Creative Indie horror games are popping up left, right, and center nowadays but few have captured my attention quite like Slay the Princess. A psychological horror visual novel, Slay the Princess presents you with a simple task, kill the Princess before she ends the world.
… If only it were that simple.
This game features beautiful visuals, brilliant writing, and a story that will capture you for days. If you’re a fan of horror, visual novels, or just a damn good story, read on!
The depth and vastness of the narrative in Slay the Princess is mesmerizing, with your decisions deeply effecting both the story and who your character becomes.
The initial standout feature of this game is its art style – the entire thing is rendered by hand! Each frame is drawn in pencil, a breathtaking feat when you see how in-depth both the visuals and pathing of the game are. And it’s simply beautiful. The style perfectly reflects the fairytale-like atmosphere of the story and embraces the different emotive journeys it takes, being soft and embracing when necessary, as well as evocative and striking when things get scary or serious.
I am constantly impressed by developers’ abilities to take a limiting medium and flourish in it. Hand drawing the game definitely presents restrictions, but Slay the Princess identifies the strengths of the approach and doesn’t allow itself to be weighed down. The game has a great sense of movement and both the drawing style and assemblage give a grounded and human presence to the game, reflecting its themes of humanity and relationships wonderfully.
The art style seamlessly matches the intentions and themes of the game, and the fact that they’re beautiful, captivating, and at times horrifying, all while engaging with and excelling in the game’s genre, is incredibly impressive to say the least.
Engrossing Voice Acting
Few visual novels commit to voice acting. I don’t blame them for this; recording takes a lot of time, effort, and resources, and editing even more so. Despite this, Slay the Princess is entirely voice acted, and to a fantastic level of quality. Jonathan Sims and Nichole Goodnight both display an incredible range of character types and emotions, and bring this game to life with captivating performances. Their deliveries are engaging, confronting, and heartwarming, and make me wish more games vied for the voice acting route.
I’m surprised I came to this conclusion actually. I usually prefer to play games without voice lines in them, because, for the Let’s Plays I record, I like doing the voices myself, but the way these characters were portrayed, with such depth and thought, made me happy to just sit back and enjoy.
I should note, I had some trouble with the sound mix during my playthrough. I found at times the volume of the voices occasionally varied from line to line. While I don’t think this will be an issue if you’re playing the game yourself, it was unfortunately a little troublesome for me as it made editing my videos a bit tricky. Not a huge issue, but worth mentioning.
Branching Paths That Are Sure to Immerse
Finally, the story itself. I approached this game expecting a casual horror experience with maybe a couple of different paths to spice things up. I was surprised (pleasantly) to say the least. The depth and vastness of the narrative in Slay the Princess is mesmerizing, with your decisions deeply effecting both the story and who your character becomes. Playing through only once seems almost impossible to me; as soon as I finished, I was frantically recalling every other option I could have tried, awed by what those paths could have possibly revealed. Even as I write this, I have plans for at least three more runs I’m desperate to test.
Something also worth mentioning is the meta-ness of the game. While (from my knowledge so far) it doesn’t actively acknowledge itself as a ‘game’, Slay the Princess feels like a love letter to choice-driven storytelling. Time-loops, snarky narrators, and timeline-breaking make the game feel moldable and sentient, like you’re an active member of the world rather than just a distant player. Deep thought has clearly been put into this game’s design on mutiple levels, and each stage, even the nuts and bolts that we barely see, feel lovingly crafted.
A Deftly Crafted Narrative
Lastly is the writing. The narrative flow, descriptions, and dialogue are beautiful, with a well-paced plot that gently introduces you to the world, mechanics, and conflicts, that ebbs and flows through a range of tones, and crescendos with impressive impact. As a writer myself, I can only imagine the level of planning and effort that went into this. Despite the many branching paths, genres and themes, character voices and dialogue options, the writing still manages to always feel unique and fresh and keeps you in the moment. Slay the Princess manages to explore some deep and complex themes while staying grounded and connective. Through a slew of perspectives and emotions, it engages with how we connect to one another, the facets of these relationships, and the responsibilities we carry as people in a community. I was very impressed by the range this game displayed, feeling both eldritch and awe-inspiring, then humble and relatable. If BlackTabbyGames ever release a book, please let me know.
I found this game breathtaking, as a video game and as a story, and I highly recommend it to any fans of horror, of creative game design, or just of a good story (if you’ve got a strong stomach). This game settles into your subconscious. With its whimsically twisted art, evocative and indelible writing, and mesmerizing story, Slay the Princess is horrifying, morally resounding, and transformative. I highly recommend you try it for yourself!
P.S. I have a play through of the game on my Youtube Channel if you’d prefer to watch, but I should note that I ran into a bug (because I had a Beta version of the game, I don’t believe it’s been an issue for anyone else) that cut a few sections from my playthrough and shortened my experience. I am going to be playing through it again and will upload that, but if you’d prefer to watch a complete version of the game rather than my janky one, I don’t blame you; there are lots of Let’s Plays popping up at the moment. Enjoy!