Man is as imposing and aggressive a foe as ever, and often the only notice you'll have that he's caught up to you is a slight distortion that ripples across your screen... occasionally followed by him flashing directly in front of you in a cacophony of digital noise and electronic screams.
While the stages do have randomness to them in the form of starting locations, landmarks or key items being different each time you play through a stage, most feel like they could have had more variety. Almost all follow a similar formula of "find X number of objects while trying not to die horrifically." What really hurts The Arrival the most, though, is how short it is. If you're lucky enough to power through The Arrival's five stages on the first try, you can complete the game in just under an hour, give or take a few minutes- though, to be fair, chances are you won't be that fortunate. Plus, if you really want to get the most out of the game's disturbing story, you're going to want to spend some time exploring during the few quiet moments to find all the collectible scrapbook entries.
Bottom Line: Slender: The Arrival is a significant improvement over Parsec Production's original game, featuring a much more robust narrative, and a darker, more foreboding atmosphere. You may have mixed feelings about its brevity and the repetitive mechanics, but it's certainly a well-built game that, above all, is scary to play.
Recommendation: If horror games are your thing, you enjoyed playing the original Slender or you just like having a good scare, then Slender: The Arrival is a good, albeit incredibly short, horror title that will send you jumping out of your chair at least once.
Game: Slender: The Arrival
Genre: Survival Horror
Developer: Parsec Productions, Blue Isle Studios
Publisher: Blue Isle Studios
Platform(s): PC, Mac OS