Slayaway Camp's Cute Pixels Hide Brutal Horror

By Stacie Ponder on at

I’ve slaughtered countless camp counsellors in Friday the 13th. I ate truly disgusting stew in Resident Evil 7. But the most brutal game I’ve played so far this year is Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut, an isometric puzzle game released for PC and mobile in 2016 and recently released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Players control the vengeful slasher psycho Skullface, sliding him around hundreds of levels to kill everyone and escape into a portal to Hell. Hazards like campfires and landmines can aid you in your grisly task, but they can harm you as well. It’s fast, sometimes maddening, and incredibly addictive. What sets it apart from the countless other puzzle games on the market, however, is its ‘80s video store horror section aesthetic.

Many of the 60+ unlockable killers are homages to famous movie psychos, such as Nailface, resembling but legally distinct from Hellraiser’s Pinhead, and a doll known as “Bucky.” There are killer clowns, killer sharkmen, and even killer major appliances to command in “movies” like My Gory Valentine that comprise upwards of 15 “scenes” each.

The gore is over-the-top, but appropriate considering it’s all a riff on ‘80s slasher flicks. I admit, some of the game’s kill scenes gave me pause. Children are doused in gasoline and set on fire, all manner of pointy things are jammed in faces, there are innumerable dismemberments and decapitations and exploding bodies. Slayaway Camp’s violence might be the source of an angry thinkpiece or two if it was rendered realistically, but its adorable voxel graphics and darkly humorous tone save it from total depravity.

There’s a “gorosity” meter that will allow you to enjoy the game under a PG rating; bloodshed is removed from levels and victims in the kill screens are replaced with abstract bullseye targets. Much as a TV edit is not the optimal way to enjoy a horror film, though, Slayaway Camp without the outrageous violence is missing half the fun. Come for the addictive, demented puzzle play, stay for the flying eyeballs.