Who doesn’t love an 80’s slasher movie serial killer? No one. Well, apart from Jamie Lee Curtis, possibly. We were therefore naturally excited to get our blood-soaked axe-wielding mitts on Blue Wizard Digital’s Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut.
Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut is a psychotic puzzler, where you must slide one of a motley assortment of serial killers around beautifully blocky environments, horrifically dispatching unsuspecting campers. And we do mean horrific. Levels of gratuitous violence that, in the eighties, would have been limited to bootleg and grainy VHS tapes, swapped surreptitiously in the playground.
No, I’m not explaining what VHS is. Ask your mam.
Like all good puzzle games, the premise is simple. Your slasher avatar can slide in four directions, each slide ending only when their path is blocked. If that blockage is in the form of one of the summer-campers, a swift and brutal death ensues. Murder all the campers, make your way to the pentagram-adorned exit portal, and the level is complete. (Note for non-Americans: Summer Camp is an annual American cultural event when parents ship their spawn off to a wilderness retreat to be bullied by creepy camp ‘counsellors’ and get eaten by alligators.)
Of course, the path to slasher immortality never runs smooth, and Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut offers an increasingly complex suite of mechanics to make your murderous task ever more challenging. Things start simple enough; slide directly into a camper to murder them, or slide into a victim-adjacent square and they’ll flee in terror. You can use this to brutal effect, chasing fleeing victims into campfires, pools of water, or land mines (a common feature of American Summer Camps, apparently).
Quickly, though, the authorities become aware of your rampage, and you’ll have to content with the cops. End your move in a square under their protection – identified by a cross hair, and they’ll cuff you before you can say, “It was the voices in my head made me do it.”
As the environments become more complex, you’ll need to adjust your tactics accordingly. You’ll slide into a telephone to make its counterpart ring somewhere else in the level, and a nearby camper will rush to answer it (the classic “The call is coming from inside the house,” Scream moment) coincidentally putting themselves in danger. Soon, you’ll need to avoid murdering kitty-cats (obviously) or complete levels within a specific number of moves (as SWAT are on their way).
There are over 300 levels of murderous mayhem to puzzle through, and if you get truly stuck you can unlock hints, or full walks-through, by spending some of the coins generously dished out after each murder. Levels are grouped into movies, each mining a rich vein of slasher-movie tropes, and each with its own iconic killer (anxious supply teacher our wonderfully subtle favourite). You can rewind your moves one at a time, or restart a level at any time, and you can switch the view from an isometric view to a top-down angle, helpful for understanding the hazards in your way.
It’s worth remembering that actions have consequences – quickly you’ll realise that you can’t freestyle through most of the levels; you will need to think carefully and plan ahead, as usually there’s only one solution. Luckily, rewind and hints are your friends.
The game works beautifully on Switch, the charming blocky aesthetic vibrant and beautiful on that handheld screen. And if the gore gets too much for you, you can always play in PG mode.
With over 60 killers in the game and over 90 ‘gorepacks’ there’s plenty of opportunity to explore murder in all its forms.
Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut is available from the eShop for £13.49 / $14.99 USD / €14.99.
Release Date: 22 March 2018 on Nintendo Switch (the game enjoyed a PS4 / Xbox One release in October 2017)
- Overall - 8/108/10
Puzzle games don’t get much gorier than Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut, even if that is cartoon gore. And while the challenge of individual levels can be considerable, a generous hint and help system means you’re never truly stuck. Presentation is neat throughout, leaning heavily on the 80’s slasher movie vibe, and there’s plenty of personality wrapped up in Blue Wizard Digital’s debut offering.