Slay the Princess is one of our favourite unexpected hits from this year. It’s a choose-your-own adventure style narrative game about a dutiful mission to (you guessed it) slay a princess.
I’m too much of a wuss myself, but PC Gamer senior editor Robin Valentine highly recommended it back in November, calling it the year’s most fascinating horror game: “[The game’s] core structure is so compelling and fun, and such a good excuse for the game to throw in every wild, creative, and scary idea it can into a vibrant web of nastiness.”
He also said that experiencing it for yourself was vital—something that the game’s own developer has now officially echoed on Twitter (thanks, PCGamesN). “The game is at its best if your first experience is playing it yourself instead of watching someone else’s playthrough,” writes @blacktabbygames, the shared account between duo devs Abby Howard and Tony Howard.
This is something I’m admittedly guilty of, but only because I’m a big ol’ baby. I played a little of the cartoonishly slapstick Lethal Company with some mates recently, and even that was enough to get my heart rate up. I do, however, love to hear people talk about horror games. It’s like visiting a zoo: I’d be scared of a gorilla if I was in an enclosure with one, but looking through a glass pane is totally fine.
Still, I can see the point. The allure of Slay the Princess comes from your personal choices shaping the story—and you’re not shaping it watching a let’s play by definition. You can still get the heebie jeebies second-hand, sure, but you’re not living through that crucial ‘I did this’ vibe.
The devs go on to write: “you can only play for the first time once, and the experience won’t be the same if you’re looking through the lens of someone else’s choices.” What’s more, they even recommended piracy as an option in case your wallet’s too thin. “If $ is an issue, pirate it and buy a copy later when you have money if you liked it!”
While video game piracy causes plenty of problems—especially for smaller developers—it’s also sort of inevitable. The solo dev of Iron Lung shared a similar sentiment, saying that he’s fine with people taking to the high seas if they think his games are too expensive: “That’s completely ok. Don’t buy them, or wait for a deep sale, or go the sneaky route and get them for free or whatever.”
Still, it’s an admirable amount of dedication to creative intent. Especially considering an uncertain buyer’s first instinct nowadays is to swing by their favourite YouTuber to see if they’ve played it already. Still, Slay the Princess is pretty cool—and unless you’re totally allergic to jumpscares like yours truly, I’d hope any potential regicide committers would support the devs with some well-earned cash.