Slender: A psychological horror game that’s simple yet powerful

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A psychological horror game that’s both simple yet powerful get all eight pages before he gets you over the past year, I’ve gotten the chance to play a string of free download indie games ranging from different genre’s and play styles, and out of all of them I would probably rank Slender as my favorite.

Brought to you by developers ‘Parsec Productions,’ Slender is a survival horror game which follows the adventures of an extremely antisocial individual (let’s call him Bob for lack of context) as he tries to pick up litter while avoiding the company of a man a suit. I keep telling myself that this is indeed what’s going on, because otherwise I’ll just have to face the reality that this is a very scary game.

Part of what makes Slender so great is how simple, yet powerful it is. The basic idea of the game is you’re an unknown person who is trying to collect eight pages in the woods. Along the way, a man called Slender Man is following you and if you make eye contact for too long, you’ll die. He doesn’t pursue you per se, but rather he just strategically places himself in key locations where one might look so if you don’t want to lose health you don’t look at him.

Sounds simple, right? WRONG!

It may not sound scary, but trust me, that’s one advantage this game has over people. It lures you into a false sense of security and when you least expect jumps out at much like Slender Man himself.

The notes in question that you must find are scattered all over the map and always generate in different (albeit scripted) locations forcing you to explore. These notes are important because the difficulty of the game is based on how many notes you have.

When you start off with one note, usually you won’t even find Slender Man. When you do, he’ll usually be across a field in plain view, stopping just short of holding up a big neon sign that says, “Hey look at me.” In this scenario it is very easy to avoid him. However that all changes once you get the further you progress.

Once you collect more notes, Slender Man will get tricky with his spawn locations. His favorite, at least with me, is to hide at the very corner of the bathhouse so I don’t see him until I round the corner. One trick he’ll use is standing at the passenger side of a car so if you look through the mirror, BAM, he’ll get ya. I’ve only gotten up to five pages, so I don’t know how hard he gets but trust me when I say he gets crafty.

From what I’ve seen, he’ll only show up once you’re three to four pages in. It’s effective because the pacing makes you almost dread to get another note for fear that he’ll actually reveal himself.

No matter how many pages you possess, you’ll never be able to shake away that nagging feeling that somewhere out there in the woods he’s watching you and planning to pop up when you least expect it. This isn’t helped at all by the game’s liberal use of haunting music and unnerving sound effects, which do an excellent job of setting the tone.

The decision of having this game take place in the woods (at least for the first version of this game) wasn’t one made on a whim. The location is perfect not only because as a culture we’ve engraved in our minds that dark woods equal serial murder, but because the scenery will undoubtedly mess with your head.

It also means that it’s almost impossible to memorize the terrain since well… if you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen them all. The game demands exploration which in turn makes the likely hood of running into Slender Man that much higher.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked down a path and jumped because I thought I saw Slender Man, when in reality it was just a skinny tree or a low hanging tree branch. It happens to me and it’ll happen to you.

When you do eventually get near him, the game will make sure you know so by having your screen go into a static discharge. Pro tip: if you ever start to receive static, just turn off your flashlight and walk in the opposite direction because he’s nearby. You can’t see him but he sees you.

The game isn’t without its problems, though. Depending on what kind of computer you play on, the level of light can be anywhere from extremely dark to the middle of a black hole where you can play with your eyes close and it would look the same.

Even though the difficulty progression is present, there will be some points where you’ll die very early one from a seemingly unavoidable encounter. This can take away from the experience overall.

Some say that the controls are not very good, i.e. it takes forever to get anywhere. While I’ll admit the main character walks at a pace that feels like you are slogging through mud, I like actually somewhat like it because it adds to the feel of the game.

It just wouldn’t feel right if you could just run and jump as you please. The slow walking makes me feel helpless which adds to the games atmosphere.

Other horror games may tell you this, but for Slender it is recommended must! Play this game at night, by yourself, and with headphones. Playing Slender in broad daylight with friends defeats the purpose of the game’s tone.

Loneliness, uncertainty, darkness. All these are what make Slender, and by playing it as such you enter a deep level of immersion that a lot of games try and fail at.

If you’re looking for a survival horror game with depth and complexity in form of a story and challenging puzzles than this game probably isn’t for you, and you’ll more than likely find what you’re looking for in games like Silent Hill or Amnesia.

But if what you’re looking for is a quick and easy way of being scared viscerally, to the point where it’s difficult to walk by yourself at night, then you need to try this. I guarantee you’ll never forget the first time you see him.