How to kill them all?
“Love letter” is in the pantheon of meaningless and/or trite words and phrases to avoid as a games writer. It’s up there with “visceral,” “fans of the genre,” and “_____ fans, rejoice!” All of those have lost impact over time, through years and years of overuse. They’re neutered words.
But damnit, I’m having a tough time coming up with a more appropriate phrase for Slayaway Camp. It’s an honest-to-god love letter to campy slasher flicks. Developer Blue Wizard clearly understands the source material and what makes those movies work. Then it subverts the tone while still maintaining all the fun schlock.
Slayaway Camp isn’t your traditional Halloween game. It doesn’t aim to scare like Friday the 13th and Outlast 2 and Until Dawn. Instead, its sights are set on horror cliches by killing people in the dumbest ways possible. Make the camp counselors run into a hole; send the panicked office drone scurrying into an electrical fence.
Maybe Slayaway Camp‘s greatest asset is that it never tries chasing the most famous ghosts in the horror graveyard. This is a cute puzzle game, with its whole aesthetic couched in that Crossy Road-like 3D block style. You’re the killer and your whole goal is figuring out what combination of moves results in everyone getting murdered. Each level is compact, yet there’s still enough happening that every scene has its own unique challenges.
Even though the scares are absent, everything else is spot-on. There’s a ton of blocky bloodshed and cube-shaped carnage. There’s a grindhouse-sounding narrator that screams catchphrases like “Bloodthirsty!” and “Gore-tastic!” All of the murderers have trademark-evading names. What’s obviously Jason Voorhees is called Skullface. Pinhead is Nailhead. The girl from The Ring is simply Creepy Little Girl.
Technically, Slayaway Camp released last year around this time. It’s a $9 Steam game that’s sitting at a user review rating of “very positive.” However, it has been packaged with a bunch of additional levels as Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut, and that just released on PS4 and Xbox One this week. You might be pleasantly surprised at what this has to offer. It’s a different kind of Halloween treat.