Slender: The Arrival certainly looks the part, but it can’t really shake that horror games have moved forward.
If you’re of a certain age as a gamer, you can probably remember the Slender craze of the early 2010s quite well. The tall skinny chap was everywhere. YouTube series, video games, movies, you name it, there was a version of it with the long-limbed fellow involved in it. Slender: The Arrival was the official game of the new-age cryptid and I, and probably a lot of you, played it back in its day. Well Blue Isle has now remade it for modern consoles, and I can’t help but feel that it’s a little archaic by today’s standards. Perhaps that’s not surprising, but some things are sometimes best left in the past.
The plot, much like the original release, revolves around your character Lauren searching for her friend Kate, who has gone missing from her home. It turns out that many others have gone missing around here, and the more she digs into Kate’s disappearance, the more danger Lauren is in. The further she goes, the more she sees of the faceless menace. But maybe she can break free of the curse if she just keeps going.
Just to get this out of the way early, Slender: The Arrival is mostly the same game as the one released ten years ago, with a few quality-of-life improvements, a new chapter, and some lovely visuals. In fact, if you owned the original on PC, you’ll find this version is already yours.
The issue here is that due to it being the same game, everything that was irritating about the original is still there too. Those things that made for entertaining Youtuber bait a decade ago aren’t really as much fun to play anymore. If you’re familiar with the mine level then you know exactly what I mean. If you aren’t, then prepare for an exercise in frustration as you wander around a near-pitch-black convoluted environment, searching for six randomly placed generators all whilst being pursued by Slenderman and what I assume is a child with what I assume is a knife. If you get caught, it’s right back to the start of the level with all those generators randomised again. I enjoy a roguelike, but this just isn’t fun anymore.
Elements of the game are really split into two parts, those being exploration sections, and survival sections. Exploration is normally fairly safe, albeit with a tense atmosphere, in which you try to make your way through an area by finding a key or a switch. The survival sections are like the above or the iconic eight pages section where you need to find a set of McGuffins to progress. The exploration is quite nice a lot of the time. Environments are well detailed and believably lived in, with plenty of hidden collectibles to find, especially during the Halloween season right now. The survival sections are less fun due to the new rather frustrating restart mechanics. Restarts that often don’t really feel like your fault and more the fault of you not knowing the convoluted map well enough yet. Maybe if you fail and restart a few more times you’ll get it.
I may sound a little sour on Slender: The Arrival, but I’m really not. This is very much a game of its time, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. As a time capsule it’s certainly interesting, and if you enjoyed the find-x-object-or-die games of that era then this will certainly sate your curiosity, and if you just want to play the game again then there’s absolutely no better option than this release. There’s even a fun new chapter to play through and the promise of additional content in the new year. But if you’re hoping for a thrilling, modern horror experience, then this is perhaps not for you.
The game’s presentation is excellent though. Blue Isle’s overhauled visuals really do show the world of Slenderman in a new light thanks to, appropriately, some gorgeous lighting effects and updated environments that make great use of modern hardware. Some of the bloom effects over long distances look wonderful, and the flames in the tail end of the game are a visual treat. It certainly helps sell the atmosphere of some of those creepier environments. This might not hit the heights of those newly built UE5 games, but this is a showcase of how to take a decade-old visual style and bring it up to modern standards. The sounds don’t strike me as being all that different though. Perhaps they have been redone, but if they have I’ve not really picked up on anything really spectacular. They do work well enough though, especially with the ambient sounds that constantly make you think something is behind you.
Slender: The Arrival is absolutely a fine rerelease, and if you already own it on PC then there’s absolutely no reason not to go and give this a look, especially if you haven’t played it since that first launch. If you’re a new adopter though, be prepared for some frustrating and old-fashioned design choices that might sour some of your enjoyment. This isn’t a bad game at all, but it does highlight how far horror has come, particularly in the last three years. If you’re still happy to step into the nightmare knowing that, then you’ll likely have a good, jumpy time.