SlenderMan, Your Friendly Neighbourhood Stalker

When Jun emailed me this link, he wrote:

“New horror game.

Play it.

On your com.

In the dark.”

I didn’t know anything about Slender Man. I thought of Steven Tyler clawing at his face in music videos begging the viewer for emotional support. Maybe Iggy Pop swishing his golden mane about like a sickle through the air. I didn’t really know what I was in for.

Collect all 8 notes. Really, that’s it. Plop, you’re in the middle of nowhere and that’s your only objective. The concept is that simple. Find them, avoid the Slender Man.

It’s a dark game. No, literally – you have a torchlight, much like Ju-On on the Wii, and you see little of what’s ahead of you. It’s the only thing you can “use” – I say this with much disdain because like all normal torchlights,you can only just, well, switch it on and off. When it’s off, it’s nearly pitch black, except for the faintest lines of the forest surrounding you as you wander aimlessly through the small clearings of a seemingly huge map.

Already I hate it, because my tolerance for scares is as brittle as grandma’s hip. I tried to comfort myself: It can’t be that bad. I’m just this one person in a forest for no apparent reason. Those are only crickets I hear in the midnight air. The crunch of leaves beneath my single pair of footsteps are an indication that I am well and truly alone.

The graphics are pretty questionable, but I let it slide because it’s “indie”. I’m not expecting much from something available for free anyway.

Among the sentinels stands a monstrous tree, barren of leaves and life. I walk around it, only to find the kiddy chicken scratchings of a note stuck to its trunk. “CANT SEE” it says, with what I assume are eyeballs with lines drawn through them. Ah, crap, it’s starting. Even worse, the discovery and keeping of said note suddenly triggers a deep and steady pounding that rattles my speakers. I guess this goes on forever for the rest of the game until you collect all 8 notes written by young children (or grown men with childish handwriting). I look around helplessly, but there is no one. If there’s one thing I hate most, it’s knowing that something terrible is supposed to happen but not knowing when it’ll drop.

Girls are extra sensitive to being in imminent danger, especially when they’re alone with something that could potentially harm them. It’s not all that different here when my quest to find the remaining notes turns into a lengthy escape from a sneaky, freaky, lanky humanoid stalker.

The way this thing follows you around is no joke. You could be innocently surveying your surroundings to get your bearings, and spot the tall skinny creature standing still as a statue in the distance. The only sensible option you have is to turn around and run. (If you don’t the game ends.)

Sometimes he will vanish completely, granting you a little breathing room to find a place that makes you feel safe (ha! ha! safe!). Other times, you will catch a glimpse of his arm behind a wall just a few feet away from you after picking a note up. He’s always watching and always unpredictable – that’s the point. Since your only warning of the Slender Man’s presence is the increasing grain/static on the screen, your survival mostly depends on how alert and observant you are to the surroundings. Not seeing him doesn’t mean he’s not being a wanker behind that truck. The use of the torchlight seems to affect the intensity of his pursuit as well, much like how a camp fire might attract the attention of predators. But who looks for notes in the dark? U crazy?

From what I’ve observed, the more notes you collect, the more aggressively he hunts you. The game throws in some creepy-ass noises and music to match the increasingly difficult escape from the Slender Man.

If you fix your gaze on him for too long, it will attack you in a frenzy and you die/get raped/suffer an ambiguous bad ending, so the only real choice you have is to keep moving around before he closes his gangly arms around your underdeveloped boobs. Way to force paranoia on someone.

Dying is pretty much the game’s shdjahghdjf. The Slender Man gets up in your face for a game over screen. Up close, the faceless model of the urban legend reeks of mid 90’s Veggie Tales, but the static screeching and stuttering is enough to raise the hair on your neck just a little.

Some parts of the map design are a bit bizarre too – a restroom-like maze with plenty of dead ends and no urinals; deep tunnels of shallow water (sewage?); plot of abandoned oil tanks. In my opinion, the entire map has that fearsome Blair Witch forest feeling (thanks to its wideness and endlessness) where you walk south and keep coming back to the same place, but for others, it could feel like bad level design.

I never got to collect more than 3 notes – way too stressful for me to remember where I’ve already been and focus on which direction I should be going. Some people call that successful horror. It’s so cruel guys. Every time I’m chased, I have the biggest urge to pee. Even worse is that I feel really hungry afterwards.

As an indie beta, I didn’t have any expectations whatsoever. It’s just cheap, good scares (again, I stress that this could be scary for me but not for you). Could be a good playthrough for an intimate house party’s horror night.

I’m not going to pick this up again for the sole fact that I can never be desensitized to psychological torture. I don’t like being confronted with it, and have not courted scares since I turned 21. Even by the sidelines, watching someone else play guts me. I Googled what would happen if I actually saw the objectives through to the end – and it’s not worth suffering through. But if your inner pervert wants to experience the beginnings of a rape scenario first hand, I suppose you can just go ahead and attempt this over and over again until your willy is thoroughly wet. Not me. I’ll be over here, indulging in masochism with DayZ.

Talky talk

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