RWP 2024 – Slay the Princess (Ember Fu)

Slay the Princess was a rare little gem I happened to come across when its demo released last year. The premise instantly caught my attention, and it proved to be quite interesting that, wanting more, I purchased the game on release. While still very fun, I think the initial game launch lacked a few things that later content updates have remedied and I was pleasantly surprised to revisit it in more depth. There are more choices, more princesses, more interaction, and the slight rough edges have been rounded out to become the wonderfully intriguing and engaging meta-horror-romance interactive fiction it is now.

Those three words are absolutely how I would capture this lovingly crafted game. For one, the meta premise of Slaying the Princess, as the Hero, with a Narrator. This kind of stuff really appeals to me personally. I love meta commentary and elements done well, and directly addressing and turning tropes on their head, especially in fantasy/fairytale-based settings, is a deep bias of mine. So, this was my bread-and-butter. On top of this, the horror elements are excellent and perfect for a particular kind of palate–the blend of cozy/scary, OMORI gamers, the eerie and existential.

Review: Slay the Princess – Destructoid Save 20% on Slay the Princess on Steam

The art is fantastic and I’ll try not to rave too much about it! The sketchy but clean, hand-drawn art matches the narrative very well, both in storybook fashion and in the way it captures creepiness in the atmosphere. The choices made in the art are all so detailed and intentional, and I love it when a game clearly has a vision that it executes on. Above is the normal princess, which I want to show as an example despite there being many other more striking princesses or background pieces I could have chosen. I actually quite like this default form because it’s drawn in a way that truly leaves room for the multitude of possibilities from this point. She’s obviously a princess, with a trope-recognizable crown and gown, and maybe that really is all. But maybe she’s a bit haunting, or cold, or forceful, creepy, monstrous, or you notice that wow, she really is super beautiful. Who knows? It seems plausible she could be any and all of these things.

(But rest assured, there are SO many widely varying princesses. The funny header image is The Damsel, one of the rare princesses that aren’t really overtly horrific. On the other hand, you have a variation of The Stranger, linked as to not jumpscare or spoil some folks. It’s even more grotesque in the game due to the addition of twitching, bubbling animations.)

Besides this, the art helps focus the reader on simple elements in tandem with the simple premise. It leaves room to be beautiful and eerie at the same time, and can even be gory, but not in a slasher-horror way. Playing through many paths shows that it’s not just different scary princesses, but total shifts in tone. Slay the Princess tackles multiple kinds of disturbing–a paranoid kind of fear; a disgusting, squeamish kind of fear; an in-your-face, traditional horror jumpscare kind of fear. The art is also not completely static, as there are small animations like flickers and jittery movements. The game wisely uses them to effectively add some life and movement as well as amp up key creepy moments, rather than overdo it such that it might become distracting.

The End of Everything”, New Content Update for Slay the Princess – The Boss Rush Network

Above is another cool scene that one encounters on the Nightmare. It’s simple but so good in conveying a sense of inescapable paranoia: a cobblestone road that you can’t be certain goes where, a completely open space that leaves you so vulnerable and unhidden, and a multitude of shifty plank-walls that anything could be lurking behind.

But let me move on. Equally deserving of praise and attention is the voice acting. The princess is great, but the flavor the Narrator and Voices bring to the game is essential! The liveliness and pure character the voiceovers bring stand in contrast to the mostly monochrome pencil drawings. Jonathan Sims is incredibly talented. He voices our key Narrator character as well as a diverse cast of different Voices wonderfully and distinctly. I can’t put an image of sound, so consider it another reason to give the game a try on its own!

The game has great replayability which I find is something interactive fiction (and games in general) can really struggle with. There is a little repetition on the early parts and certain loop sections, but they don’t drag. I love how directly the player’s perception affects the game, as it gives one a strong sense of agency and your choices feel incredibly meaningful. Not just the princess but also the cabin changes based on your decisions. Your routes are also spiced up by gaining different companion Voices on your playthrough based on the route, which interact in varying combinations.

A small note is that because the game lends itself to so many possibilities, choices that are winding and interwoven and meaningful at once, sometimes it can be hard to control. You might come into it intending to go a certain path and find it hard to stick to it. There are also, in the end, sometimes a limited number of options you can take once you go a certain way. Hence, it can be a little difficult to know exactly the consequences of what you’re choosing, and there’s only so many points you can change your mind or attempt a nuanced game plan that isn’t available. Still, overall the gameplay loop is very satisfying, even on its own without all the flavor and meta stuff. The core loop is reminiscent of “daughter-raising” games, not literally but in that common tried-and-true IF style of shaping a character through your choices. (See Volcano Princess, Our Life, upcoming game Mushroom Musume. Why I am choosing pretty niche examples of the wider genre, I do not know.)

Slay the Princess review --- Mirror master — GAMINGTREND

(My wife, the Thorn Princess ^)

In any case, there’s loads more to the game, including several true endings and how it’s ultimately, as the creators describe, a love story. Surprising! But indeed, Slay the Princess evolves as it shifts from horror to meta intrigue to a sweet and satisfying narrative, without losing any of its components in the whole.

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  1. This review absolutely nails the essence of “Slay the Princess”! I’m glad you revisited the game after the content updates; it seems like they really enhanced the overall experience. Your deep dive into the meta and horror elements perfectly captures why these genres can be so captivating when mixed correctly. The way you describe the art and voice acting makes me want to experience them firsthand. Also, the complexity of the choices and their consequences sounds incredibly engaging. Thanks for sharing your insights—it’s great to see such a thoughtful and detailed appreciation for what sounds like a fascinating game!

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