Genuine fear is a rare emotion felt in videogames. Sure, blockbuster titles like Dead Space and the Resident Evil series have their own interpretations of what fear is, but few games compare to the type of fear that’s felt when playing Mark Hadley’s Slender. Developed by Parsec Productions, Slender is a psychological horror survival game inspired by the Slender Man myth. Conceived in a Something Awful Thread, where users competed against each other to come up with the creepiest picture imaginable, the Slender Man is a tall, faceless man who wears a black suit, and has tentacle-like appendages protruding from his back. He emerged not from the depths of a lake or a book of lore, but from an Internet thread and creative minds that know how to fiddle with photoshop.
Slender is therefore another installment to the Slender Man myth, however it offers a truly frightening and unique gameplay experience. It’s a game that’s more about creating an atmosphere and state of mind, rather then racking up a kill count or high score. Like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Dear Esther, it walks that line on what a videogame can really be and what it can do. Aside from the myth of Slender Man, there really is no story to Slender. You start the game in a dark wooded area with no idea as to how you got there, and you’re prompted with one of the most basic videogame goals; collect 8 pages. However, the horror unleashed by collecting these pages transforms this familiar “find and fetch” game mechanic into a truly terrifying experience.
You’re given no means to protect yourself, and you don’t have a map or a compass. All you have are your footsteps, a flashlight that can zoom in and out, but will die if left on for to long. You also have the ability to sprint for extended periods of time. The pages are located on specific landmarks throughout the environment, however they change location with every playthrough adding a layer of unpredictability to the game. Upon collecting the first page, the loud booming steps of Slender Man begin to pursue you, and his creepy presence, highlighted by a dark layering of audio, only persists with every other successive page you find. Slender is thus a brilliant example of how powerful and affective audio design in a game can be. All of these features – the layering of audio, the lack of a means to defend yourself, the inability to escape a relentless monster – makes Slender a truly nerve-racking experience, and it’s the simplicity of this game design that makes it one of the scariest games to date.
Slender is an extremely rare and unique game. Using the classic fear of being stalked by some entity, it offers a visceral and spine-tingling experience that if played under the right conditions, (dark room, headphones on) will really makes you feel alone and vulnerable. If you’re looking for quite the scare then you can’t go wrong with Slender. A title that definitely should be played by the avid horror fan, or anyone that has a genuine interest in rare games. You can download Slender for free right now on the games official website.