Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut is a sliding puzzle game brought to us by the twisted mind behind Bejeweled and Peggle – who is now part of Blue Wizard Digital. It originated as a mobile phone game but it’s now presented to us as a feature-rich puzzle game on both PC and consoles. Based loosely on Friday the 13th, take control of a number of ‘killers’ as you slide around the screen slaughtering innocent campers whilst avoiding being detected by the law. There is plenty of Gore and blood, yet it’s all presented in a style that is enjoyable by people of all ages. Also, I think it’s the only place you will be able to experience Mark Meet (Captain Shephard from Mass Effect) voice the lead killer, Skullface, and Derek Mears (the original Jason from the Friday the 13th movies) voice the lovely Jessica! Cover your feet with grease and slide with me as I see if Slayaway Camp glides gracefully or if it falls on its bum and everyone laughs at it…
The story is simple yet the gameplay is ingenious – I always admire the level design that goes into puzzle games like this as it must take a logical mind to create them – either that or they work backwards and create it like that? As I mentioned above, there are a group of kids and councillors who have set up camp (similar to the plot in Friday the 13th) and as the killer, you must slide around the mini areas as you try to take everybody out without trapping or killing yourself. There are 10 main ‘videos’, each with 13 ‘scenes’ and a bunch of ‘deleted scenes’ and ‘NC-17 scenes’. The menu is presented as an 80’s video store, hence why the game uses the term ‘scenes’ in place of what we would usually call missions or levels. The game does get progressively more difficult as you play but often resets the difficulty a little once you unlock and start a new ‘video’ – the game can be beaten very quickly if you seek out a guide; however, I strongly advise against this as these types of games always feel better when you work it out for yourself. (from here on out, I will refer to the ‘videos’ as chapters, the ‘scenes’ as missions and the ‘kids/councillors’ as victims.)
The main mechanic is simple, you choose which killer you want to use out of an unlockable roster of around 60 inspired designs which range from Jason to a guy in a hotdog costume, and you choose which chapter you wish to begin. Once within the mission, you must move up, down, left or right as you slide around with the intent of slaughtering all of the victims whilst avoiding landing directly in front of law officers. I’m sure you have seen this mechanic before, games have used it since the dawn of time such as The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy World, Pokemon and even Uncharted the Lost Legacy! In most of those games it is usually portrayed as a character on the ice who slides around an area with obstructions as they try and make it to an exit, this game is similar only there is no exit and you must kill people. As you bump into your victims, you are treated to one of many death scenes where the victim will be slaughtered in a rather comical fashion.
Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as you may think. If, as you glide gracefully around the place, you land adjacent to an unsuspecting victim then they will scream and run in the opposite direction. On some levels, you can use this to your advantage as they will also run until they hit an obstacle – an obstacle which can sometimes be a fire, a pool of water or even a wood chipper which will result in the victim being fried, fish food or chipped to death respectively. Also, as you progress you will uncover new mechanics thrown into the mix like the SWAT team. When you have the SWAT team after you, you only have a certain number of moves to complete the mission – if you take too long then you will be caught and must start over or rewind a few steps. You also have a few missions with switches that distract the officers or re-arrange the victims, bookcases that can be used to create obstructions or toppled onto unsuspecting victims (with a satisfying *splat*) and even a bunch of cats that you must also slaughter as you complete the fiendish puzzles.
Once you get to the end of a mission, you are presented with a QTE. In the main game chapters, these are quite easy – you have a bar at the bottom of the screen, a target zone and a bar which moves left to right. Simply hit X when the bar is in the target area and your kill is confirmed and you get the animation of you slaughtering an innocent victim. Miss the target zone and the kid either doesn’t get killed or the death is reversed and the victim manages to kill you with your own method. A good example of this is the bookcase, if you succeed then the victim goes *splat* but if you fail then it topples back on you and you’re the one who goes *splat*.
