Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Slender: The Arrival (PS4)

Slender man, and the creepy lore he was derived from have become a household name in terror in many ways, and across many forms of entertainment. Initially developed as a Steam game for the PC, Slender Man took the simple premise of clue collecting, isolation, and an unusually sinister stalker, and combined them to make an experience that could best be described as a living nightmare. The protagonist in the original games, and in this follow-up sequel who were made to suffer the nightmare usually had only a flashlight, and camera at their disposal. They were made to wander abandoned areas of varying sorts to collect pinned up clues that basically held a warning that the Slender Man was watching them, and that he was coming to get them. As you trekked through darkly lit forests, abandoned buildings, and whatnot as these characters you would catch glimpses of the Slender Man moments before the camera suffered from static interference. The mere sight of this lanky apparition was meant to frighten the gamer in a jump scare fashion, and keep them on the edge of their seats as they set out to complete the game, and for the most part it did it's job. The point of the games, and expansions, if there was one was to find all eight pages, or clues before the Slender Man got to you. You either did it, or you suffered that fatal final scare. In a slightly similar fashion as that of the first games, and expansions 'Slender: The Arrival" once again incorporates the eight page theme, and adds a twist with some objective based levels that build upon the simple nature of the original Slender Man tale.

In 'Slender: The Arrival" there's a hell of a lot of things going on behind the scenes that you only get a taste of as you collect letters, clippings, and other memos from the missing character Kate, and other people of the Oakside park area. All you really need to know is that you are alone in the dark, and that someone, or something is after you. At the core of the story, Lauren, who is a friend of the soon to be missing Kate finds herself in a car wreck just a short distance from her friend's house. Upon arrival at the house she discovers that the property is abandoned, and that there's a bedroom littered with frantic sketches of the Slender Man. After hearing her friend scream from said bedroom Lauren heads outside to see if she can find her. Armed with a flashlight that she found inside the house, and a video camera she had with her she sets out in the eerily quiet darkness of Oakside park to look for her friend, and attempt to make sense of the madness. Of course as she does the infamous stalker of the game makes himself known, and once again the hunt for the eight pages is on ...

As one might expect "Slender: The Arrival" is not that different from it's predecessor. Sure it's made by a different studio (Blue Isle Studios), and sure it has objective gameplay thrown in the mix, but for the most part you will be basically running for your life, collecting clues/pages, and completing objectives as you are chased down. The difference this time comes in the form of upgraded graphics, a more complete story, and a new nemesis in the form of a hooded child who accompanies the Slender Man on his hunt of horror. As Lauren you are equipped only with a flashlight that you found at your friend Kate's house, and a video camera that you had before exiting your crashed vehicle at the start of the game. This set of tools along with the (L2) sprint (it's actually a rather sluggish jog), and the (R2) flashlight focus function will help you to capture your descent in the maelstrom on camera, and see/combat things that are hidden within the darkness of the various environments. During your sometimes puzzling trek across Oakside Park, the buildings therein, and the local mine you will also be able to interact with certain objects that will help to push the chapters, or levels forward. Each level past the eight page intro has an objective that can be kept in check by pressing (OPTIONS), and bringing up the 'Pause' menu.

When it comes to settings the difficulty, lighting, and sound can be altered at the main menu as you see fit. In the way of difficulty settings you'll find an 'Easy', 'Normal', and 'Hardcore' option, each of which carries a different ending should you stick with the frightening ordeal, and complete the game. The 'Hardcore' difficulty setting, in particular acts to limit flashlight, and sprint functionality. It should also be noted that all of your scrapbook findings including the infamous eight pages can be referenced via the 'Extra' menu of the game's main menu. The scrap book clippings, once collected will give you enough of an understanding of the story that you'll know what is going on with the main set of characters. You'll even find some information tidbits on the more secretive characters including Charlie, and Slender Man.

As far as the visual nature of the game goes it's somewhat up to par with new-gen standards, but does suffer from some slightly simplified structures. Certain trees, and rocks carry polygon heavy formations. Being a ported version of an earlier PC build it's not all that bad though. The atmosphere is still very creepy, and the appearance of Slender Man, and his new accomplice help to sporadically add thrills and chills to the game. While Slender Man himself isn't all that scary visually his random appearances accompanied by various sound effects, and camera interference really sets the tone of terror for the game. With the new hooded child apparition thrown into the mix it also offers up another unique variety of screen filling jump scares that will keep you antsy, and on the move. In simple terms the sound effects, and visual presentation come together to create the perfect sh*t storm of scariness. You will likely crap or piss your pants if you dare to play this game alone, or in the dark if you are ill-prepared for it. You have been warned.

The Verdict ...

While this is nothing new in regards to Slender Man offerings it does good to bring the experience to gamers like me who have never been able to play the PC versions of the game. Blue Isle Studio's PC to console translation was decently done. It functions well with the use of a PS4 controller, and looks good throughout. The only complaints I have lie with the constantly swaying camera, and the very sluggish run, that isn't even a run. The combination of the two can make for a sickening experience, especially if you suffer from motion sickness of any kind. Of course there's also the initial epilepsy warning for people who are prone to having seizures. Thankfully those people are warned before the game ever begins though as there's definitely a lot of lighting related instances that can mess with your eyes. Having survived two hours in on my first attempt I was feeling rather sick at my stomach from it all. It doesn't mean it's a bad game, but I feel the developer could have gone a little easier with the camera swaying, and the flashy bits for the sake of gamers like myself.

When it comes to a scare factor I never really felt all that scared. I don't see why people were screaming like little girls on Youtube. Sure a jump scare caught me off guard once or twice, but I did not scream, or jump in my seat. Nor did I crap, or pee my pants. I will admit to tensing up when the Slender Man, and his accomplice came around though. The anticipation had my adrenaline pumping, and my fingers ready to get my onscreen character the hell out of dodge if need be. I suppose years of subjecting myself to the scariest of horror films have numbed me a bit against jump scares. The only thing that still scares me in relation to horror entertainment is seeing a character's genuinely horrified expression in response to some unsightly being, or gory murder. To scare someone you've really gotta create a protagonist that can express unbridled fear. Simply seeing something appear out of nowhere, or hearing said thing approach will only put terror in you for a short while after it passes. You gotta make the main character gasp, and react in truly fearful ways. Monsters, demons, and creatures of the night are only part of the formula of making a truly terrifying game.

So, here we are at my verdict ... I have to say the game is good to buy, especially if you have not played it on PC yet, and would like to see what the fuss was all about. It is pretty much the complete experience with all the chapters, endings, and features. Buy it at your own risk though. We each have a varying degree of tolerance to scares, and you may not be as strong willed as I am. Also heed the seizure warnings as they are put into place for a very good reason.

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