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Slay the Princess

Preview: Slay the Princess is a Haunting Head Trip

Slay the Princess proves that first impressions can be deeply deceptive, and I’m not just talking about the titular royal.

I went all-but-blind into Slay the Princess‘ demo build, not knowing what to expect. Based on the trailer, in which a narrator explains that the player needs to kill a rather innocent-looking princess in order to save the world, I figured I’d perhaps need to determine the reality for myself. Maybe the narrator was attempting to manipulate me, in the manner of The Stanley Parable.

Heading underneath the cabin where the princess was chained up, I anticipated a battle of wits with the princess, each of us trying to get to the “truth”, ending with my demise or hers. I didn’t expect to my first encounter to end with her standing over me, her features shifting in a manner that’d give Innsmouth’s finest the heebie-jeebies.

Slay the Princess is from Black Tabby Games, the team behind Scarlet Hollow, and could likewise be described as a horror visual novel. However, it’s significantly darker than the latter’s spooky investigations. There’s no point where you feel safe, where you can sit down with the Scooby gang and bat your eyelids at your love interest. Try that with the princess and there’s every chance she’ll eat your face.

Slay the Princess

Just reaching the cabin itself can be a trial, especially if you try to elude your role as princess dispatcher. Determined not to be dictated to, I persisted in fleeing the path to the cabin and… well, I won’t spoil the consequences of that particular narrative avenue but just thinking about it makes my brain hurt.

It’s clear that there’s something going on outside the main princess-stabbing story and even though the demo only offered the odd glimpse, that element alone has left me pretty unsettled. It’s a blessing (or curse?) that one member of team Black Tabby is a professional web artist. The striking hand-drawn art reallt helps drives the horror home.

Slay the Princess makes use of the voice talents of Jonathan Sims and Nicole Goodnight, the latter of whom voices the princess. You’d think Goodnight would steal the show – after all, the princess has to be the star of this little nightmare, right? But Sim’s narrator role took on new meaning as I replayed the demo (which sported seven endings).

In short, there’s an awful lot of promise here, and I have my fingers crossed that Slay the Princess can become something special, without losing the unsettling Hannibal Lecter-style intimacy of this early build. Hours after playing the demo, my brain is still working overtime trying to figure out where the story will go next.

For example, there’s a Groundhog Day element here, so maybe, in the final game, you’ll have to use your accumulated knowledge to outthink the princess. But, then again, what if she’s also aware that time is repeating itself? I’m imagining her dropping the bombshell that she knows exactly what you’re up to, and it gives me the chills. Assuming, that is, she’s real to begin with.

Slay the Princess is pencilled in for a Q2 2023 release, arriving on PC and Mac. You can wishlist the game on Steam here (the final game will also be available through Itch.io) and download the demo this August 1st.

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