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Slayaway Camp (PC) artwork

Slayaway Camp (PC) review

"They thought it was safe to play a puzzle game. They were wrong.... dead wrong!"

Slayaway Camp (PC) image

There was a time when horror movies were pure magic. Teens and twenty-somethings partied hard, listened to awesome music and engaged in premarital affairs. Meanwhile, masked killers and otherworldly creatures sought to pull the plug on their fun. Corn syrup and red paint flew everywhere, while synthesizers and hair metal blared. Numerous bit roles died in horrible, inventive and inefficient ways, until the final girl eventually vanquished the villain. Sometimes she rode into the sunset and mourned her friends, but occasionally she ended up in an asylum. Most of the time we saw the killer twitch or rise from the grave and bellow angrily into the camera. Viewers threw popcorn, and everyone laughed either to ease the tension or to poke fun at obviously low-budget visual effects.

Developer Blue Wizard Digital's puzzler, Slayaway Camp, recalls the splatter sub-genre and '80s horror fondly. It stars a masked murderer named Skullface, who is on a mission to cut up as many blocky camp counselors as possible. Skullface accomplishes this feat by sliding around the level, hoping to collide with a victim. When you press a directional button, Skullface zooms in that direction until he hits an object or person. If it's the latter that stops him, the game segues into a cutscene depicting cartoony slaughter, or you merely see the NPC disappear in a flash of blood and gore. Once you've butchered all of your targets, your final objective is to slide into a glowing pentagram to end the stage.

Slayaway Camp sounds like a simple affair, but believe me: it's outright murder at times. Each stage is expertly crafted with all manner of roadblocks. Everything from furniture to fatal pitfalls stand between you and the mayhem you hope to cause. To make matters worse, your targets often lie in awkward places that require planning to reach. For instance, you might have to land next to one of your victims to scare him in a certain direction without killing him. From there, you might need to slide into his left, move upward to knock over a bookshelf, then use the side of that piece of environment to guide you to a teleporter, at last leading to the irksomely placed corpse-to-be.

Slayaway Camp (PC) image

Sometimes a stage's solution seems obvious, but one hidden factor lies out of sight. You might slide over to a hapless teen and put an axe in his head, only to realize your exits all involve plummeting to your demise or drowning. You could utilize the game's rewind function to go back a few steps, or restart the level and retool your strategy. The next thing you know, you're pulling hairs out and refusing to give up. After some careful observation, you complete the objective and tell yourself it's time to go to bed. However, the next stage looks super fun and challenging, so what's the harm in playing one more level?

Thus the cycle begins anew...

As the game advances, it throws new features your way. Massive objects fall over like dominoes when struck, crushing anything next to them. Landmines stymie your progress, but also come handy. If you, say, frighten a teen and cause him to run into a landmine, you've successfully taken out two birds with one stone. Other non-victims also come into play, including policemen who arrest you if they spot you and SWAT officers (complete with laser siting and high powered rifles). There are even adorable cats you mustn't kill, or you'll receive a "game over" for animal cruelty.

Of course, not all of Slayaway Camp's stages are killer, as some are simple enough that you should complete them after only a few attempts. These simple levels lie interspersed throughout the campaign, providing you with a bit of relief from any stress or frustration you might've accrued from earlier challenges.

Slayaway Camp (PC) image

Slayaway Camp carefully rides the line separating "cute" from "gruesome." Its character models and environments are mostly cubes and blocks, designed to appear both 8-bit retro and three-dimensional. However, you watch these adorable, boxy people perish in awful ways. They lose their heads, catch fire and explode, and one of them even falls into a wood chipper. Yet, even in death, they emit cartoony screams and fall over with a cute THUNK. Slayaway Camp is equally charming and vicious, mostly because of its presentation and sound effects.

I must confess that Slayaway Camp didn't entirely earn my affection by being a stellar puzzler, though. Yeah, I enjoy it for that reason, but the features I most adore appeal to horror fans like myself. For one thing, the game is loaded with references to horror classics. For instance, one block of stages takes places in a hospital. During that sequence, you unlock a selectable killer who looks suspiciously similar to Katherine Isabelle's character from "American Mary." The references don't stop with characters, either. You see them in particular death scenes, like one that imitates the vicious feeding frenzies from the "Piranha" films. Horror movie titles constantly pop up as names for achievements, such as "Carnival of Souls," "Deep Rising," "Flatliners" and "Creepshow." Hell, even the game's title is a reference to an old school slasher flick entitled "Sleepaway Camp."

Slayaway Camp (PC) image

Most of all, I fell in love with the array of unlockable monsters and villains the game offers. As you advance and take part in post-level bonus games, you earn coins. The game's hub, a video store, offers new death scenes and a random monster from a mystery grab box. Each one tips its hat to a different horror media icon: Swamp-thing, Samara/Sadako, Ghost Rider, the blob... Even horrorific foes from tabletop RPGs make appearances, including a lich and a gelatinous cube.

For ages, I asked for a quality horror-puzzle game. I've played a few of them, but none impressed me as much as Slayaway Camp. Not only does it feature terrifically designed levels, but it's simple, addictive and loaded with fan service. Granted, if you're not a fan of old school splatter films, you might not dig it as much. However, for gamers like myself, this game is a slice of digital heaven.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (October 23, 2017)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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