Developed by Blue Wizard Digital
Available on PS4, Xbox One (PS4 reviewed)
This is it. It’s finally here. The most gleefully violent game in history.
Manhunt? Bah. Doom? Don’t make me laugh. Silent Hill? Pyramid Head is child’s play in comparison.
Slayaway Camp: The Butcher’s Cut is, hands down, the most ridiculously, absurdly, insanely over the top violent game I’ve ever seen.
The thing is, all of the violence involves Minecraft-esque pixel people. This is why you haven’t read about worldwide bannings. Sure, faces are sliced off, dismemberment occurs in every way imaginable, body parts are frequently used as art supplies or costume elements, law enforcement is chopped up as often as teenagers…but because it’s all cute and pixelated, it’s okay.
Slayaway Camp started as a mobile title, and now we have a console release. This release, subtitled The Butcher’s Cut, is an assembly of all of the content created so far for the game as well as new content exclusive for the console release. There’s a TON of content here: over 300 levels, over 60 killers, over 90 “gorepacks” with special kills…I’ve already dumped dozens of hours into it and I’m maybe halfway through unlocking things.
The game is a seemingly simple puzzler: you’re a slasher, you have to kill everyone and then escape. You can only move in full slides: you slide until you hit something. If you hit a victim, they die. If you hit something lethal, you die, and have to back up a step or more. Once everyone is dead, you have to slide into the exit portal. Controls mimic VHS players, with the ability to rewind a step, restart the sequence, or “fast forward” to a hint or even a full walkthrough of the puzzle.
In the beginning, it is simple. Levels come and go quickly. Soon, however, more elements are added to the mix. Cops start to appear that can arrest you if you come to a stop in the wrong place. Deadly traps appear that you can use to kill, if you’re clever, but also can kill you if you aren’t. Soon enough, everything from exit doors you have to block to teleporters appear and make everything that much more difficult. Often, the trick isn’t the killing, it’s being able to line yourself up to slide into the exit when you’re done.
The action is addictive as crack cocaine. I’ve frequently sat down in front of my TV, thinking I’d play one or two quick puzzles before I get into another game. Hours later, bleary-eyed and exhausted, I’d stumble to bed hours after my usual bedtime, having blew through several “movies” worth of puzzles.
This brings us to how clever the game is. Each set of levels is packaged as a movie, and the menu is the shelf of a video store. Each VHS tape is a sequel to the original Slayaway Camp, which introduced the game’s own slasher: Skullface. As the sequels carry on, they travel through every trope imaginable getting more and more silly just as slasher sequels did back in the day. Everything from Skullface’s Mom to a Shark Man (from the inevitable Jaws knock-off where the camp is set at a beach) is there, with tons more to unlock with coins you earn in the game. Even MORE killers are available using “Killer Kodes” from the developer, but you’ll have to sniff around for those. The list gets more than a little wacky, even including Derek Mears. Not Derek Mears playing someone. Just Derek Mears. Killing people.
Between the levels, killers, and kills, it’s safe to say almost every single horror movie ever made is given a nod. I’m saying that seriously: they’ve really been thorough here. Horror movies, games, TV shows…nobody is safe. The trophies/achievements are even named after horror films.
The amount of love for our genre here is astounding. These guys are nerds, and I mean that in the best way possible. (We smell our own.) The game will have you laughing out loud on a regular basis with its parodies of properties, scenes, and characters you love. Beyond that, the game itself gets funny: Uncle Creepy’s favorite level involves a convoluted maze required to kill a really, really terrible folk singer. The name of the level is MAKE IT STOP, and you’ll be screaming that as well, trying to hurry up and figure out the puzzle so you can off the tone deaf creep.
The game isn’t without its flaws. In the later stages of the game, the difficulty level ramps up dramatically, requiring you to buy walkthroughs. You do this using in-game currency, which is fine, as you can play one of the bonus modes (cleverly labeled a GRINDhouse tape) to grind out currency, but some of them suffer from technical issues resulting in an incomplete solution. It sucks to pay for a solution, only to have the solution stop several steps short of what’s needed to finish the level. Youtube tutorials are out there, but that’s the kind of thing I hope to see fixed in later patches. Mercifully, you can skip any level except the last one of any movie and move on without penalty, but I had the final scene in at least one movie have this problem.
As long as you enjoy puzzle games and adore horror, you’ll love Slayaway Camp. It’s a joyful celebration of everything we hold near and dear in horror, and it just straight up does not give damn. It’ll commit any atrocity against its adorable victims, all with killer (pun intended) comic timing.