Tuesday, June 25, 2024
VR&AR

‘Silent Slayer’ Preview – Dr. Van Helsing’s Deadly Game of Operation


I went hands-on with Silent Slayer: Vault of the Vampire, an upcoming horror-puzzle for Quest from Schell Games that tasks you with defusing various arcane traps protecting a coven of sleeping vampires. Much like the studio’s pioneering VR puzzle franchise I Expect You to Die, any false move means certain death, but you’ll need to think twice before fumbling your trusty vampire-busting tools since there’s always a jump scare waiting for you on the other side of inevitable failure.

In my preview of Silent Slayer, I got a chance to play through the first three levels of the game, which are basically tutorials that introduce the world, your growing assortment of tools, and three of the coven’s vampire foes. In total, there are apparently nine levels, although I haven’t set foot outside of the third to give you an accurate impression of what the first 30-ish minutes of the game has to offer.

Like I Expect You to Die, the studio’s upcoming horror-puzzle is played equally well standing up or sitting down, requiring little to no room-scale movement on your quest to play what is essentially a spooky version of the kid’s board game Operation, which similarly tasks you with precisely manipulating little doohickeys with the utmost care to not trip the metaphorical buzzer—or in Silent Slayer’s case, a screaming vampire.

Before the fun begins though, you’re first tasked with reassembling a sort of totem inscribed with the crest of your next enemy, called a ‘Bind Stone’.

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The broken stones give a few clues on how they’re put back together, although you may be scratching your head a bit as you follow broken contours and match edges to reveal different geometric forms to unlock each sequential level. The stone could be a pyramid, a prism, or anything, making for an interesting little roadblock of a puzzle that forces you to pay close attention to detail—an important skill you’ll learn once you’re face-first with the blood sucker du jour.

And back at your home base, you’re also given a talking book which not only narrates the game’s story, but provides detail on every vampire, and every tool given to you for each mission. More on that later.

The real meat of the game though comes when you’re transported to your target, and put in front of the ghoul’s closed coffin which features a few initial mechanism to undo before you can get to the stabby bit. You’ll need to gingerly pull out locking crossbars, slowly manipulate keys, and pull out nails with a provided mini-crowbar—the latter of which requires you to pry up nails just enough so you can grip them with your free hand. Go a little too far, and the nail will fall, alerting the vampire inside and raising his awareness bar.

Once you’ve opened the top bit of the coffin carefully, keeping quiet and being very precise is the name of the game. Of course, your bookish pal is there to lend a hand, but also adds some color commentary on how you need to hurry up, and what to watch out for.

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Using the game’s various physics-based tools bring a lot of solidity and gravity to every move. You’ll use things like clippers to sever tripwires, a heart-detection tool to mark where the vampire’s heart lies, and your trusty stake to pierce the next protective shell. Even that last bit can be a challenge though, as shown by my less-than-precise stab seen above.

If you can make it that far, you’ll be left with two more tasks—at least as far as I know from playing three levels. Trace the vampire’s crest in the air to deactivate the final, unseen trap, and stab the sucker right through the heart. Job done.

From a technical standpoint, Silent Slayer is a visually engrossing and well-refined game that totally fits in with the high production value you see in I Expect You to Die. I still have a lot to learn about the game though, as some previously released images reveal a significant ramp in difficulty with promises of a much higher density of traps and corresponding tools than I experienced in my hands-on. Those look like a lot of keys, which means a lot of very pensive inserting and turning. That image below also shows a long pry bar, which I imagine will mean I have to be super careful with some far away nails.

Image courtesy Schell Games

That said, jump scares weren’t extremely terrifying, since you always know they’re coming after a major screw up. That’s just a piece of the overall puzzle though, which thus far has been a fun experience in learning how each trap works, and finding out just how reactive the world really is. Seriously, if you put down a pair of clippers on your workbench too indelicately, you’ll make a noise and alert the undead within.

I’m also looking forward to learning more about the overarching story, which I hope matures throughout the game’s nine levels. I can’t say I was paying too much attention to the backstory during my playthrough of the first three levels, as I was busy learning how to work the games various tools, which are doled out as you move to tougher vampires.

In all, Silent Slayer appears to be everything it says on the tin, although I’m really hoping it tosses some gratifying twists my way, as looking plainly at the map presented you in the book makes it feel just a little too linear of an experience so far. You can read more about my impressions in the full review though, which ought to be out sometime this summer when the game launches on Quest 2/3/Pro. In the meantime, you can wishlist the game on Quest here, currently priced at a 10% discount off its regular $20 price tag.



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