Initially, Slay the princess, by developer and publisher Black Tabby Games, is a game about trust. The Princess herself will tell you that shortly after you first meet her. The Narrator insists that you kill her, or else the world will end. But when you first see her, chained and unarmed, it’s hard not to doubt that assertion. Is she really a threat, or just a prisoner? Slay the Princess sits you squarely between the Princess and the Narrator, two characters that feel more like forces of nature: diametrically opposed and always beyond your grasp. They both share compelling truths, yet keep so many secrets. In the face of this uncertainty, who will you trust? It’s a unique take on horror in visual novels, but it works wonders.
The choice of who to believe is available right from the start: you can simply not go to the cabin where the Princess is being held, immediately defying the Narrator. This choice is not without consequence, of course, but consequences are the whole point of the game. It’s a branching narrative, and you will have ample opportunities to revisit the scenario and take different approaches to see what changes. I would advise against using the quick save/quick load feature until you reach an ending, though. There’s more at play than just a Princess and a Narrator, and it would be selling this experience short to dwell on Chapter 1. The mystery of the situation is a crucial part of the narrative, so I won’t say too much further. Only that the pacing was a little repetitive at times, which lots of time-loop-style games suffer from. But that doesn’t take away from the very solid execution all-around.
The presentation of these choices is overwhelming at first. A staggering list of options fills the right side of the screen when you first get to make a decision, so many that you have to scroll quite a ways to reach the bottom. But as will become clear through play, Explore prompts return to the same choice. They add context or understanding without moving the story forward, so they’re a great option when you’re not sure what to do next. They’re a nice way of fleshing out the world without forcing you to skip through all of that dialogue every time, but seeing a dozen pop up all at once is hard to parse.
Aside from its story elements, this game is sleek and beautiful. Its restrained use of color only in the Princess’s dialogue is well utilized, and makes her seem more out of place and unpredictable. The art is generally fantastic, with a soft parallax effect on the hand-drawn scenes that swirls as your cursor moves around. The music is more varied and dynamic than I originally expected from a horror game, but in context it works quite well. The Princess’s voice acting was my favorite personally, and the Narrator’s was rather annoying at the start, but he grew on me by the end.
Horror is born of the absence of knowledge, especially when we’re aware of a gap, but not how to fill it. Slay the Princess leans into this idea, creating an unconventional cosmic kind of horror. There are no jumpscares, no threats of death or lost progress. Instead, its constant forward momentum becomes its source of horror. What seems like a time loop keeps evolving in ways you can never predict or understand. The only certainty is that this situation you’re trapped in is beyond your grasp, and will remain that way for some time. Slay the Princess is an unsettling experience in the best way possible.
Slay the Princess is available for PC via Steam.
Video games are my personal favorite art medium by far. I love how many ways an interactive story can be told, and I can't stop myself from getting hooked on a good puzzle. I'm a student majoring in game design and music, so I hope to make creative work a part of my life going forward.