I can still remember the first time I played Slender Man. My brother sat me down in front of the computer and said, “You need to play this, it’s really fucking scary.” I looked at my monitor and saw a really simple, dim, and low-res first person game and scoffed, “How scary could this possibly be?” Man was I wrong. Within a few minutes, I was tensely perched at the edge of my seat yelling expletives and desperately running for my life away from the title character.
This game works precisely because it is simple. You have no weapon, no healthbar, and no map. The only thing keeping the things that go bump in the night at bay is a flashlight with a very limited battery. Guess how you recharge the flashlight? You turn it off! This game oozes atmosphere and uses very simple cues such as making the screen go fuzzy to let you know you’re in danger which will be often. The goal of the game is to locate and collect 8 pages relating to the Slender Man. Each page you collect brings him closer…and closer..and closer until you are almost in full on panic as you try to locate the last few pages. To make matters worse, the map is procedurally generated so each playthrough is a different and equally terrifying experience as you frantically run around trying to completely your task. The game is free, tiny at under a 100 mb, and I promise it won’t take long before your adrenaline starts pumping as you almost feel the slender man breathing down your neck…
Before Dead Space came out, whenever you thought of a horror game, you’d imagine something like Resident Evil or Silent Hill. These were horror games that found the horror in an everyday setting. Dead Space upped the anti by taking horror and putting it in a setting you’d never expect: sci-fi.
And it worked. Playing through the game, it was evident the designers were true fans of the horror genre. Every single element of the game was crafted to instill horror. Almost every interaction with a survivor of the Ishimura was creepy; I’ll never forget going through the medical offices only to find a woman softly laughing as she operated on a body only to proceed to slit her own throat in front of you. Just getting to your next destination was spooky. There’s something about traversing an empty room or corridor, that’s just eerie, especially when you can see recent signs of activity. The audio complimented everything perfectly, You were always hearing all sorts of strange clanking and skittering noises as you progressed through each level. Never knowing when the next monster would jump out at you. I’ve lost counts of the number of times I would spin the camera around only to find something two steps away from lunging at me. Other mechanics such as limited upgrade resources meant you agonized over every decision. The ammo was limited as well, you had to be careful with each shot, doubly important as each monster had their own weak points, headshots were often a bad idea!
Most importantly, I felt like it was easy to connect with the main character Isaac. He wasn’t a soldier or a cop, he was just an engineer that was trying to finish a job. Isaac couldn’t take a lot of hits and every time you failed you were treated to a brutal gruesome death animation to remind you of your failure. The pacing and story are also fantastic, there were plenty of documents and logs to find to catalogue the ship’s descent into madness. It’s been a few years since this game came out and it is super cheap, if you still haven’t played this are looking for a good scare you won’t be disappointed!