Slay The Princess - Confronting and Engaging Regicide
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Slay the Princess does not mess around. At its outset, the game alleges it’s a love story. But how can it be? For all intents and purposes, it seems like there are only three characters in the entire game; yourself, the narrator, and the princess whom the title suggests you’re meant to kill. The weird thing is, by the end of the game I agree with the assessment.
Voiced by Jonathan Sims (The Magnus Archives podcast) and Nichole Goodnight (The NoSleep podcast), the game has some real chops behind setting an intensely off-putting tone. Add into this the dulcet piano compositions of Brandon Boone (EP/OP The White Vault), twisting into some truly dispiriting minor key transitions to turn up the upsetting nature of the game. It’s a real who’s who of horror podcasts, and as that is my main bread and butter for aural enjoyment, I am here for it. The art and writing by Black Tabby Games is icing on the cake that makes this something that will stick with you.
The premise is simple: slay the princess, save the world. The narrator is very strict about these points. You’ll be able to ask questions via the ‘explore’ option, but in reality, the task remains largely the same. Go to the cabin, grab the knife or don’t, go down the stairs and handle the princess situation. She’s chained up but that doesn’t mean she’s not a threat. The narrator warns you as much and well, he’s not wrong. Deal with the outcome of your actions as the world changes, twisting and warping in resistance to your actions or inactions.
It’s the lack of information that makes you doubt yourself. Or the narrator. Or the princess. I’m a very data-driven person but a lot of the game screams for you to act with your gut. This is where the love story comes into play. In my eyes (and violence, murder and death aside), it reminded me of my early relationship with my wife. It’s scary to bear your heart to someone, for better or worse. To give your heart freely, to be vulnerable around something, it’s intensely scary. When two lives are entangled in a meaningful way, it’s difficult not to feel some level of affection. By the end of the game, where you need to reiterate your choice after finally getting some, but definitely not all, answers; the game will not leave you feeling indifferent.
You might hate the princess, maybe you’ll hate yourself, the narrator, or maybe you’ll just hate the situation but put whatever biases you have aside to act. The princess is not your nemesis, she is a force upon which a will is being enacted for better or worse. She is a boolean choice, a constant. She is trying to survive in a world that wants her dead, so who can blame her for her actions? Then again, if killing her will save the world then who are you to save one life against the weight of the life of all others?
I think about this question a lot, honestly; the weight of a single life. If the princess has been in the basement as long as she says and no one knows she’s there, what is the weight of her life? If her life creates no social ripples, she has no other living beings upon which she gives some force or pull, how much does her life weigh against all the forces that every other living being creates against each other? You will be asked to consider this question a lot. As the situation changes, you’ll be asked to reconsider it with new evidence. In many ways, it’s the trolley problem, except the one you’re potentially pulling the lever against every time is known to you. As you act or don’t each time, you’ll begin to know the princess more and more. How does this tip the scales for you?
The writing is incredibly snappy too. Whilst the voice work does a lot of heavy lifting, the writing and art are not to be left unaccounted for. Multiple times I was laughing out loud despite myself at the dialogue. I don’t do this often but this game goes from macabre to cosmic horror to absurdity in the blink of an eye that it’ll catch you off guard.
Whilst it only took me around three hours for a single playthrough, the developers allege it’ll take around twenty to see all the content. After each playthrough, I needed a breather to just decompress and digest what I had seen, and what I had done. I believe strongly in cognitive behavioural therapy, so I often found myself mulling over the decision I made and what had changed that made me feel differently this time than the time before.
Slay the Princess will stay with you for a long time, I think. It’s absurdist and dark and haunting in a way that not a lot of games are. If you have an itch for something that’s spooky but also morally confronting and you will be thinking about it for days to come, it’s impossible not to recommend this.
Slay the Princess was reviewed on the PC with code kindly supplied by the publisher