Review: Slender: The Arrival
Slender: The Arrival is the speedily produced sequel to the hugely popular Slender: The Eight Pages, having seen release just one year after it’s predecessor. Keen to capitalise on the success of the original the development team at Blue Isle Studios is said to be considering bringing Slender: The Arrival to multiple formats, but as it stands the videogame remains a PC exclusive and, thankfully, has had Oculus Rift support built into the product natively.
With this all encompassing support available as standard activating Slender: The Arrival‘s ‘Virtual Reality’ mode is as simple as changing an option in the settings menu, and as soon as you do it becomes obvious that Blue Isle Studios hasn’t simply used Oculus Rift as an alternative to a stereoscopic 3D monitor. Every inch of Slender: The Arrival‘s graphic and motion-detection quality within Oculus Rift is impressive. From the menu navigation to the detail in the depth of the visual design, Slender: The Arrival is undeniably improved with the addition of an Oculus Rift headset.
Upon beginning Slender: The Arrival you will find that your car no longer functions; whether it be lack of fuel or a mechanical fault we’re not entirely sure, but this and other incidental details are frequently ignored in favour of building suspense. Your first task is to journey to your friend’s house. The player isn’t directly informed of this unless they pause the videogame, however a well worn path has been neatly carved through the woods by previous travellers and so following it as an obvious, instinctive instruction. Slender: The Arrival makes use of this real-world navigation sense on many occasions, and uses it as a device to create a thick, sticky sense of dread.
This is where Slender: The Arrival excels: it’s not in it’s delivery of horror, but rather the build-up to it. The chaotic ransacking of your friend’s house and the ominous messages that they have left for themselves inform the player in a very real way that not all is well. The scrawls on the wall and the lack of any possibility of communication with the outside world keep you tightly locked in the role of the hunted, not the hunter. You leave the premises knowing that something is roaming the area without well intent, but unsure as to what and – worse still – where. Slender: The Arrival makes use of this technique regularly throughout it’s short campaign, and the fact that the player is aware that they are being preyed upon only heightens the potential for panic.
Sadly, once the veil has been lifted and the player is given real reason to live in fear, Slender: The Arrival loses most of it’s impact. It’s clear that Blue Isle Studios has a capacity for tension and suspense, but not for horror. All the subtlety that Slender: The Arrival builds so cautiously with every new step is thrown out of the window as you play an elaborate game of ‘tag’ through the woods. An intangible bogeyman is not comparable to the immovably threatening presence of Pyramidhead or a monstrously huge genetic mutation in a desolate laboratory/basement/outerspace, and Slender: The Arrival suffers because of it’s unwillingness to escape it’s Blair Witch Project trappings.
As the videogame continues players will find themselves engrossed in all manner of tasks, from activating generators to locating items, but all of this aids the development of atmosphere. It’s not a scarefest, and when it attempts to move into such territory Slender: The Arrival undoubtedly suffers it’s weakest moments. It’s a videogame of progression and pacing, and for that it’s relatively short duration can be excused.