Slasher Flicks, VHS Rentals, and Challenging Puzzles Come Together in Slayaway Camp
I've played many horror video games over the years. Monster games, zombie games, ghost games ... I've played dozens upon dozens of them. Yet games with slashers? They're few and far in between, as well as challenging to find whenever they do arrive on the market. So, I'm sure that you can imagine my surprise when I recently found a slasher game in the form of ... a puzzle game. Really. Welcome to Slayaway Camp!
Developed and released by Blue Wizard Digital, Slayaway Camp takes its inspiration from the many slasher movies that appeared at the box office, cable channels and video rental stores during the '80s. It challenges players to use the masked killer Skullface bump off many hapless campers in a series of tiled boards that contain a variety of obstacles. Because Skullface can only move in one direction at a time, players have to figure out how to move him in a way that eliminates all of the victims on the level and allows him to exit the level on a designated tile.
If you can't kill them all, you can press the rewind button and try again.
Yet killing campers isn't the only thing to do in Slayaway Camp. After completing the first set of levels, players will go on to play the "sequels": Slayaway Camp 2: Return to Slayaway Camp, Slayaway Camp 2.5: (Another) Return to Slayaway Camp, Slayaway Camp 3D: The Abusement Park, and so on. Most of the sequels feature different settings and different killers, and some of them bear noticeable similarities to many of the more notorious titles in the slasher genre. For example, one of the killers is Skullface's mom, who shares the same hobbies as Jason Voorhees' mom, while another bears a deliberate resemblance to the homicidal miner in My Bloody Valentine.
The background theme that ties together the in-game Slayaway Camp movies is that of a VHS rental store. All of the finished movies are arranged on a screen that looks like a set of shelves for VHS tapes, and each movie has its own cover art and plot summary on the back. Players can use this screen to select a movie to play again, or they can go to another shelf display that shows killer characters they unlocked and “gorepacks” they purchased with in-game money. The VHS theme also carries into each level, with a rewind button that allows players to rewind their moves and a fast-forward button to access hints.
Above: The shelves where you can "rent" Slayaway Camp VHS movies.
Below: The VHS box for Slayaway Camp 7: Office Hours.
This game doesn't take itself seriously at all: All of the characters are cartoonish in shape and behavior, and the ample amounts of violence and gore follow the same style. Blocky splatstick antics aside, Slayaway Camp makes it clear that its makers love '80s slasher films and the VHS rental business that made them a pop culture phenomenon, so like-minded gamers will derive hours of fun from this title. Slasher fans will notice in this game the many tropes that make slasher films what they are, from clueless cops to drunk teenagers to mysterious phone calls that lure victims to different locations that make them easier to kill.
Even if you aren't a fan of puzzle games, Slayaway Camp is worth the time of any gamer who loves slasher films and waxes nostalgic for VHS rentals. You can order this game and its expansion packs at Google Play, iTunes, and Steam.