SLENDER: THE EIGHT PAGES - What it is, and why it works
Firstly, what is Slender? It's the new video game "craze" that the Internet is raving about. Only, in comparison to most games out on the market these days, Slender is indie and free. It's a ~50MiB cross-platform download, and its major "selling" point is that it's spooky. You're lost in a wooded area, enclosed by a fence. Your job is to find eight notes of paper, which are tacked up on various landmarks (rock formations, abandoned vehicles, and a decrepit bathroom). You have three limiting factors - your stamina, which steadily drops while jogging or sprinting; your torch, which (I've been told, but I'm yet to see) steadily drops in power while it's lit; and the Slender Man.
The Slender Man is a creature not unlike a human being, but with no facial features (instead, a blank, white head), and long, slender arms (hence his name). He also wears a suit. His pursuit of the player is slow at first, and intensifies every time a note is collected or a certain amount of time elapses (to the point where Slender Man is able to teleport after gathering something like six notes). If the player looks straight at him for too long, the player is "taken"; if the player looks straight at him at close range, the player is "taken"; every time the player is looking in Slender Man's direction, static buzzes on the screen and in the speakers. Not only that, but when Slender Man's search intensifies, thumping, pounding, or droning basslines are added to the game's musical score. I should point out here that every game of Slender ends up with the player being taken by the Slender Man, and the game does not simply end by collecting all eight pages.
It's worth noting (if you'll pardon the pun) that the notes tacked up around the site are all in themselves rather spooky. They have flurried handwriting on them, and have messages ranging from a simple "HELP ME" to a helpful "DON'T LOOK... OR IT TAKES YOU", from a cryptic "LEAVE ME ALONE" to a drawing of Slender Man himself. It's also worth noting that this is a cute little prank you can play on people - all eight notes were tacked up last week at our college. (Drove me almost insane trying to find the eighth one, which - it turned out - had been muggled before I could find it.)
That basically covers the plot - it's not exactly spoilers, since the whole idea of the game is survival, not plot.
Who is Slender Man? Slender Man was born of the Internet. As early as 2009, a "make ordinary photos look creepy" competition had a notable entry - two photos with what would later become the Slender Man added - and a small backstory. It developed into a whole Internet phenomenon, and now the Slender Man is able to extend and retract his arms, and can develop tentacles from his back. In 2012, the game Slender was released. It was indie-developed, but developed based almost perfectly on the Slender Man mythos.
Why does it work? Because people take the idea of playing horror games with the lights off, volume up, and maybe a few people filming reaction shots. Because most of the time when you're playing the game, you hear stuff (the bass thumping, for example) and look around you and there's nothing there. Because of the very sharp stinging music you hear when you see Slendie at close range. Why hasn't it yet worked on me? Because I play with lights on, volume low1, and I realise that Slender Man is just not real.
Why does it work for gamers? Assume, for a minute, that you're a gamer who has been exposed to Doom, Resident Evil, Amnesia: The Dark Descent and all those other survival horror games more than you care to imagine. So, you're somewhat immune to jumping. Right? Well... yes and no. It's not a jump of fright any more, so much as it is a jump of frustration when you realise that the Slender Man has taken you and the game is over. Especially with a goal so simplistic in nature. But, yes, it is a challenge and a half, first to know the map off by heart, then second to be patient enough to deal with the walking speed that actually is real-world walking speed. Mostly, you're all tempted to run off into the darkness yelling "COME AT ME, SLENDER-BRO" without realising that controlling your running and sanity is a mechanic of the game.
I suppose that, since it's a game review, I'd better rate it.
- Graphics: 6.5/10 It's not going to win any awards, but it does a pretty decent job for a freeware game.
- Sound: 8/10 It mixes its sounds very well, and brings a reasonably spooky soundtrack into the gameplay.
- Playability: 6.5/10 People who love horror movies may well grow impatient with the pace - or lack thereof.
- Lastability: 7/10 You get a different game each time, and a couple more modes get unlocked after your first successful playthrough.
Plot: 3/10 There is no plot. But, you're not playing the game for the plot, you're playing for survival.
- Total: 28/40 = 7/10 A good way to get cheap thrills.
1 It's cheating, I know. But I'm just trying to familiarise myself with the game before a marathon I'm doing for charity in a few week's time.