Slayaway Camp Video Game Review
Written by Ryan Noble
Released by Blue Wizard Digital
I thought I couldn't possibly love 80s horror more than I already do, but Blue Wizard Digital proved me wrong. I've never been so happy. With their recently released game, Slayaway Camp, they have created something entirely new, yet something also beautifully familiar, for fans of slasher films. All the genre was missing was a cute voxel style, heavy-handed satire, and addictive puzzles. Who knew? Blue Wizard did, and you will too after you read my review.
First and foremost, Slayaway Camp is an homage to all of the aspects that make 80s horror so great. It's fun, funny, gory, over-the-top, and the studio has made sure that there's something for absolutely everyone. Each chapter – represented by old VHS tapes – has its own theme, setting and killer, and they're each instantly recognisable for a horror fan. Slasher with a mask? Check. Murderous clown? Check. Elderly mother that no-one expected would be the killer? Check. Each chapter is like a mini shrine to a certain type of slasher, and it makes the game feel nostalgic despite doing something completely new with the genre.
One of the new ways Slayaway Camp approaches the genre is with a cute voxel-art style that is adorable while also allowing the studio to go overboard with the gore. After all, it's hard to feel squeamish when it feels like a LEGO person was just pushed through a wood chipper... These cute, yet blood-splattered visuals go hand-in-hand with the extreme sound effects. If it's not a blocky teen screaming as their blocky face melts away, it's the “announcer” shouting things like “Splatterlicious!” when you successfully kill another helpless teen. It's brilliant.
Now, how do you actually kill these teens? Surprisingly, the answer is: puzzles. Slayaway Camp's gameplay revolves around isometric Sokoban-esque sliding puzzles , in which you slide your killer around a level in straight lines in order to interact with teens and objects. For example, if you slide directly into a teen you'll perform a kill, whether that be a quick slash or one of the game's gorier, randomised cutscene kills (which are a sight to behold). Once you've managed to slide each teen into an early, boxy grave, an end-of-level portal opens up and you must slide into it to complete the level. Sometimes this is easy, and other times it becomes part of the puzzle itself. If you don't end up in a certain position when everyone is dead, then you won't reach the exit, and you haven't yet solved the puzzle. It'll keep your mind and your weapon sharp, that's for sure.
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This is only one of the ways that Slayaway Camp tests your puzzle-solving prowess. Each chapter gradually gets harder and adds in extra elements to consider when making your moves. Is there a campfire in the level? It's perfect for melting down a voxel-teen, but it's also just as effective as taking down killers. Is there a voxel-kitty mewing about the level? Better not accidentally slide into killing mode because you'll be greeted by an “Animal cruelty!” message and have to start the level again. Some levels even have a limited amount of moves a killer can make before a SWAT team arrives to save the day. These levels in particular take a bit of thought.
If you do manage to solve the puzzle at hand and reach the portal, then there's a mini-game at the end of each level which shows off another gory kill if you can time a button press correctly. Not only are they fun, and a nice way to unwind after solving a particularly difficult puzzle, but they also enable you to collect coins.
These coins can then be used in a couple of ways. You can purchase 'Gore-Paks' - extra-gory kills that will occasionally play out when you murder a teen - or you can purchase a random killer model to switch to. Personally, I favoured spending my hard-earned murder money on the Gore-Paks as a new killer is unlocked at the start of each chapter anyway. As a bonus, they also each come with a few unique kills of their own. For example, the old lady killer occasionally offs a teen with a pair of knitting needles, whereas the shark-man hybrid of “Slayaway 6: Bloodbath” will sometimes eat a teen whole. It's these little touches that had me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside while playing Slayaway Camp. The game is clearly made by horror fans for horror fans. Naturally, I'm a big fan.
I'm also a fan of the metal soundtrack from GNÜ TRUNTION, a band from Canada that created “Only the Strong Survive” and “Love is Like a Machete” for Slayaway. They're not used too heavily throughout, but these are perfect for the tongue-in-cheek angle of the game while also being catchy as hell. You can listen to Only the Strong Survive here.
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Now, as always, I try to be completely objective and detail any issues that I feel you should be aware of before playing. However, I'm horrified to find that there's almost nothing I can say. Seriously, Slayaway Camp is just a joy to play. Very occasionally the frame-rate dips when in a killing cutscene, but I'm really grasping at straws to even say that it's an issue, since it didn't even cut into my enjoyment on the rare occasion that it happened.
Slayaway Camp is perfect for fans of 80s horror and puzzle games alike, and if you just happen to like both, like me, you're in for an insanely addictive treat. The game oozes 80s horror vibes, while also being self-aware and mocking the slasher genre at the same time. With its cute voxel style, Blue Wizard Digital is able to pack in heaps of gory murders without it ever feeling like too much, and the game is stuffed with horror-loving details, from its VHS tape chapters and satirical voice-overs to its variety of killers, kills and puzzles.
From the get-go, Slayaway Camp has an addictive pick-up-and-play feel to it, in that you can either jump in for an hour or two at a time, or you can stop by for a chapter of homicidal fun. In this respect, it would be a perfect choice for mobile gaming, whereby gamers can play through a few quick levels while commuting (or to escape the boredom of another Sunday afternoon at Grandma's house). Luckily, Blue Wizard clearly feels the same, as the game is actually planned for iOS and Android, though a release date has not yet been announced.
If you have the time to take a seat and let the gory puzzles wash over you for a few hours, I'd highly recommend picking up the game on Steam right now for £5.99 ($8.99 USD). However, if you're always running about like a terrified teen, make sure you keep this game in mind for its upcoming release on iOS and Android and check out the game's website or Twitter for updates. No matter what platform you use, or where you play, Slayaway Camp is sure to provide you with hours of fun, whether you're on the hunt for gore, puzzles, or nostalgic 80s satire.