In my line of work, I’ve seen more than my fair share of mobile games. I’ve seen games made with a myriad of intents: greed, ambition, greed, inspiration… But Blue Wizard Digital’s Slayaway Camp: Free 2 Slay might be the first Android game I’ve played that was born from genuine love.
Murder Most Mind-Boggling
Slayaway Camp has a real doozy of a concept. It’s your standard sliding block puzzle game, but with a classic 80s slasher flick twist. You control a killer with the goal of slashing every camp counselor to bits. You achieve this by sliding your little killer along isometric levels in any cardinal direction. But you only have so much control. The challenge comes from using the environment to guide the killer’s path towards each victim so the level’s exit will open up. Each set of levels is framed as scenes from a film on VHS. Each videotape, in turn, comprises the fictitious slasher saga of Slayaway Camp and the Skullface Killer.
Slayaway Camp genuinely surprised me with how difficult its puzzles became as I progressed. I’ve come to expect very little from puzzle games. Creating something for the mind to struggle with from nothing is no easy feat, after all. But I’m immensely satisfied to say that Slayaway Camp delivers. There were many levels throughout the 13 videotapes that required really sinking my teeth into to figure out. And that, to be blunt, almost never happens! I left this summer camp feeling challenged, and stimulated to boot.
Finally, with all the exposition out of the way, we can get to the meat of the matter and the real reason this puzzler rises above the rest. The game possesses a gruesome, bloody, schlocky 80s VHS horror aesthetic that seeps into nearly every aspect of the UI and design. I’m talking about that sweet, concentrated burst of nostalgia that brings you right back to the first time you regretted watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre unsupervised.
Passion Project Personified
It comes across clear as day that the devs have a real, genuine love and admiration of slasher flicks and the traditional medium used to view them. That old-school VHS aesthetic is steeped throughout the entire game. Everything from the level select screen modeled after a video store shelf, to the options menu emulating the look of CRT monitor settings screens, to the constant video tracking effect. The dedication to recreating the feel of watching a horror movie on the VCR in your dad’s den in the middle of the night is nothing short of astonishing.
It is because of this starkly apparent love that I can so easily look past Slayaway Camp‘s shortcomings. But I would be remiss not to elucidate them for you. Most notably, they center the game around its goretastic kill scenes where the gratuity can really cut loose. These should be glorious displays of the game’s thematic crux. Instead, their execution (pun absolutely intended) makes them feel like more of a rushed afterthought. The animation is paced at such a speed that it becomes incredibly difficult to parse what is happening. You have only a fraction of a moment to take in the geography of a scene before it ends. Everything feels unclear and sloppy.
The in-app ads are not technically mandatory. However, after every level the game asks via pop-up if you’d like to watch an ad to earn in-game coin. This naturally becomes somewhat tiresome. Additionally, while Slayaway Camp usually keeps its aesthetic vision pretty tight, the art style of the pop-ups clashes with everything else on screen. However, it’s worth noting that purchasing any item from the in-game store permanently removes all ads. Fairly sweet deal, if I say so myself.
As a closing note of praise, I’d be remiss to omit the shockingly considerate and inclusive PG non-gore setting. It’s made for those with certain aversions to gore, horror, and other such objectionable content matter. With the touch of a slider, you can sweep the decapitations under the rug and replace the much-boasted, spine-chilling Halloween-inspired soundtrack by Canadian hair metal group Gnü Truntion with calming jazz. It seems the devs want to show off their baby to as many people as possible.
Overall, Android puzzle title Slayaway Camp: Free 2 Slay is a charming, hilarious and irreverent love letter to the 80s slasher genre. Moreover, it’s hours of head-scratching, thought-provoking puzzles that’ll have you wracking your brain while you splatter counselors’ heads on the pavement.
Is it Hardcore?
The hair metal speaks for itself.
A blood-soaked love letter to retro slasher flicks, Slayaway Camp is hours of fun and a real challenge. You’ll love sliding this tiny murder guy around!