Who would have thought you could create a puzzle game about a serial killer? And one that so succinctly apes the wonderfully cliché world of horror films from the late 20th century? Anyone who’s anyone looks at a hockey mask in a certain way – Friday the 13th killer Jason Voorhees began sporting his in the third part of the franchise and it has since been used throughout pop culture to keep society on edge. It’s apt that our starting avatar is a Jason wannabe, you can’t get much more iconic and the setting for the tutorials and opening levels harks back to American stay-away teenage camps. Hence the title, Slayaway Camp. This iteration is the Butcher’s Cut, featuring all kinds of gory and downright funny moments not seen in the base version.
So, it’s a puzzle game? It is! The idea is to move our killer around a grid-based environment to kill victims in a variety of ways. The catch is, our killer can only slide in one direction until he or she meets a solid object. Or a victim, but more on that shortly. The premise is to kill everyone and reach an exit point on the floor. Some levels have move limits, requiring completion in a set number of movements. Some, feature police officers who must be avoided (or killed, if you can take them by surprise). Every level is either maze-like or requires some lateral thinking in order to hit certain points of the map before exiting.
Later maps feature campfires – move into this and die a burning death. There’s water – instant drowning should you take the plunge. There are even landmines. It’s all pretty simple and would operate as a competent puzzler no matter how the game was skinned. However, the use of horror tropes makes everything that much better.
Sliding across a map into a victim will sometimes trigger mini cutscenes, animated with brash and blocky models. Heads roll off, gardening shears are shoved into eye sockets, electric lamps are inserted, arrows fly from bows and chainsaws rev up guts… but it’s all so damn cute! Because the developers have chosen a visual style not dissimilar to Minecraft, you can’t help but smile when the killer extravagantly dispatches unwitting teenagers. This is primarily because the game is funny – it’s a pastiche, utterly farcical.
More outlandish kills can be acquired from the shop – set out to look like a video store from Quentin Tarantino’s imagination – where everything from levels to killers are selected. Coins are earned for the final kill of each level, well, actually, they’re scenes; because these are horror films. You can even rewind moves as if it was an old VHS recorder, selecting fast forward gives the option to received a clue on finishing the scene. Back to coins. These are earned by stopping a moving point in a target area, unleashing a gruesome kill, thereby earning gold.
This gold can be funnelled into mystery boxes featuring new killers – you’ll know some from other popular indie games – or can be used to buy killer move sets. It’s this main screen that allows selection of other VHS films to play through such as the Slayaway sequels and plenty of other tongue in cheek horror send-ups.
Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut is ridiculous fun, but more so if you’re a fan of the old school horror films it imitates. Nothing here is taken seriously, except for the puzzles themselves which are often fiendishly difficult, but always fair. As a package, it manages to evoke an odd nostalgia on top of genuine laughs, a wealth of unlockables and head-scratching puzzles. There’s a killer soundtrack to boot, which fits nicely into the background of each movie, punctuated by outlandish cartoon sound effects. This is bite-size puzzle gaming at its finest.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Digerati