Search for a way out of a dead valley.
PC Release: October 21, 2013
By Ian Coppock
Those few people who know me in real life know that I have an unhealthy obsession with the Slender Man. The slim, faceless man in a tie is arguably the mascot of the horror gaming world, but the craze surrounding his meteoric rise last year has died down a bit. His first game, Slender, set the gaming world on fire and was the coup de grace of my first Short Horror Week. Unfortunately, subsequent sequels and spin-offs proved rather dismal, so I gave up on Slendy until stumbling upon this gem. Haunted Memories seeks to redefine the Slender Man universe and puts a refreshing twist on the character.
As horror games often go, it’s unclear who your character is and why he’s arrived to this clearly creepy area. You show up in a beautiful, misty valley that appears to have recently been evacuated. After picking up a map and a dying breath of a clue, your character decides to investigate the area and find a way out.
It’s heavily implied that you were persecuted by the Slender Man as a child, which is the creature’s most infamous MO. I descended into the woods prepared to collect eight pages and never turn around while doing so, but Haunted Memories is starkly different from the page-collecting adventures of yore. And thank God, because collecting eight pages has been the ONLY feature this series has had to offer up to this point.
After spending a half hour or so meandering through tall grass and looking up at the moon, I began to wonder if Slendy was going to show up at all.
Usually your mere presence is all it takes for him to drift out of the trees and start breathing down your neck. I investigated an abandoned hotel and turned around just in time for a coronary and a collapsed lung.
Slendy fans will notice that he’s shed his coat and tie in exchange for a miserly-looking codpiece thingy. He looks far less a man and more a creature of the most dreaded nightmare. His tentacles, rarely seen in the basline Slender games, are ready to rip your face off. This, combined with his elongated skull and his jerky movements, made me scream. A lot.
Additionally, Haunted Memories gives the Slender Man an origins story, something that other material has been mute on until now. Rather than some ancient spirit, this spin on the character envisions him as an ordinary man endowed with strange powers. Why and how? Well, that would be telling 😉 but it’s a fascinating backstory and a much-needed breath of fresh air for the Slender Man.
This Slender Man is also programmed quite differently from his predecessors. Rather than slowly come up behind you and follow you the whole way, he’ll stay hidden for ten, sometimes twenty minutes at a time before mercilessly dogging you for a spell. These attacks are terrifying; at one point I walked into a room and he teleported in front of me. So I turned around, only to have him do it once more. No amount of squeezing my eyes shut and mashing the run key could save me.
These behavior and appearance changes represent an important turning point for the Slender Man, because they demonstrate that the idea can be adapted, twisted to fit new concepts. Here I was facing a monster I’ve faced many times, and though he used different tactics, he gave off the same creepy vibe I’ve gotten and loved from the character.
Slender Man’s attacks are undoubtedly the most horrific part of the game, but the level design has plenty to offer in its own right. The valley you’re stuck in is a vast open-world wilderness at least a few square miles wide. The entire area is minutely detailed and quite beautiful to look at, bathed in strange blue moonlight. Conversely, this huge area does not mesh well with the game’s skimping on directions. I spent most of my time looking around in circles for what the hell I was supposed to do next. The game also does that annoying thing Dear Esther did where paths are ridiculously well-hidden, creating additional search time.
The game does have you visit a variety of locales within the valley, including a derelict cabin, an abandoned parking lot and a huge tower. All of these places provide clues as to the Slender Man’s origins and what you’re supposed to do, though this needed to be stronger.
The music is low and mysterious, ruminating between deep bass and sudden jumps of the strings. This adds a crucial creepyness foundation to an otherwise idyllic set of sounds.
As always, the Slender Man makes no noises of his own, but the ferocity with which he suddenly attacks was quite enough for my cardiovascular system.
Haunted Memories is available on Steam and a few other places around the web, for free. The game is currently in beta, and what you’ll play is the first of six planned episodes. Apparently the full game will be released very soon, so look forward to that. Horror fans will love this game, but Slender fans aching to do something besides find eight more pages will love it all the more.
You can buy Haunted Memories here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.