Players search for truth in ‘Slay the Princess’

The indie horror adventure game “Slay the Princess” sat on my Steam wishlist for over a year before its official release on Oct. 23, and I can attest that the wait was worth it. Black Tabby Games presented me with the perfect gaming experience for Halloween weekend.

You begin by meeting The Narrator, who presents you with a simple objective: slay the Princess, save the world. From there, you can choose to follow orders or rebel. No matter what you do, nothing goes according to plan and you end up back where you started, standing in the woods a short walk from the cabin where the Princess awaits.

There are over 90 possible achievements in “Slay the Princess.” Photo courtesy of @blacktabbygames, X

So you try again. And again. And again. Each time, the world warps and you meet a new character born from your previous choices. Each has their own motive. The Voice of the Smitten wants true love. The Voice of the Stubborn wants to fight. The Voice of the Contrarian wants whatever the others don’t.

It is up to you to decide who to listen to. One thing is apparent, however: no one knows the entire truth.

Visual novels are my guilty pleasure. As a connoisseur, I can say it is difficult to find quality ones in the horror genre. Character deaths hold less weight when one of the major appeals of the medium is the ability to save or load manually from any point. Gameplay in subpar visual novels often consists of tedious reloads as I try to find the correct series of dialogue options that enables my survival.

“Slay the Princess” avoids this problem by not making your personal survival the main objective. Over the course of the game you meet your end in a myriad of gruesome ways. Stabbed, burned alive, eaten whole — if you can imagine it, at least one ending likely contains it. Except, like I established earlier, there are no permanent endings. 

The successful execution of the game’s central concept is largely due to the compelling voice acting. Depending on your choices, Nichole Goodnight can read the same lines for the Princess with a variety of cadences. I quickly became aware of how my reactions and willingness to trust her changed based on whether she sounded haughty, innocent or bloodthirsty. The self-examination brought a meta element to the gameplay.

Jonathan Sims, known for playing the Head Archivist in the podcast “The Magnus Archives,” continues to shine in the horror genre. As The Narrator, he threatens, pleads and cajoles the player to act. For each of the various Voices the player meets as they progress through different chapters, he manages to perform a single continuous emotion without grating on the player’s nerves.

Sims and Goodnight are supported by a strong script. The humor is well-timed to avoid undermining the tension. One of my favorite lines is when the Voice of the Hero, still reeling from being murdered by the Princess, asks The Narrator, “Couldn’t you have given us something else? Something, I don’t know, better than a knife? Can we have a bomb?”

I have already played through this game twice, and I have earned only a little over half of the available achievements. I am enthralled by its themes of mortality, morality and trust. How does your death compare to the end of a universe? What is a world without impermanence? Is it possible to rule fairly over people who cannot begin to comprehend your power?

“Slay the Princess” does not provide easy answers, and I love it for that. Visual novels are intended to put the choice in the player’s hands, and this game takes that idea to delightful extremes.


5/5 Stars


Featured photo courtesy of @blacktabbygames, X