You’ve heard the fairytale about the princess locked in the tower. Without a way out she must sit waiting for her knight in shining armor to come to save her. Well, this isn’t that story. Slay the Princess is an accurately named visual novel from Black Tabby Games that follows the player’s many attempts at bringing the titular princess's life to an end. In its short demo, Slay the Princess didn’t break any new ground, but it dangled tantalizing mysteries just out of reach enticing me to come back for more when the full game releases.
Cabin in the woods
Surrounded by trees on all sides with no idea who or where you are. A voice speaks to you about a princess in a cabin further into the forest, “You are here to slay her,” it tells you. According to the Narrator, the Princess will bring about the end of the world and all life in it if she isn’t defeated. That’s just how things are, so you might as well get slaying.
Inside the cabin, there is only one other room, the basement. Before entering you are advised to pick up the knife sitting at a table, it’ll make your work easier. Then you hear a voice, a woman’s, and you come face to face with the Princess you’ve heard so much about. She looks small and tired, but you remark on her still present beauty. Is she really the end of the world?
Slay the Princess plays on your gut reactions to a situation and asks you to make decisions with only the little pieces of information you gain from the Narrator and the Princess. Both have skin in the game (though you never meet the Narrator in the flesh) and are equally untrustworthy. On my first playthrough, I quickly decided to go against the Narrator as much as possible — I hate an authority figure. I talked with the princess and was able to free her right before the Narrator took away my free will and forced me to slip my dagger between the Princess’s ribs. In the end, I was defeated. Darkness closed in around me.
Surrounded by trees on all sides you have a sense of déjà vu. A voice speaks to you about a princess in a cabin further into the forest, “You are here to slay her,” it tells you. It’s the Narrator, but he doesn’t remember you. The princess will bring about the end of the world and all life in it if she isn’t defeated says the Narrator. This is just how things are, so you might as well walk towards the cabin.
If at first, you don’t succeed
Time and time again, you can enter the cabin and try different paths to see what might change. Perhaps walking away from it all is an option — if the universe doesn’t have other ideas. Slay the Princess offers seven different endings in the current demo, which will be available starting August 1. Paths are broken into two chapters, which start similarly but slowly unravel at the seams and reveal a darker underside.
The horror of Slay the Princess is not shocking, as the creepypasta aesthetic tips you off to the unsettling nature of the events at hand. But like any good internet story that sends chills down your back, the intrigue comes from anticipating what might occur next. The art, the music, and the title of the game are all messing with your perception of what can be trusted to unsettle you.
But for those who listen to horror podcasts, your spine might begin to tingle on instinct at the sound of the Narrator. Black Tabby Games has ingeniously enlisted The Magnus Archives writer and narrator Jonathan Sims to voice Slay the Princess’s Narrator. His soft but authoritative tone makes the power dynamic of the player and Narrator feel loaded with potential consequences if you get on his bad side.
Slay the Princess is a game about player choice. Clearly pulling at threads that games like Bioshock and Undertale also seek to unravel. Yet with the Narrator’s inclusion, this feels more like a horror twist on The Stanley Parable. In seeking out the demo’s multiple paths I could feel myself pushing up against the walls of what was available to me. No path explored the game’s themes of the player’s free will in a way I haven’t experienced before, but there is so much potential for the full release to rectify that. Like a thread on Reddit giving me goosebumps in the middle of the night, Slay the Princess’s demo is enough to make me dive fully into the rabbit hole.
Slay the Princess’s demo will be available for PC on August 1, 2022