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Gaming Review

Downloadable reviews: Slender, BattleBlock Theater, No-One Has to Die

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Released on Friday, Apr 5 2013

Each week, Digital Spy rounds up the biggest downloadable gaming releases with reviews and trailers. This week's games include a horror that will scare the living daylights out of you, a platformer from the Castle Crashers team and an impressive Zero Escape-inspired browser title.

Slender: The Arrival

Developer: Blue Isle Studios, Parsec Productions
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Mac
Price: £6.82 / $10

Slender: The Eight Pages became an unexpected hit last year, scaring players in a brief but hugely atmospheric adventure surrounding the white faceless entity known as the Slender Man.

The sequel, subtitled The Arrival, follows silent protagonist Lauren as she tries to uncover the truth behind a friend's disappearance. It's undoubtedly a frightening experience, helped particularly by ambient noises and a tense soundtrack.

The Slender Man himself remains a terrifying presence. Equipped with just a flashlight, you have no means of defence and whenever he's close by (indicated by a growing amount of static on your camera), the only thing on your panicking mind is to run in the opposite direction.

The sequel boasts higher production values with better visuals, five chapters and a chilling story that is well told by collecting letters along the way. And while the woods from The Eight Pages return, it's arguably the new claustrophobic areas that nail the sense of dread the best.

Slender: The Arrival

© Blue Isle Studios / Parsec Productions

Slender: The Arrival



In addition, a new villain is introduced midway through - a masked figure doing the Slender Man's bidding. The sounds of their footsteps are really unnerving and freshen things up a little.

The problem is, mechanically it's quite a dull game. The two biggest chapters revolve around finding a series of randomly-positioned objects - be it collecting eight pages in the woods or finding six generators in a mining facility.

At first, the brilliant horror does more than enough to distract you, but after dying a bunch and enduring a prolonged time wandering aimlessly in the dark, you gradually harden to the threats and grow impatient when you struggle to find the last generator to switch on.

The Arrival is worth experiencing if you're craving some really good scares. As a game, it falls a little flat with its repetitive nature and short length, but play it with the lights dimmed and you will have some memorable moments by the end.


> Buy 'Slender: The Arrival' from the official website



BattleBlock Theater

Developer: The Behemoth
Platforms: XBLA
Price: 1,200 Microsoft Points (£10.30 / $15)

BattleBlock Theater comes from The Behemoth, makers of the outstandingly fun Castle Crashers.

The premise sees your customisable character take on a series of platforming levels with plenty of light puzzle-solving involved. To finish a stage, you must collect three gems and reach the exit, although finding all of the collectibles and completing the level quickly will result in the best possible grade, encouraging repeated attempts.

It's incredibly accessible and requires no tutorial while also controlling very tightly. Plus, playing cooperatively mixes up the levels such that teamwork is required to reach the gems. At its best, it's a blast to play.

Sadly, while there are several dozens of stages to play through, the game starts to feel like a slog before you even reach the midway point. There are plenty of smart puzzles, but the level structure doesn't change enough, meaning the platforming and gem-collecting becomes too repetitive.

BattleBlock Theater

© The Behemoth

BattleBlock Theater



In addition, the combat, although only a small part of the campaign, is far from satisfying and often boils down to button-mashing.

However, this problem is magnified in the arena multiplayer modes when up to four players are whaling on each other. It's a bit of a mess, and though not completely a bore, it's also difficult to see players coming back for more.

Then there's the humour, which is rather hit-and-miss. At times, it's actually really amusing with sharp writing and an enjoyable narrator, but quite often it's too juvenile or painfully tries a little too hard to be funny.

There's some good fun to be had with BattleBlock Theater and it's a mostly charming title. But its fair share of problems hold it back from being an unequivocally entertaining, must-have game.


> Buy 'BattleBlock Theater' from the Xbox Live Marketplace



No-One Has to Die

Developer: Stuart Madafiglio
Platforms: Web browser
Price: Free

No-One Has to Die is a browser game heavily inspired by the terrific narrative-driven Zero Escape series. Fans of Kotaro Uchikoshi's work will find a lot to like here.

Making a delivery, you - the 'visitor' - arrive to find that the building is on fire and you must help four trapped people make their way out. Unfortunately, harsh decisions need to be made. It's impossible to save everyone, and the game forces you to choose who to save.

The branching paths are presented in a straightforward flowchart which lets you jump between timelines, and seeing all of the character endings is essential to experience the 'proper' conclusion.

The story and the way it is told are probably the standout aspects of the game. There's plenty of mystery as you eventually discover the arsonist's motives and what insidious work the company actually does, and each ending boasts some great character revelations that will encourage you to continue playing and see everything.

No-One Has to Die

No-One Has to Die

No-One Has to Die

No-One Has to Die



The strong dialogue and the mood-setting score contribute to making No-One Has to Die a memorable title, but it also features several puzzles along the way.

These are extremely easy to complete and provide no challenge. In them, you're tasked with preventing the fire from spreading further, either by locking doors or filling rooms with water, while making sure not to incur more casualties than the expected number.

Those looking for a tough and satisfying experience from a gameplay standpoint will likely be disappointed, but the primary focus is on the narrative, and the simple puzzles never get in the way of that, allowing the story to play out at a consistently brisk pace.

No-One Has to Die comes highly recommended - it's gripping from start to finish, and its short length (roughly 45 minutes long) and non-existent price mean there's no reason not to try it out.


> Play 'No-One Has to Die'



What downloadable releases have you been playing recently? Add a comment in the space below!

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