Indie Review: Haunt: The Real Slender Game
Haunt is an indie horror title developed by ParanormalDev and inspired by Parsec Productions' original Slender game. It aims to present a unique adventure-driven experience. Does it succeed?
- Worth The Time?Yes, completely, it's immersive and rewarding.
- Things LovedThe absolutely gorgeous graphics and unique visual style, the large open level and its design, discovering the story with each scrap you find, the excellent variety of scares the environment and progression gives you, the various difficulty levels, the ability to save your game, the few well-executed mix ups to the Slender formula, a single playthrough can take you an hour or more, the extreme amount of immersion the game provides.
- Things HatedThe stylised distortion effects of Slender diminish his scare value and his appearances lack audio emphasis, the story idea can disappoint.
- RecommendationIf you like Slender games, this is an incredible addition to the legacy and it's definitely unique and compelling enough to easily stand on its own two feet.
- Name: Haunt
- Genre: Horror
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PC, Mac
- Developer: ParanormalDev
- Publisher: ParanormalDev
- Price: Free
- Reviewed On: PC
You can download the game for free here.
Haunt is an indie horror adventure game developed by ParanormalDev that was of course inspired by Parsec Productions’ globally famous Slender game. This game was originally called Haunt: The Real Slender Game because the developers weren’t taking it too seriously and didn’t expect their game to be a success among the many other good Slender games out there, but after a surge in fan interest, much positive feedback and a fair amount of negative reaction to the condescending title, it was recently dropped and simply made to be Haunt. However, since this game’s official full release is very new, and many might still be unaware of the title change, I left the more traditional title in the header of this review. Haunt is a Slender game that has essentially tried to separate itself from the pack with more adventure elements, a unique story, a powerful audio and visual experience and various fresh ideas that allow it to have its own identity. But does it manage to succeed on this? Well, I’d say keep reading.
What’s interesting about Haunt is that it only takes the very basic idea of Slender, in that you need to collect items while Slender Man pursues you, but beyond that it’s very much its own game. From the moment you enter the menu, you’ll see that. Haunt comes with three difficulty levels, namely Noob, Gamer and Paranormal. Each offer distinct gameplay tweaks that can satisfy a wide range of players. From there, you’re thrown into the world and you’ll most definitely get your first punch in the gut by how amazing the game looks. Built on the Unity Engine, Haunt isn’t shy to show the talent that went into creating it, and you’ll almost constantly be impressed by its gorgeous detail, vibrant and stylistic weather, shadow and lighting effects, and the general quality of its visuals. It’s hard to believe you’re playing just a free game sometimes. The game has a unique visual design that just works so well, despite the fact that thinking about it may make you wonder how its blues and stylized shadow effects for distanced areas ended up nailing the aesthetic appeal of a horror title. It’s further complemented by its great audio work, which really creates an amazing and immersive atmosphere. It knows when to be subtle, when to rile you up and when to startle you, and is just one of the best things about the game.
I got quite sidetracked with the graphics and audio there, but I feel no guilt for that. Anyway, you start out the game with a flashlight and a path to your first page, photograph and set of batteries. Each scrap you find gives you information about the story and character of Slender Man, and each photo naturally gives you more background. This really makes the game more intriguing, because not only are you facing a death clock with each page you find making Slender Man more aggressive, but you’re also trying to piece a mystery together. Although, mind you, it’s a scare in itself to stand around in the open reading things, so you’ll often duck into the cover of a nearby shack or building to get acquainted with more of the story. You can bring up the scrapbook with the TAB key at any time, but keep in mind that it doesn’t pause the game. What also separates this game from others is that it plays out more like an adventure title than a Slender game. The level is large and open ended, and you’ll constantly come across maps around the environment that show you where you are and where landmarks are. If you think this ruins anything, then let me say that the developers cleverly addressed it by firstly allowing you to remove your marker on the hardest difficulty, and secondly by making a certain order to the game because some areas are locked and require keys that you need to find.
It’s very easy to get completely immersed in Haunt. Often it can feel like Slender Man himself isn’t the star here and, while that sounds confusing, it will make sense in a second when I explain myself you impatient squirrel. Haunt provides something other Slender games don’t do in abundance, and that’s create an environment that actively tries to scare you as much as Slender Man himself. It’s one thing to make a place that looks creepy and so plays a part in the fear factor, but it’s another to make a wide range of triggered and dynamic events that work to frighten you as well. In Haunt, picking up a page may cause something disturbing to happen, or nearing an uninviting building will trigger a short display of dialogue coupled with a unique scare. It’s a high point when your screen flashes from lightning striking, or when you notice things are suddenly much darker because night has fallen. It can be quite hard to tell sometimes whether it’s night time or not, but you’ll gradually notice it when darkness sets in. Most significantly though is that the game is very much an atmospheric experience, and if you play it in a dark room with loud headphones, you’ll know exactly what I mean by that. This is another of the best things about Haunt, and what will most likely intimidate you more than Slender Man himself.
In some ways, that’s actually part of the game’s problem though, and something the game unfortunately doesn’t get quite right. Slender Man himself isn’t as scary as other titles because of his highly stylised distortion effects, which are undoubtedly a unique take on him, but they make him look more ghostly rather than downright creepy and overbearing. Furthermore, in classic Slender titles, his appearances are usually punctuated excellently with a distinct and loud sound effect that really nails the fright home, but in this game he isn’t announced quite the same way other than a bit of static, and because of his spectral appearance he can seem more like a harmless apparition rather than a disturbing, tentacled monster you just want to run the hell away from. Still, he does look very impressive visually, and the incredible atmosphere of this game, as well as the wide range of other environmental scares you’ll have, and the fact that Slender Man himself doesn’t stand still if you look at him, but readily advances towards you, makes up for this to some degree, and really sets Haunt apart from the rest. Another thing that may disappoint fans is the origin story Haunt gives to Slender Man, in that he was once human before a number of things I won’t spoil happened to him. I applaud Haunt for its uniqueness, but many won’t like that Slender Man can be explained rather than being an unknown entity with varied lore.
One thing that irked me about Slender Man in this game as well was that once or twice he trapped me behind a door and, while I was safe from him, he wouldn’t go away and my screen repeatedly filled with static every time I looked in his direction. Waiting or turning in the other direction didn’t make him do his famous disappearing act, and eventually I had to just make a break for it which fortunately worked out well. It was a bit annoying, but at least it hardly happened. It would have been better if he fades after a while, but I can understand the difficulty in perfecting this since you’re not supposed to be in this kind of situation naturally. There are also a few little bugs that can occur when he charges at you, but it’s nothing serious. Anyway, on the flip side, what’s also impressive about Haunt, and what again sets it apart from other titles, is that it isn’t about playing it in small doses, but rather it can take a full hour to complete the game, even more if you’re just starting out. Fortunately, you can save your progress, which is welcome. But another thing that makes me tremendously excited about Haunt is that it’s just the beginnings of a much bigger successor project that will bring another unique story, more gameplay elements and environmental scares and actual NPCs to interact with, which definitely sounds great.
Haunt is both an incredible Slender and horror game, and it has a number of fresh and well-executed ideas that set it apart from the rest. The fact that this is only the start of a much bigger game is very exciting. In the end, it comes down to the fact that if you like Slender games, this is an awesome addition to the legacy and it’s definitely unique and compelling enough to easily stand on its own two feet, with the grand cherry on top being that it’s an amazing audio and visual experience as well.