Slender: The Eight Pages ReviewJoe Shaffer
Slender didn't utilize a stunning narrative with overlong cutscenes to orient me. All I received upon entry was a simple, mysterious objective as I was thrust into the blackness of midnight, surrounded by trees and gods knew what else. There were no NPCs to engage in conversations, enemies to avoid, or waypoints to guide me through the thick fog. I saw nothing, save for phantasmal hands that seemed to reach out from the dense mist (or maybe that was my imagination...), so I commenced wandering.
...and, "Oh, hey! A chain-link fence! It... seems to serve no purpose."
So I continued to wander.
...and "Oh, hello! A red......building thing. Wait a tic, I think I can see--YES, A NOTE PINNED TO THE SIDE! What's it say? 'NO EYES.'" Although the note's meaning eluded me, I ultimately I decided it had no bearing on my mission. I nabbed it and turned to walk away as a steady thrum began to play from my speakers. I rolled my eyes at this overused attempt at tension building and continued to walk, scanning the area for another structure or landmark that might signify the location of a note.
Oh, I found something alright: a dapper individual standing in the middle of the woods. He didn't move or flinch, but stood there, staring at me. Something about him was amiss, but I couldn't tell what.
"Oh, dear. It think I'll just-"
He approached slowly, never breaking his eyeless stare.
"I think I'll be-"
White noise began to pervade the screen and crackle from my speakers, and the game twitched out as if it were glitching. Concurrently, the figure's body began to exude shadowy gnarls that grew longer and curled and-
I turned and hit 'Left Shift.' For those not well versed in standard PC key commands, that one is reserved for running like hell.
Only I didn't run like hell. I jogged at a meager pace; the kind of weak jog you do in a nightmare whilst being chased by a faceless boogeyman, like you're padding through waist-deep marshmallows. I panicked and thought for sure my assailant--Slenderman--would catch me in a split second, wrap his ebon tentacles around me, and spirit me away to a place where there was no death, where I would only know eternal torment and sorrow. I couldn't remember the name of this place, although I'd read about it in many old holy books and works of literature, but I seem to remember it being called "Gamover" or something similar.
I charged into the night for about a minute before realizing I had survived. Once again I alone in the middle of the woods with nothing around me but myriad trees and fog.
Repeat that process seven more times and bump up Slenderman's level of aggression and you have Slender in a nutshell. That's right, the entire game consists of bumping around in the dark until you happen upon all of the notes, with horrifying interludes between pages in which you attempt to give the antagonist the slip. It's a very basic game that sacrifices depth and variety for atmosphere and quick thrills. It's so minimalist that I would ordinarily slate it, yet I find myself holding back. Bear in mind that I'm also a huge fan of Atari 2600, and grew up with minimalistic, repetitive games. As such, what I see when playing Slender is a 2600-era game with more up to date presentation. I'm fine with that.
That Slender is not a fully fleshed out horror game plays in its favor. It's not the kind of title you play for hours or turn into a major project, but one you fire up when you're craving a good scare and need a quick fix. The game cuts through all the preliminary nonsense that comes with starting most games anew. It further trims the fat by disallowing saves, eliminating the obligation to keep coming back and playing even when you're not in the mood for a scare. In a way Slender is like a novelty item, a toy meant to be played with once in a while that loses its charm in large doses.
I like to think of this game as a fantastic piece of holiday decoration. It's a great game to unleash during Halloween like a Christmas tree in December. Just replace joy and presents with terror and nightmares.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.