Slender really opened the floodgates for imitators with its release; it was a brilliant scare that capitalized on the one thing that most of us cannot bear in any quantity— fear, and helplessness in the face of that fear (more or less the opposite of the recent Resident Evil and Dead Space games… zing!). Looking to carve out its piece of the horror pie (if such things can be manifested and baked), Rendercode Games’ The Monastery (80 MSP) tries its hand at the formula.
First there were missing pages, then tape recorders. The Monastery has bibles for you to locate (10 on Easy, 15 on Normal, 20 on Hard). Music is sufficiently unsettling, and the flashlight does a good job at illuminating just enough to make the darkness feel like a physical element working against you. Finding each book is slightly more challenging here, without any audio or visual clues. Landmarks you can use for navigation are largely absent from the game, too, as one rust-flavored wall or stone column blends into the next, most of the architecture repeated. You will walk around in some circles, no doubt, though it’s not that issue that ultimately breaks the game.
While both Slender and White Noise end when the monster finds you, The Monastery’s creatures do not immediately spell out finality. That fact alone effectively eliminates all sense of danger and / or scares the game may have provided. After being spotted (this can potentially happen fifteen seconds into a game, before you’ve even collected anything), you simply need to avoid them. Worse still, they’re incredibly easy to lose, dropping your scent once you’ve turned corners or run on ahead (and there’s no stamina penalty for prolonged running). So long as you are quite literally walking away, and you don’t get hung up on a doorway or wall, the creatures cannot catch up to and / or kill you.
This idea is utterly ridiculous for a horror game, especially one that’s supposedly mimicking the ‘stalking presence’ these games are known for and billed as. It renders the whole thing pointless, a collection minigame about wandering, with only the illusion of antagonism. I gathered the fifteen bibles in the Normal setting on my third playthrough, without breaking a sweat or making a peep. There’s global leaderboards to track your times on each difficulty, though with the game’s concept broken as it is, there’s no satisfaction in posting a good run.
If you absolutely need Slender scares in your life and don‘t mind washing your shorts, play Slender. If you can’t play Slender, play White Noise Online. And if you can’t play White Noise Online, definitely do not play The Monastery. Read a book or go outside.