From daring pop icons to Cold War politics to personal computing, the 1980s were a time of revolution and radical change. The 1980s also gave birth to some of the greatest and cheesiest slasher flicks to grace the big screen with the likes of A Nightmare On Elm Street, Halloween II and Friday the 13th striking horror into audiences across the globe. Developer Blue Wizard pays homage to the '80s horror movie genre with the darkly comical isometric-puzzler, Slayaway Camp: Butcher's Cut for Nintendo Switch.
You take control of Skullface, a stubby, machete-wielding psychopath who’s hell-bent on ending the lives of unsuspecting camp counsellors in the most grotesque ways possible. The premise is simple; to navigate through small and compact levels by sliding the killer in the four cardinal directions. Landing Skullface next to a victim will automatically end their life with a humorous display of brutal finesse.
Thanks to a generous selection of randomised deaths, Slayaway Camp cooks up a healthy amount of entertaining mini-cutscenes that make for some real laugh-out-loud moments. One level has us navigating our way around a giant wood chipper only to lob our last victim into the machine itself. Although it sounds rather sinister, the developer has done well to capitalise on the appealing voxel art that helps make these fun and snappy deaths a true joy to watch. There are myriad ways to dismember the unfortunate bystanders and, by successfully clearing a level, the rewards come in the form of dollar which can be spent on unlocking even more death cutscenes.
If the death sequences are proving to be a little too much, the game has a handy option to tweak the gore. Witnessing Skullface dousing a youngster's head with petrol and then setting it alight is a bit much, we must admit. However, there’s something satisfying about the over-the-top amount of claret that splats onto the screen and across the level when your victims meet their grisly end and it helps to keep things fresh. However, disabling the gore altogether immediately takes away a lot of the fun, but its customisation is a welcome touch.
We are happily hit with a constant and bloody wall of nostalgia as we progress, with small details pointing toward the memorable '80’s era. Comical references towards famous slasher franchises are in abundance and offer respite from what can be a tough challenge at times. The level select screen mimics a shelf stocked with old VHS tapes and the Options menu impersonates a classic TV set with the iconic black and green display from all those years ago. It’s these nods to past times that set this game apart from other isometric puzzlers such as the peaceful and quaint Monument Valley on mobile or the recently released Totes The Goat on Switch. We found ourselves regularly getting that fuzzy feeling of familiarity.
Slayaway Camp significantly benefits from having analogue controls compared to its counterpart that released on mobile last year. The game can be played using Switch’s touchscreen, but we find that using the directional buttons results in a much easier and precise experience. Shifting the blocky murderer with a finger is frustrating as it’s easy to accidentally send him to his death. If you're in a spot of bother, pressing L will rewind the action.
The games’ formula gradually ramps up as each ‘movie’ is completed. SWAT teams are deployed in later levels, which possess the power to take you down in one hit. Tackling these miniature members of the fuzz isn’t paramount in completing a level, but using them to answer a ringing phone that you’ve prank called from the opposite end of the room adds a layer of satisfying strategy.
Small campfires, falling bookcases and cats that you mustn't accidentally murder are thrown into the mix. Just when we thought the title is getting repetitive, it throws in another element for us to cater for and made us step back and rethink. The inclusion of these extra elements prevents the game from growing tiresome and gave us good reason to keep dipping back in.
If you’re a sucker for in-game collectibles and you love the idea of unlocking everything, then you’re in luck. Collecting coins grants the ability to gain hints and quick walkthroughs for those hard-to-beat levels. We often find ourselves reaching for the hint button, especially as the difficulty ramps up. Being given the option to cash in on hints is great, especially as we find the levels of frustration tended to reach new, unexpected heights.
The shop boasts an impressive collection of different skins for Skullface. The choices range from famous horror stars of the past to the outrageously random, such as a dustbin. The inclusion of a mystery loot box costs 1,000 coins to open, which is tempting to shell out for every time it pops up. Tapping in unique Killer Kodes, which, the developer has previously distributed online, gives access to even more killers ranging from the iconic Ghostface from Scream to a Demogorgon.
With its cute and delightfully grotesque exterior, Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut is an easily accessible and addictive puzzler that throws in '80’s references where it can, by the bucket-load. It’s jam-packed with unlockables, host to some brilliant synth-heavy music and doesn’t shy away from some truly gruesome but equally hilarious murder sequences. There’s plenty of substance here that keeps us coming back for more, and with the help of a continuous trickle of silly and over-the-top horror humour, we are hard-pushed not to crack a smile every time we give it a stab.