Spooktober Entry #13 – Previous Entry: Abyss: The Wraiths of Eden // Next Entry: Dead Alliance
Oh yes, thirteen. The Number of The Bea- Hey, wait a minute.
Friday the 13th this year in October was pretty generic for me. As a person who usually pays attention to these sorts of superstitious happenings, it surprisingly didn’t bother me this year… mainly due to the fact that I was asleep for 3/4th of that day, but the point remains! I remember getting the Halloween-exclusive Zenyatta skin on Overwatch and that’s it. Fun times, but let’s have a complete tonal shift for Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut.
Today’s Jason Voorhees offspring comes to us from Blue Wizard, a team composed by one Jason Kapalka, former co-founder of Popcap. With Popcap being one of EA’s victims, it’s no wonder that Jason would escape sooner or later, escaping one developer focused on try-hard meme humor, in order to create unfiltered try-hard meme humor, in the form of ultra-violence.
Slayaway Camp traverses the same mud and dirt that’s on the boots of every slasher film ever made, but with an ironic twist of sorts. It places itself under a massive hat made of irony, under the guise of an old VHS store filled with crap horror films, which the developers believed would hide them from any form of critique. I’m too much of a dick to fall for that trick, however, I find their approach to the framing and overall aesthetic generic and valueless.
I feel like I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but the slasher film doesn’t work unless it’s under a correct pre-tense. The victims in question have to be dickheads, stupid drunks and unfathomable douchebags who you want to see on the other end of a blade. Here though, there’s no context, except the fact that it’s under the thin veil of a slasher film scenario. This is such a negligent negative that it shouldn’t matter, but it goes a long way, especially when you realize just how ironically lifeless it is.
It’s a puzzle game, as is the Par 5 Course at TPC Sawgrass that Popcap and their ex/developers set themselves up in. The closest comparison I can think of is the ice sliding puzzle from the Generation II iterations of Pokémon, where you had to slide across the caves in order to reach that block-wide path. I spent 5 hours on that fucking puzzle once, but I was 7 years old, so give me a break.
If you haven’t played that particular Pokémon, then I’ll elaborate. You control your killer around these blocky environments, sliding into victims with your weapons and you cannot escape until you have slaughtered all these innocent kids. The types of victims change usually, from normal kids, to cops, to SWAT teams, but the general overlying objectives remain the same.
Where the gameplay in this puzzle evolves is manipulation of the AI. Throughout these maps are various hazards that you have to be wary of, but you can manipulate them to your benefit. If you slide right in front of them, they’ll get scared and run to another side of the map. Hopefully into one of many holes, lakes and landmines.
Sooner or later, more obstacles and limits are going to be placed upon you. From turn limits, cops that act like claymores, and SWAT teams with a larger cone of vision, it’s all there. I’d say it works well, but most of these don’t come until the endgame however, and Blue Wizard is so insistent on holding your hand throughout most of this. A real challenge rarely arises and the game hands out the currency that you use to unlock hints and new killer cinematics, so you’re never going to be stuck on one level.
The AI behavior is also unpredictable at times. Usually, it won’t go the way the design implies and instead runs somewhere else, into an area which ruins your entire plan. At the end of your killing spree though, these environmental kills can usually be an option instead of a prime objective, and Blue Digital attempt to keep the variety throughout. At the same time however, it’s this attempt at variety that kills it for me.
Blue Digital are set on achieving this aesthetic of ultra-violence with cutesy looking characters, all the while making sure that it’s comedic enough for you to still enjoy. Noble effort, on their part at least, but it falls into the trap of being simply unfunny. It’s the Sunset Overdrive enigma again, a scientific patented conundrum I covered in a review for The Metronomicon, but Metronomicon had the flair and the chutzpah to pull the curse away from the overall experience. Here though? Not so much.
The main gleaming point, is that Metronomicon had an identity. It had fantastic art, that glowstick-infused visual clarity. Everything was distinctly designed so that if the market was flooded with titles trying to suck off of the success, you’d be able to spot it in a crowd. Slayaway Camp has gone in the complete opposite direction, in terms of looks, aesthetic and everything in-between.
For one, you wouldn’t be able to spot in a crowd. Mainly because the assets they’ve used are assets used in Minecraft-mixed-with-zombies early access games that used to flood the once shining Steam Greenlight. In turn, it doesn’t make the style look like a unique title with a shade of violence to change things up, it looks like Blue Wizard chose that asset pack because it was the easiest to use.
Two, Slayaway Camp isn’t funny in the slightest. In Metronomicon, this revelation turned out to be mostly insignificant since you could mute the unfunny characters and focus on the great gameplay. Here though, since the comedy is focused on the senseless murder and violence of old, it gets to a point where it’s unbearable white noise. Victims scream in such painful tones and the way you dispose of them, filled with the slapstick of silent films, didn’t make me giggle. It just made me ill and uncomfortable.
Not ill as in “Oh, I can’t handle this masked madman sawing a ROBLOX model in half, I’m going to throw up”, since you’re reading the rants of a man who watched Salo and The Human Centipede 2 back-to-back. Ill as in “this is just so poorly put together that I don’t know what to make of it”. My entire play through consisted of silence from me. There wasn’t a single shred of laughter, shock or anger throughout, and watching these elaborate kill-moves were met with silence.
The kill-moves I’ve actually failed to mention in any major detail are the main source of the awful comedy, with 2 modes that the game will flick between in gameplay. On one hand, they’re just really violent, like ripping these Mega Blok figures’ arms off, or falling into a pit of spikes while these childish screams blast your speakers. On the other hand, they play like the absolute worst Family Guy sketches you’d see on the back of Seth MacFarlane’s boot.
In these “hilarious” sketches, you’ll watch the killer fumble around attempting to kill the victim in some “hilarious” scenario and, “hilariously”, this goes on for a fucking minute. A minute of poorly animated blocky figures fucking around in a black void. I wouldn’t even mind it if the joke was executed differently each time, but it always end the same, in a tornado of blood and unfunny fury, that takes a minute to end, despite the breakneck pace the game is moving at otherwise.
This isn’t a case of Blue Wizard making the violence so visceral and bloody, with focus on making squeamish viewers hurl. No, it’s a case of ” Oh my good gravy, this is a fucking Flash Game from 2001, that I paid ten quid for, and that money could’ve gone towards any other horror title on the storefront, or the AIDS pandemic in Africa”. This might seem incomprehensible, but there’s no other way to describe and explain Slayaway Camp. It’s such a vapid experience.
In the end, this is just a ROBLOX game type put onto the mainstream circuit. Slayaway Camp is an exercise in making the violence mundane. Despite it’s multiple failed and varied attempts to make me chuckle, it can’t help but come off as generic, stupid, and an unlikeable title on every end. It looks like crap, you get crap for being good at it, and it made me feel like crap once I finished it. A assault of shit on all the senses.
A painfully lifeless puzzler, despite all the effort put into making you belly-laugh.