|Developer||Blue Wizard Digital|
|Publisher||Blue Wizard Digital|
|Release Date||October 25, 2016|
Review code provided
Slayaway Camp is a love letter to the 1980’s in the form of a voxel-based puzzle/strategy game. It’s a game drenched in equal parts blood, humour and puzzles that get increasingly difficult the more you forge through it. You play a series of levels, which are VHS tapes of movies in the Slayaway Camp slasher series, guiding a bevvy of murderous protagonists through the movies’ various scenes, violently killing the teenagers who thought it was safe to return to Slayaway Camp.
Slayaway Camp is a game that, at a quick glance, looks like quite a nice game. It’s cartoonish in the way it’s presented, with the game being built using voxels to make everything quite colourful and cute, starring blocky characters that are full of personality despite their otherwise quite basic appearance. Then I slid the protagonist, a man with a skullface mask, up to a teenager and proceeded to punch his head clean off.
Ostensibly, Slayaway Camp is a series of 80’s slasher movies. Its premise is absurdly simple – you play a Michael Myers-type serial killer and need to navigate through square-shaped levels and murder all the teenagers you can find. Once you’ve done this a pentagram unlocks and you’re transported to the next scene to do it all over again. Completing all of these scenes finishes the movie and you’re quickly shepherded back to the “video store” to check out the sequel. Because there’s always a sequel.
Being a serial killer is fairly simple as it turns out. At least in the world of Slayaway Camp. Each level you encounter takes the form of a square box filled with teenagers that need to be done away with. You guide the “protagonist” around the level by clicking one of four directions, the caveat being that he or she moves in that direction until they hit a wall or other obstacle that stops them from moving.
What starts out as a fairly light and straightforward puzzler, however, quickly begins to add new twists to its gameplay. New mechanics, such as the ability to knock bookshelves over or move other characters by dialing one of a pair of connected telephones, are revealed at a fairly steady clip. Each movie generally unlocks one or two new mechanics, which build upon the previously introduced ones.
Because Slayaway Camp continuously builds on what’s come before, the game becomes more satisfyingly complex as time goes on. It all starts with the core movement mechanics. At first, it’s simply a matter of sliding your serial killer around the board, sending them hurtling towards teenagers at fatal velocities. Eventually, you’ll need to start actively thinking about how to use the environment and the other characters to ensure you’re able to succesfully make your way around each level.
Take the teenagers, for example. If you move directly into one then you’ve got yourself a kill. If you land in the square next to them, however, you’ll scare them into running as far away as they possibly can in a straight line. As Slayaway Camp ups the difficulty you’ll need to actually leverage this to your advantage, herding your victims around the map so you can position yourself to get to your next target.
While the game has a huge amount of options and variety when it comes to kills, there’s only one correct path through each level. Once you start getting into the game there’s a huge amount of different things you’ll need to make use of to successfully complete a level – lights that can be turned on or off, electric fences that can zap you as well as your victims, campfires, police officers, SWAT team members…the list is exhaustive, as well as gloriously replete with slasher movie tropes.
Slayaway Camp gives you a rewind tool, as well as quick access to just restarting levels completely, to allow for experimentation without much fear of failure. You’re actively encouraged to try out new things. And while the game also lets you purchase hints or even entire solutions using in-game currency (awarded via post-level mini-games), there’s an enormous degree of satisfaction from putting all of the pieces together and clearing each level.
As with the best puzzle games, you’ll always feel smart when you beat a level of Slayaway Camp. Especially in later movies, where you’re tasked with juggling a heap of different gameplay mechanics, traps and AI behaviours to progress. Putting together a solution feels great, and it’s actually quite amazing just how complicated such a simple-looking game can become.
After each level you’re thrown into a quick mini-game to earn some coins. It’s an incredibly simple game where you need to click your mouse to stop a moving cursor in the right place. Do so and you’ll be rewarded with an absurdly over the top kill animation and some dosh, which you can spend to unlock new kill animations and new characters to play as in-game. It’s a fun distraction that can add some variety to the game, though unlockable characters don’t offer anything beyond cosmetic differences and a few unique kills.
Slayaway Camp is a very campy, fun game. It constantly pokes fun at itself and the slasher movies it lovingly pays homage to. It’s incredibly OTT, but thanks to its voxel-inspired, blocky art style, what could have been horrific is instead pretty funny. Punching a teenagers head off is an entirely different experience when said teenager is a square block that kind of looks like a Weeble.
Slayaway Camp is a funny, gloriously over-the-top homage to the 80’s – from the VHS-inspired visuals all the way to its myriad of references to the slasher movies of the times. It’s also an incredibly deep and thoroughly satisfying puzzle experience. It sucks you in with its short-bursts of fairly easy, rapid fire puzzle solving, before adding layer after layer of complexity, with each new wrinkle building upon the last. As the game grows more complicated and challenging, the satisfaction of solving its puzzles grows, creating a gameplay loop that can be difficult to break away from. Not that you’d want to.
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