Wednesday, March 21

Review: Slayaway Camp [Nintendo Switch eShop]

When you’ve historically played an absolutely massive number of games it, unfortunately, tends to make you a little jaded. You begin to see familiar patterns, start identifying where elements of games were borrowed or refined from… it can be interesting but also a bit depressing as it’s a challenge to be surprised. That said, when something manages to take the familiar and do something crazy with it you end up being very impressed. Slayaway Camp is such a title, managing to take what could have been a pretty solid puzzle game and elevating it to a higher level through the use of humor, a boatload of horror pop culture references, and copious amounts of voxel-based gore.

To start out in the game you’ll initially be playing the part of Skullface, a homicidal maniac determined to slaughter the innocent, or pretty well anyone else who gets in his way. Though the theming is heavily on the horror side below it all the game is actually a pretty traditional puzzler, where you’ll slide in a direction until something stops you. Whether that’s a victim, a wall, a barrier, or whatever else this rule is what creates the challenge as you’ll find to complete levels you’ll need to trigger a very specific chain of events. What elevates the puzzle play here are the various elements thrown in that make it more challenging. Once you slay your victims you need to be able to get to the exit, doing something wrong will trap you even though you’ve fulfilled your bloody mission. Getting near victims will scare them away, potentially running into a fire, perhaps getting into a better position, or maybe just forcing you to start over. In addition there are bookcases to be toppled, phones to be rung, and many more elements that get thrown in to complicate matters of force you to carefully plan out your delicious murders.

While the puzzles themselves are actually excellent and surprisingly varied, it’s really the theming that helps bring it all home. As someone who grew up in the 80s and spent far too many weekends watching horror movies that I got from the video store this game really speaks to me on a personal level. Each collection of levels is part of a movie, and as you finish one it will unlock more. In general for each new movie you unlock you’ll add a new killer to your menagerie of death, but as you accumulate in-game coins you’ll have an option to randomly unlock new ones as well. Each killer tends to have their own signature kill, but there are both general ones and those that you can unlock as well. These play out as sorts of cutscenes when you get a kill, with some that are interactive and some that aren’t. If you see a gauge pop up you’ll need to time your strike properly or you’ll fail to get your kill… just tell yourself they must have been a virgin I suppose. You may not want to spend all of your in-game currency though as if you’re in a tough spot and stuck with a puzzle you can buy a hint or even the solution itself if you just can’t figure it out.

In terms of criticism I actually don’t see much to find fault with aside from not appreciating the theme or being familiar enough with the 80s movies they’re having fun with. If you find the gore a bit too excessive (since it is all so blocky I personally find it all hysterical) there is an option to tone it down a bit, so all is not lost if you prefer things a little less bloody. Unfortunately, if you don’t know what a VCR is or have never had the joy of watching many cheesy horror classics there’s no remedy for that. You may still find the antics amusing abstractly but it probably won’t speak to you as much.

In the end I had an absolute blast with Slayaway Camp and would heartily recommend it to anyone who is either a fan of great puzzle games or 80s horror movies… if you like both you’re truly in for a treat. The violence in voxel form is utterly comical, the callbacks to horror icons and some of their great kills are wonderful, and the puzzles themselves are thoroughly challenging. Since it also includes every bit of content released for the game to date, all in one, on every level it is a killer deal.

Score: 9

  • Pure 80s horror film fun and fan service
  • Over 300 challenging puzzles with a wide variety of elements to keep things fresh
  • If you’re entertained by chunky pixel death you’re in for a treat!

  • If you’re put off by gore, you can tone it down, but it still may be too much for you
  • A lack of pop culture knowledge and appreciation for 80s horror will diminish the fun