I talked about how I haven’t played a truly scary game for ever such a long time when I write my review of Spirit Camera. Well, I can’t make that claim anymore because I played a game this week that scared the ever loving shit out of me, and it’s an indie game.
The game is called Slender. You might have heard of it, the game has gone viral recently and reaction videos of people playing it are all over YouTube. Created by Mark J. Hadley, the game is as indie as it gets, but is the most effective horror game I think I have ever played.
The game is based on the premise of a fictional character made up by the internet that has taken on a life all its own. The Original Slenderman was a result of a Photoshop contest in 2009 in which people had to create images and post them on paranormal websites claiming them to be genuine. The Slenderman was depicted as a inhumanly tall and thin man dressed in a black suit, but with a pale head that has no discernable facial features. The Slenderman stalked children and kidnapped them by the dozen.
While the story was at first a pure fabrication, it caught the imagination of the internet at large. It spawned Marble Hornets, a series of YouTube videos and twitter statements that follow a man who is uncovering the strange happenings revolving around his friend who believes he is being stalked by the mysterious slender figure. The character even found its way to being the origins for the endermen enemies in Minecraft.
In Slender, the player takes control of a lone, unnamed female character who jumps a fence leading into a large forest at the dead of night. The objective is simple, to find the eight notes that are placed around forest and it’s various landmarks. The player is seeing the game through a small video camera that the player character has brought into the woods with them. The only tool at your disposal is a small torch, which has a very limited power supply.
As the player collects the first note, the Slenderman begins to stalk them. As the players collect more notes, the Slenderman get’s faster and faster. While he doesn’t move when you look directly at him, doing so causes interference with the camera and makes it far more difficult to see.
The game is incredibly simple, but also incredibly effective. Every now and then, the Slenderman can seemingly teleport, meaning that even if you are looking at him, if a tree passes in front of your vision, he will be gone when you go by. And that’s when you know you don’t want to turn around.
The sound in the game is one of the biggest reasons it works so well. When you first start, the only sound is the crunching of your footsteps on the undergrowth, as you collect notes though, a distant and rhythmic thumping begins, followed by a tense score, which is then followed by a howling wind. The sounds made in the game will make you squirm in your seat, and manages to create a experience so tense, you almost want to be caught so it will be over.
When the Slenderman does catch you, and he will catch you, the screen goes fuzzy and his blank face fills the screen before it cuts to black.
The fact that the game is extremely minimal really works in its favour. It uses as little as it can to make the experience feel raw and real. Nowhere is safe in this game, and not knowing where the Slenderman is a hell of a lot worse than the alternative. Half the time I was playing this, I was terrified to look anywhere for fear that he would be there, and the sections that take place inside a maze of narrow corridors, don’t get me started.
It works off some very base fears and instead of trying to scare you with gore or constant jump scares, it gives us the dark and the unknown to let our own minds do all the hard work. They say that there is nothing scarier than what we can come up with in our own heads, well Slender does exactly that. It lets you know something’s there, but holds off actually doing anything until the last possible moment.
Slender is free to play and a game can take between three and ten minutes depending on how lucky you are. I found the game here (Slendergame) I’d fully recommend getting some headphones on and playing a game of this in the dead of night, it’ll change you.
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