Slender: The Arrival Review (Xbox One)
Hey there, kids. Come in close around the campfire. Are you looking for something to chill your bones? Something to make the shadows seem that much longer and the night that much darker? Something to put the fear back in you? Then you definitely won't want to play Slender: The Arrival.
Blue Isle Studios teamed up with both Slender Man's creator, Eric "Victor Surge" Knudsen, and the team behind the Marble Hornets YouTube series about Slender Man to create Slender: The Arrival, an expanded next-gen port of the game of the same name. In it you play as Lauren, a young woman whose friend, Kate, has gone missing, leaving behind a trail of insane scribblings implying the mysterious Slender Man had something to do with her sudden disappearance. During the nearly ten chapters of the game you'll look for Lauren while trying to decipher the mystery behind Slender Man and try not to become his latest victim.
To do this, you'll walk around. And then you'll walk around some more. And just when you think you're done walking, you'll keep walking. There are very few game mechanics to speak of in Slender: The Arrival. Mostly you're just hiking through the countryside looking for pages, or generators, or a path from point A to point B. Most sections take place in large, open areas with multiple objectives to complete before you can move on. There's no map and few clues as to which direction to travel, so expect to spend a lot of time wandering around without any clue as to which direction you should go next.
Slender Man's hot on your heels most of the time, popping in and out of existence with a static-y crackle. Let him get too close and it's game over, booting you back to a checkpoint which may have happened a few or 20 minutes ago. At first, having Slendy stalk you is spooky, but it very quickly loses luster and you'll end up becoming annoyed when he pops up right as you find a new area to investigate, sending you backtracking for a few moments only to have to retrace your steps later.
Two other monsters chase you over the course of the game, a hooded creature who makes "nyuk-nyuk" sounds a la Curly, and a zombified child. Neither are especially impressive antagonists, and cause game overs should you let them catch you (although oddly, Hoody only causes a game over if it catches you three times, something which is only clear after the third time you're caught). Between how non-threateningly tiresome the antagonists are, the wide-open, confusing nature of the level design, and the terrible objectives, nearly every moment of Slender: The Arrival teeter-totters between tedium and boredom.
There's a detailed, but clumsy narrative to be found if you're willing to pay lots of attention to rambling letters and scrawlings. Like the Marble Hornets series, Slender: The Arrival requires you to put in some work if you want a story, but here there's just not anything of interest to make it worth the effort. And, for those of you foolhardy enough to power your way through way to the end of this two-hour pile of sludge, what you'll get is an unsatisfying series of events both cliché and confusing.
While Slender: The Arrival is reportedly an Xbox One game, you'll swear you're playing an Xbox 360 launch title. Aside from some pretty skylines and nice lighting effects, this is one ugly mofo. The ever-present flashlight required for you to see anything is held up by a blocky hand which doesn't move at all even when you click the flashlight button. There's virtually no music; it's mostly just ambient spookiness which works in small doses, but wears out its welcome quickly. There's also very little voice acting, and what few creature sounds are either repeated too frequently to be anything more than background noise, or, in the case of Hoody's odd nyuk-nyuks, are accidentally hilarious.
Slender: The Eight Pages managed to deliver some decent scares without overstaying its welcome; Slender: The Arrival takes everything that worked about the original and kicks them to the curb by being too meandering, too obtuse, and too dang dull. Somehow this thing keeps making enough money to get ported to new gaming platforms, and people keep shelling out money for what's basically a walking simulator (the game even gives you an achievement called Walking Simulator, which seems to show its developers were aware of how boring it is).
Slender Man captured the internet's imagination because of what a great embodiment of terror he is; he's uncaring, unstoppable, and unknown. Slender: The Arrival manages to dull Slendy's mystique by shining a light on him and revealing his terrible secret: he's the star of a really crappy video game.
This review is based on a purchased, digital copy of Slender: The Arrival for Xbox One.