Short Horror Week Finale: Slender

Search for pieces of the truth in a dark forest, while eluding the notorious Slender Man

By Ian Coppock, Originally Published on February 23, 2013

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In 2009, Victor Surge took to the Something Awful forums and created a sinister new mythos: the Slender Man, a tall, faceless creature that was a chilling embodiment of evil.

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Soon after, a group of film students created the Marble Hornets episode series, which pits alternative versions of themselves against the creature. The videos are well done and I highly recommend them.

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In June of 2012, a little-known indie developer called Parsec Productions made a horror game that took the gaming world by storm. Slender, the game I’m about to review, received so many downloads upon its release that Parsec’s website crashed. Months later, the game has sparked mainstream interest in the Slender Man mythos, as well as an upcoming sequel, merchandise, fan fiction, spin-offs and a lot of really bad copycat horror games. The game itself, now known officially as Slender- The Eight Pages, has become one of the most popular horror games in the world. For any developer, especially an independent, that is a tremendous achievement.

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To me, Slender is the king of indie horror games, and a fitting conclusion to Short Horror Week. Turning around just in time to see this thing pop up behind you never loses its terrifying touch. Let’s do this.

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The Story
The story of Slender is deliciously minimalist. You play a young woman who ventures into a vast, fenced-off forest, armed only with a flashlight and a handheld video camera. The goal of the game is to collect eight notebook pages without getting caught and killed by the Slender Man. Who your character is, and why she’s seeking these pages, are left unanswered. Similarly unknown is why the pages matter to the Slender Man. It takes about 10-15 minutes to collect the pages and beat the game.
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These pages would make the world’s scariest flipbook.
The pages are scattered throughout the forest. As you collect each one, the Slender Man is drawn out of the darkness and begins hunting you. Each page brings him a little closer to you, though the forest’s pitch-blackness makes this difficult to see without the flashlight. If you see the Slender Man, and look at him for too long, your camera fuzzes out and he kills you. To further complicate things, your flashlight has a limited battery, and your character has a minimal amount of stamina for running.
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You can see why I might have a love/hate relationship with this game. It’s in my top 10, but it still makes me cry.
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As you collect the pages, it becomes clear that someone is trying to warn others about the Slender Man. These little snippets of evidence might be why he/it is out to get you. Each one is also a crumb of knowledge about what the Slender Man does to the people he stalks. As an antagonist, he is a remorseless tormentor. His motives are completely unknown, but as you find more pages, it becomes clear that he is determined to kill you before you learn the truth.
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AAAAAAAHHH!!! And you think YOU have public restroom horror stories…
What makes this game so agonizing is that in order to survive, you can’t know where Slendy is. He usually trails you, but will sometimes teleport somewhere in front of you. This creates a truly horrific tension. If you progress further, you don’t know where he is, but if you turn to look, he’ll kill you. The closer he is to you, the less time you have to turn around before you’ve stared at him for too long.
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You know he’s there, but if you turn to look, you die.
The Artwork 
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As you may have inferred from the photos, Slender‘s graphics aren’t exactly top-of-the-line. The game world was built with Unity, a very basic engine. Despite this, the environment is extremely unsettling. The forest comprises tall trees, scattered with broken down trucks, boarded-up shacks, crumbling walls, and an abandoned campsite restroom. The game’s sound is lathered with chirping crickets and gusts of wind, as well as the crackling of leaves beneath your feet. As you collect each page, a very disturbing drum beat echoes throughout the forest, which grows stronger and more varied each time you find a page.
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When I realized I couldn’t drive the truck, I wept.
The game has a pretty basic level design, and a path through the woods is provided. However, you spend much of your time creeping through the trees, hoping that the Slender Man isn’t right behind the nearest oak. Overall, the game’s artwork is very simple. The colors are muted to add to the sense of creepiness, and a sudden flourish of scare-string violin will sound every time you look at the Slender Man. So don’t do it. Ever. But you have to in order to live.
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Should I get it?
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I know I’ve said that the other games are scary, but Slender is on an entirely different level of terrifying. The game is soul-crushingly scary, and heralds the magic of sweaty palms, shaking hands and chills. However, if you live for the adrenaline rush of horror, and a truly mysterious and awesome tale, then you’ll love Slender.
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Step aside, laxatives. There’s a new constipation aid in town.
Slender is difficult. I said that it takes 10-15 minutes to successfully play the game, but eluding Slender Man long enough to get all eight pages is hard. By the time you’re on page seven, he might as well be rubbing his jacket against the back of your neck. It’s not hard to the point of frustrating, though. If you like a challenge, Slender is for you.
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And with that, we’re at the end of Short Horror Week. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your readership, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this little montage of scary. Next week, we’ll be back on our regular review schedule. Check each Tuesday for a game review. On Fridays I’ll either post another game review or my ramblings about how video games affect society, and vice-versa. Again, thank you very much! Your readership is near and dear to my heart, and I hope you’ll come back as we continue to explore the wonderful and intricate world of video games 😀
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