“You’re on a path in the woods. And at the end of that path is a cabin. And in the basement of that cabin is a princess. You’re here to slay her. If you don’t, it’ll be the end of the world.” Those words from a mysterious narrator greet you every time you begin the game and believe me, you’ll be hearing it a lot. Who’s this princess? How would slaying her prevent the end of the world? Who is this narrator that keeps talking to us and telling us what to do?
As a quick word of warning, due to the nature of Slay the Princess it might be hard to talk about parts of it without diving into some spoilers. While I’ll try not to purposefully spoil anything major in terms of the story, minor spoilers may happen.
Slay the Princess is a horror visual novel where you’re told by a mysterious narrator that you’re supposed to go to a cabin, go down to the basement, and slay the princess there. Otherwise she’ll end the world. From the onset you’ll have several dialogue options you can choose from, and each one can alter the story in some way. You’ll also notice that The Narrator isn’t the only voice you’ll be hearing as you’ll also hear from the Voice of the Hero. The best way to describe the Voice of the Hero is basically your subconscious. The Narrator wants you to slay the princess, while the Voice of the Hero wants you to save her because that’s what heroes do, right?
As I started playing and made my first few dialogue choices, I couldn’t help but feel that the game play bears a striking resemblance to The Stanley Parable. For anyone who hasn’t played it, in The Stanley Parable you have a narrator who basically tells you what to do but it’s up to you whether you do what the narrator says or do something different, such as going into a different door or going down a set of stairs instead of going into a specific room, and the narrator reacts to your decisions. In Slay the Princess it works much the same way, just spoken differently. The Narrator does react to your decisions, but the more you stray away from slaying the princess, the more annoyed and frustrated he becomes, making you start to wonder just who the villain really is.
As there are a lot of dialogue choices that lead to more choices and so on, something is going to happen and you’ll likely either slay the princess or inevitably die for one reason or another. If you happen to die, you’ll move onto the next chapter and once again begin in the woods with The Narrator telling you about the cabin with the princess. However, a couple of things have changed. For one, you’re aware that this all seems familiar while the Narrator claims to have no clue what you’re talking about. Another is that you now have another subconscious voice talking to you. The new voice will take on a particular attribute such as Voice of the Stubborn or Voice of the Paranoid depending on the choices you made your prior time through. This makes for some interesting conversations once you have a third voice and it basically sounds like you’re having an existential crisis over something as seemingly simple as slaying a princess.
Slay the Princess seems like a pretty short game depending on your decisions. A run can last about ten to fifteen minutes depending on your decisions and if you fully listen to the dialogue, but at some point something will happen to the princess. I won’t get into details as to what, but it basically means a full-on reset back to chapter one, but you can now choose different dialogue options to get different outcomes, and that’s where the meat of the game really comes from. As long as you keep using the same save file, you’ll keep progressing the main story of the game and after several trips through, you’ll reach the story’s finale. Due to the nature of the story, you won’t be able to make the exact same decisions on subsequent playthroughs and any options that lead to an ending you’ve already done will be grayed out. The endings can vary wildly from playthrough to playthrough though once you get towards the end of the story, it’ll all start to make sense.
While an entire run (i.e. getting through the story’s finale) may not take more than a couple of hours depending on your dialogue choices, what really brings the game together are the voice actors. Jonathan Sims provides the voice of the Narrator and the various voices you’ll hear on your journey, and he does a great job at making each one sound like a distinct personality, while Nichole Goodnight does the same with the voice of the Princess, making her sound sweet and innocent one moment, and wanting to tear the flesh off your bones the next. While the game is labeled as “psychological horror”, which it is, there are also a lot of comedic moments to go around as well, namely with the Narrator and your various voices kind of conflicting with each other on what to do.
The only downside some people may find is that it can get repetitive having to do several runs of similar situations to get to the finale. Most of the time the first couple of scenes will eventually play out the same way to progress the story, but after that is where the most changes occur from run to run. There is something you can do right at the start to influence things a bit that’s different than what usually happens. While that’s fine, it would have been nice if there were more alternate ways the first scene or two could play out.
Though I’ve been gaming for roughly thirty-five years of my life, Slay the Princess is my first visual novel, and it is fantastic! Aside from the voice acting, the visuals also look great and the soundtrack works very well. The story is told mostly in black and white stills but it works really well, shifting from normal and calm when you first meet the Princess to dark and demonic later in the story with the soundtrack to match. When I first started playing the title “Slay the Princess” sounded like one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever heard of, but the more I played the more I wanted to go back and choose different dialogue options and eventually find out what exactly is going on with the Princess and the Narrator that obviously wants me to slay her. More than that, I wanted to hear more of the conflicting voices trying to decide just what we should do and then learning about the consequences of those actions. Even if you’re not a fan of visual novels, Slay the Princess is one I would definitely make an exception for.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.