Slay the Princess Review
Slay the Princess is a surreal psychological horror visual novel that opens with “Chapter One: The Hero and The Princess,” which sounds like the start of a traditional fairytale — yet it’s anything but that. You’re dropped onto a path in the woods, one that leads to a lone cabin, and there’s a Princess there who you must slay (yes, kill) or else she’ll supposedly destroy the world. You’re not alone, though; there are two chatty intangible voices along for the ride: the Narrator and the Voice of the Hero. They can’t tell you much about why you need to kill the Princess or who you even are. So, should you carry out the titular task or turn around and leave? Can you even leave? Should you save the Princess instead?
If you’ve played Scarlet Hollow, the opening of this new title from Black Tabby Games will feel familiar, with heavy dialogue and mysteries to unravel. On a technical level, it plays like most titles in the genre, and the UI is quite similar to Scarlet Hollow as well. Set your text preferences anytime using Auto for flowing conversations, Skip to bypass what you’ve seen, and History to review dialogue. These options come in handy as you run into several repeating scenarios during your playthrough (more on that later). When it comes to gameplay and story, Black Tabby has crafted a branching narrative, leading to a wide variety of endings based on your actions.
In fact, Slay the Princess is perhaps one of the best choose-your-own-adventure games I’ve played as of late. Every choice I made felt weighty and meaningful. It’s compelling, layered, and will often leave you thinking hard about your next steps. I was always curious to see what would happen and which small decisions would lead to big outcomes. The game also plays into restricting your choices, removing certain options that you once had or overlapping them to make for strange endings. Additionally, this gameplay also reminded me quite a bit of The Stanley Parable, as the Narrator and other incorporeal voices are constantly reacting to your decisions. If you opt to leave a dagger behind, for instance, they’ll have something to say about it. Or, if you really go rogue, they might even intervene in interesting ways. To avoid spoilers, I can only say that you need to experience it for yourself.
As a narrative-heavy game, the plot’s pacing is excellent, and it’s tightly crafted all throughout. This is an incredible feat, considering the story is centred around a time loop, and yet it avoids being repetitive; though you’re always repeating the same opening in the woods, there are enough changes and new paths to go down that each restart feels engaging. There’s still so much I haven’t seen, judging by the promotional screenshots on Steam, and I’m excited to jump back in. In terms of dialogue, it’s excellent writing. I wish I could rave more about it without the risk of spoilers, but I can say it’s equal parts hilarious, thoughtful, witty, terrifying, and heart-wrenching all at once. However, it does get quite existential, posing questions that you’ll ponder even after you close out the game, which might not be everyone’s preference. If you’re looking for an experience that poses moral conundrums and questions that might not have answers, you’re in for a treat.
Complementing the fantastic dialogue is the great voice acting. Without the VOs from Jonathan Sims and Nichole Goodnight, I’m not sure Slay the Princess would be as compelling as it is. They knocked it out of the park. The black-and-white art and spooky music also deserve high praise, as they perfectly build a haunting yet beautiful world. At all times, I felt like I was dropped into a nightmare–esque fairytale. Somewhere not quite real, but also not quite a dream either. It all comes together to be such a weird and delightful experience.
Slay the Princess is fundamentally a psychological horror game (and a love story, according to the opening screen). So, you should be aware that it gets dark visually and thematically. While it’s not outright scary, it’s certainly eerie, surreal, and strange. The atmosphere will leave you feeling unsettled even during seemingly “good” moments. Do note that if you’re not a fan of gory images, that’s something to consider before diving in.
Overall, Black Tabby Games has created yet another well-written visual novel. While my first playthrough took about three hours, there’s still so much to see in terms of endings and achievements. I can see myself playing this over and over again, especially as I wait for more Scarlet Hollow content. All in all, Slay the Princess is a great pickup for visual novel fans looking for a satisfying branching narrative. You’ll be in for a horrific, funny, and even romantic ride.
Slay the Princess (Reviewed on Windows)
Outstanding. Why do you not have this game already?
Compelling and strange, Slay the Princess is a unique, expertly-written visual novel.