As I briefly touched on above, you have the ability to rewind one move at a time. So, if you end up in a corner or want to try something new, you can tap the shoulder button and move back or forward as many steps as you wish while you experiment with different solutions. If you get really stuck, you can even use in-game credits to unlock video walkthroughs of each puzzle so you don’t even have to look it up online! Speaking of unlocking – you can use the in-game credits, which you earn for kills and completing missions, on buying new death cutscenes and killer skins – many of which come with their own trophies.
Once you are finished with the main chapters, which unlock as you complete the previous set, you can participate in four bonus chapters; Christmas, Halloween, Valentines Day and an endless killer mode. The first three are collections of 13 missions which are designed around said theme, the fourth chapter puts you in the slaughter mini-game where the objective is to get through as many as you can as they progressively become more and more difficult. The aim is to get to 25 kills in a row for A PSN trophy, which is a lot easier said than done!
The art style in this game is great, the game is full of blood and gore, but all the characters are cute and look like they are made out of LEGO Bricks. Each chapter opens up with a funny little intro video which is presented as a mini-trailer for the ‘film’ the chapter is playing out. I found all of these to be so cutesy and hilarious as they remind me of old LEGO style cutscenes before they started talking and lost the charm they once had. You also have a lot of control over how the game looks in the settings menu (which I found really funny as you have a slider which you can increase or decrease which alters how many sliders you see in the options menu – no idea why I found that funny, but it is!). You can turn the gore on or off, change what the exit portal looks like and even change your field of view (which I think is there as a joke as it just zooms out the image).
The sound is also equally as good, with the Friday the 13th “oh oh oh, ah ah ah” (click to listen), the screaming kids and the eerie music along with the *thud* of pushing over the bookcases and bumping into things. You can tell a lot of time and effort has gone into bringing this game to life for us to play.
Now the elephant in the room – Yes, it’s a mobile phone game at heart and you can pick it up on mobiles for cheaper than the console/PC release; however, this version does have all of the DLC which were in-app purchases/DLC and it has some new puzzles thrown in as well with over 300 puzzles to play through, over 60 useable killers to unlock and over 90 ‘Gorepacks’ (death cutscenes) to become strangely obsessed with! There is a lot of content for your money, my only issue is that I would have loved to see this game on Vita as well as the PS4 as it would suit the handheld perfectly!
Slayaway Camp is a great little puzzle game which will have you thinking about and replaying levels over and over again until you get it right. Each level is different, which is an amazing feat for over 300 puzzles set within a limited play area, each with progressing difficulty as they add more mechanics and obstacles as you go from chapter to chapter. As long as you don’t cheat and look up a guide, this game will last you a very long time and would be perfect for any puzzle fans out there but don’t be put off by its cute look – this game is a fiendish S.O.a.B as you get deeper into the puzzles, especially the endless murder mini-game.
If you wish to try it out for yourself, they have a free online demo, which you play through your browser, here (opens in a new window): http://www.kongregate.com/games/bluewizardgames/slayaway-camp
I’ve had the chance to play the PS Vita version of the game, which came out in November 2018, and I’m happy to say that it’s just as fun as the PS4 version. All the content is exactly the same, so the above review can relate to both versions. However, The loading times on the Vita edition are much longer – You’ll be waiting a while between each puzzle. Also, the pre-release info about the PS Vita version being cross-buy was incorrect – There is no Cross-buy or Cross-save support with the PlayStation versions of the game. It does mean you can get a second platinum, but you will have to buy a second version to do so.
Slayaway Camp: Butcher's Cut
- Fun, progressively getting harder puzzle game
- Great selection of Gorepacks, killers and chapters to unlock
- Sound design is spot on- Derek Mears as Jessica is perfect!
- Graphically cute and very appealing
- Will keep you busy for hours
- Would have worked perfect on Vita (more of a wish than negative)
- Can get a little repetitive after a few hundred levels