I’ve never written a disclaimer like that before – intriguing right? The graphical content in this game mostly pertains to the methods in which the main characters perform their acts of life-ending showmanship. Even though the character models are all voxel-based (similar to Minecraft), there can be some really gruesome scenes throughout this horror fest. In fact, some of these death animations are so creatively macabre, the developers must have employed someone whose entire job was to think up of ways to commit murder in an artistic manner. Bees, nails, spikes, water, etc. You name it, Skullface and company can make it happen. Furthermore, these artists of death have found their way into Slayaway Camp, populated with an absurd amount of innocent teenagers. Channel your inner demon and help guide these fiends through multitudes of brain-tickling puzzles.
Now you might be thinking how a puzzle game might work with horror elements. I mean, helping Jason fill out a Sudoku puzzle isn’t quite anything to write home about, and HOGs with a haunted house setting are a dime a dozen, so when Slayaway Camp decides to reform Sokoban style sliding puzzles into a means of expressing a “darkly comic homage to 80s trash horror”, I am truly, and wholly interested. Blue Wizard Digital did not back down in finding a way to merge these two completely different genres, and their unique love-child is nothing but demented humor.
Darkly Comic Homage
Even though Slayaway Camp is inspired from Sokoban, I find it more similar to the Pokémon Ice Gym/Team Rocket floor puzzles. Starting at a stationary origin, moving in any cardinal direction will initiate a slide, stopping only when the main character reaches a wall, an obstacle, or better yet, a soon-to-be-victim. Your goal in every level is to reach and murder all teenaged targets and escape through an exit. Various puzzle mechanics will be added into the lineup of stuff-to-avoid as you progress, making these sliding puzzles increasingly difficult down the line. Staying away from a SWAT member’s line of sight is manageable, but surround him with electric fences and I’ll have to think a bit. Drop in some cats, turn countdowns, or teleporters and I’ll be in deep trouble. Fortunately, an undo button provides the ability to go wild exploring path options, but the true life-savior lies within the hint and full-walkthrough system if things go south for too long. Knowing that the system is in place, the developers have crafted some hair-pulling, blood-pressure-raising, maniacally difficult puzzles. Towards the final levels of the last 2 films, the enormous amounts of feints, backtracking, and chaotic movement had me reaching for that help button more times than I’d like to admit.
Each level plays like a scene in a movie, filled with gut-wrenching murder cut-scenes and popular scary movie tropes. Beginning with a deep and cringy horror movie narration that would make the late Don LaFontaine proud, every videotape is set in a different stage. From the traditional camp grounds and hospitals, to the more unique work offices and scenic parks of New York City, Slayaway Camp really wants to be an equal opportunity murder campaign demonstrating that death is all around us, and fun to watch at that. With 10 movies and a bunch of deleted scenes, Slayaway Camp will most likely manage to satisfy your dormant cardinal need for bloodlust throughout its 200+ feature film puzzles. Even though slogging through so many puzzles can be a big stretch to perform in one sitting (which is why most puzzle games have a fantastic save & continue feature), Slayaway Camp varies its puzzles and environments enough that I was able to go through multiple videotapes at once without feeling bored or sick of the gameplay.
The developers’ passion for slashing, killing, and reimagining cult horror films can be seen in the beautifully constructed, and well executed art design. I’ve never seen as much gore in a horror film as I have in Slayaway Camp, but the hyperbolic forms of murder can only be described as comically grim. From individual “murder-scenes,” such as Skullface sliding a knife through a victim’s eye, to unlockable death animations (victims roasting in fire) and iconic killer characters, Slayaway Camp just oozes with horror film recreation to a fanatical degree. In addition, small visual details, smooth gameplay, personalization options, customized intros and skippable transitions all lend a hand in heightening its polish and player engagement.
I’ve noticed that nearly all of Slayaway Camp’s levels are pretty small in nature. Even when it gets extremely complex, the designers have chosen to favor a claustrophobic environment over the alternatives. I definitely would have loved to see a large hanger like area split into various rooms with interconnecting mechanics, or perhaps a building with multiple floors. It’s a shame that the game’s scope was not as encompassing as it could have been. To be fair, Blue Wizard Digitial could have just went with a horror skinned puzzle game and left it at that. I am really glad they didn’t, because their vision and love for slasher films set this game apart not only from other puzzle game competitors, but also horror game contemporaries too. The devs even managed to grab Mark Meer (Cdr. Shepard – Mass Effect) and Derek Mears (Jason – Friday the 13th) to take part in the fun.
I clocked in at around 7 hours to complete all 10 videotapes (Space Camp was freaking hard), which unlocked NC-17 and Deleted Scenes (levels) afterwards, including the fan-favorite censored shower scenes. Having only covered two-thirds of the available levels at this point, there is still so much left to see. If you are looking for a
lightdark-hearted experience to play this Halloween, or really any time of the year, make sure to pick up Slayaway Camp. If you need a little more convincing, the free edition of Slayaway Camp can be played on its official game page here. Note that the Steam version has major quality of life and progression differences, including coin drops and unlockables progress; however, the puzzles seem to be the same at a quick glance.