While casually scrolling through the Steam catalog, I noticed a new visual novel labeled as a psychological horror. Normally I wouldn’t bat an eye, but the overwhelmingly positive reviews piqued my interest. Although it took me 3 hours to reach the game’s first ending, I’ve been left wanting for more. The idea of the game is simple, you are the Hero, and you are on your way to slay the princess. Why would a hero slay the princess instead of saving her? That’s because the world will end if she’s left alive. Although the premise sounds a bit grim, one of the first things told to us after launching the game contradicts the whole idea. After all, the game tries to tell us that first and foremost, it’s a love story.
I’m a person that doesn’t really mind games being short. If the story told is well-written and captivating I don’t mind the game being a few hours long. Some of the best indie games I’ve played such as Signalis, Doki Doki Literature Club, Coffee Talk, and Katana Zero, didn’t span over 7-8 hours of playtime in total. However, howlongtobeat claimed that the game could be finished in a little bit over 3 hours. And yes, that’s how long you need to get to the end of the game. The route you take to accomplish that can vary extremely, which allows you to play through the game a couple of times.
The main idea behind Slay the Princess is that the titular Princess changes her appearance, behavior, and the way she talks every time you meet her. That’s not all that changes. The very place she’s held captive at, the way to the cabin, the music, her voice. In some situations, the entire theme of the game gets changed as the game can make you feel safe, terrified, or inferior to the Princess you are facing. The game is pretty much a 3 chapters-long visual novel where you, the player, can approach the situation in a very different way each time you confront the Princess. You can instantly slay her, you can try to save her, you can talk with her to understand the whole situation better, and then decide your plan. Each chapter though, a slight spoiler (you need to play the game for around 10 minutes to reach this point), mainly ends with you, the hero, dying. Depending on your actions toward the princess, the whole setting changes, and so do the options you have when confronting the “new” princess, which gives the game quite an interesting spin.
Essentially, your job as the hero is to collect fragments of the princess. After each 3 chapter long “run” the version of the princess you encounter is absorbed. After each absorbed fragment you get to ask more questions that will allow you to understand the world and weight of your decisions much more. After gathering a certain number of princesses, you get to the ending where everything is unveiled and just when you thought you knew everything, you realize you have to play the game, again and again, to get every fragment of the princess since every version you encounter can give you more and more intel on what’s actually going on.
As for the writing, I have to say it’s superb as well as the voice acting. In the entire game, there are only two voice actors and the way they can spin their voice to essentially match the character they are currently voicing is masterful. Due to lots of “versions” of the princess, not all, in my opinion, sounded perfect, which doesn’t change the fact that most of the voices were very well matched.
The art direction in this game is also something different. The whole game only uses white and shades of black and red, giving it a very simplistic style that fits the atmosphere of the entire experience. Not every princess design was on the same level, but almost all of them feel unsettling and give you that weird, creepy vibe. It really has been a while since I played a visual novel that looked this different, yet very good. I don’t know how to explain it properly but every setting, every version of the princess, every part of the experience… just fits.
The soundtrack was simply one of the best OSTs I’ve heard from an indie game. Each song felt like a part of the scene, rather than just a slap-on or background noise. From epic themes to heartwarming ballads, you name it, this game most likely got it. The fact that one person managed to compose so many tracks in so many styles is just mindblowing. Instead of reading how I try to describe the music poorly, I’ll just let you press play below and listen to the songs on your own:
Slay the Princess was developed and published by Black Tabby Games. Although the studio is fairly new (this is their second game), I’d say that they did a great job as the US$20 I paid for the game was returned to me in full and even more. Slay the Princess gives you the means to shape the story and your journey in a way few games do. Since the game is short you see the fruits of your decisions very fast. Thanks to that you don’t have to constantly reload the game or dwell thinking whether you made a correct choice 20 hours ago in that one conversation. Even after finishing it twice, you notice there are forms of the Princess you have yet to encounter. And just as the game tells you in the beginning, don’t be deceived, it’s one of the most captivating short stories about boundless, true love between two people who are ready to do anything for each other.
On December 16, 2023, Black Tabby Games announced a patch titled “The Prinstine Cut,” which will be released in 2024. It will add new chapters to the game and expand on some of the existing ones. The patch will be free, and the game’s price won’t change after the release of “The Pristine Cut.” In the era of expensive DLCs this is a truly commendable choice and I can’t wait to see what it brings.
Slay the Princess is currently discounted on Steam as part of the Steam Winter Sale.