Slender: The Arrival review
Kevin Pocock agrees to be scared witless for the sake of this review
I don't have much time for the paranormal, but the great/alarming thing about gaming is that sometimes world views simply don't matter. Slender: The Arrival clearly adopts this as its mantra and is a more spine tingling and terrifying digital experience than I have ever endured. And really, if I have my way, that's how it'll remain.
The Slender mythos is an interesting one. Slender Man (or 'Slendy' as he is sometimes called, in an attempt to make friendly his absolute horror) was created on the Something Awful forums (in 2009) by 'Victor Surge'. Since then Slender Man's heebie and jeebie-ness has spread across the internet, spawning a collection of games, of which The Arrival is the latest. It's the follow-up to Slender: The Eight Pages and follows a similar gaming pattern.
The plot is that your character's car crashes on a woodland track. As you advance on foot, night quickly falls and you see a house. From then on, your job is to investigate oddities and carry out certain objectives while steeling yourself against one of the most atmospherically creepy games you're likely to ever play. The ultimate goal is to progress through the game collecting items without coming across Slender. Occasionally, you may catch a sight of him or see your (first person) screen flicker with static. At this point it's a good idea to do nothing but run like crazy away from the area.
Why? Oh because Slender Man teleports, and if you catch a sight of him or 'feel' his presence, then he's probably right behind you. Can you reason with him? No. Can you fight him? No. Can you scream in terror before your game immediately ends? Well... yes. If anything that's pretty likely unless you get the heck away. Also, Slender is more likely to appear at certain times during the game, and his impending presence is indicated by various rhythmically thumping, beeping and other creepy-as-anything sounds. Honestly, be as rational as you like, but I promise you'll find it hard not to be drawn in.
This is quite an achievement for Blue Isle Studios considering the somewhat limited engine being used. Before you take the plunge into the darkness, a few game settings are required, including graphics quality. I chose Fantastic, essentially 'ultra', and was somewhat disappointed until I was too scared to notice. This is because the Unity engine behind The Arrival ceases to matter just as soon as it turns dark. This is not so much an insult hurled at the terrain and structure quality, more an overriding compliment offered to what the developer has delivered as a game setting. I really can't put this more plainly: I've genuinely never been this scared in a computer game. Certainly not since I played a demo of the original Silent Hill for a grand total of three minutes. This is one to play during daylight hours and without headphones, unless you thrive on being absolutely goose-bumped.
For sure Slender: The Arrival will not win any awards for graphical achievement. Nor will it likely become an international best seller. But considering Slender Man began life on a forum and four years later is a wholly fictional character set in a minimalist title.... My word, it's as scary an atmospheric triumph as you are likely to encounter.
• Price: $9.99 (about £5.63)
• Developer: Blue Isle Studios
• Website: slenderarrival.com
• Required spec: Quad-core processor, 3GB RAM, Radeon HD 4850 or equivalent/better, 2GB HDD space, Windows XP or later