You find yourself on a path in the woods. A narrator tells you that a cabin lies ahead. And in that cabin is a princess. Your goal? Slay the princess. Why? If you don’t, she will bring about the end of the world. Or so you’re told. Thus begins Slay the Princess, the indie horror game by Black Tabby Games, makers of Scarlet Hollow, another horror title. And so, you have a choice to make.
Game Name: Slay the Princess Platform: PC (Reviewed), Mac, Linux, and Steam Deck Publisher: Black Tabby Games Developer: Black Tabby Games Release Date: October 23, 2023 Price: $19.99
Sounds simple? How could this premise sustain a whole game? You slay the princess or you don’t, right? Well, that’s where things get interesting. Slay the Princess is an intricate role-playing game masquerading as a visual novel. The seemingly omniscient narrator tells you what to do, but you can ask questions. And you can decide whether to do what he wants, or something else. And those choices “reset” the game, placing you in different realities with different circumstances.
Tones of Terror
As such, the narrator isn’t the only character in this story, nor the only voice in your character’s head as you pick your path. You soon meet The Princess, voiced by Nicole Goodnight, who fellow fans of TheNoSleep Podcast may recognize. Her performance ranges from wholesome to horrifying, as differing realities create wildly different princesses. Her background in horror comes in handy.
Jonathan Sims of The Magnus Archives is an equally talented performer with range. As the narrator and the voices in your character’s head, he puts voice to the various inclinations that manifest in the branching chapters. These include The Voice of the Contrarian and the Voice of the Broken. My personal favorite is the Voice of the Smitten, reminding me of comedian Matt Berry’s pompous romantics.
What’s Black and White and Red All Over?
This variety of performances illustrates how Slay the Princess is many things. The game can be humorous and horrifying, poignant and picturesque. This game has style. The narrative plays out against macabre monochromatic hand-penciled art from graphic novelist Abby Howard. Well, mostly monochromatic. Every now and then a red seeps in there. I think you’ll know why.
Essentially, the game begins with a chapter in which choices determine what kind of princess one will meet and how she’ll appear in the second chapter. As for the second chapter, player choices can lead to a resolution for that branch or extend into a third chapter. Either way, the game eventually “resets” to the first chapter. At this point, the prior second chapter route will no longer be available for that playthrough, regardless of what choices one made during it.
As such, there’s no need to worry about stumbling down the same path over and over. Likewise, you can expect to see just a few storylines during a standard playthrough, which takes about three to four hours. Players occasionally meet an entity that they can ask how far they’ve come and what they’ve done so far.
To Slay the Princess or Not to Slay the Princess? Or A Secret Third Thing?
The game stresses that there are no “wrong” choices, and I found that to be the case. Now, that’s not to say there aren’t “good” or “bad” choices. It’s just that if you do something “bad,” the game will roll with it. It feels a bit like Dungeons & Dragons at times. Do you want to slay the princess? If so, how? And if not, what do you do instead?
Slay the Princess may invite comparisons to other digital games with branching narratives like The Stanley Parable. But it’s strangely more akin to tabletop role-playing games in how players can build out the world itself through their choices. I don’t want to say much more on this, but Slay the Princess embodies the “yes and” principle well.
The only disappointing aspect I found was the ending. In my first full playthrough, I didn’t find it the culmination of my choices. This might be because I slipped up once in my consistency. But it also may be by design. The ending feels open-ended, allowing one to choose the direct ending there so as to not lock players into the consequences of their actions. I understand the trade-off; doing otherwise might imply a “wrong” choice, but it still didn’t quite satisfy.
Slay and Replay
But while the ending leaves one wanting, Slay the Princess offers heavy replay value. For my second session, I decided to liberally save and reload saves to see how things could play out differently. For my first full playthrough, I made “good” choices, resulting in a relatively bloodless narrative. Relatively. For my second, I chose violence.
While I enjoyed my first playthrough, I was surprised at how different the game became when I made opposite choices. While the horror elements were pretty light the first time around, this time they really sunk their teeth in. Still, since no “right” or “wrong” choices exist, one playthrough provides a complete narrative. It’s just an added treat to see how differently things can go.
Ultimately, Slay the Princess comes together when one embraces the multitude. Make a kind choice and see that kindness repaid. Do something horrific and expect a terrifying scene in response. And, like the best dungeon master, make a chaotic choice and see that returned. Slay the Princess can crash the entire game, break the format of options offered, and likely do even more that I have yet to experience. And these qualities will keep you returning to the cabin time and time again to see your choices pay off.
Review Disclosure Statement: Slay the Princess was provided to us by Black Tabby Games for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
Affiliate Link Disclosure: One or more of the links above contain affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission should you click through and purchase the item.
Slay the Princess is a must-play for fans of branching narratives. Choices have consequences, and how much horror you encounter falls to you. Along the way, enjoy the macabre visuals and audio. While the game can’t put a bow on every decision, replaying for extra routes proves a royal pleasure. Turn down the lights, cozy up with a nice cup of tea (may I suggest blood orange?), and decide whether or not to commit regicide.
A ghoulishly inventive choose-your-own-adventure narrative.
Two talented performers playing a multitude of personalities.
Creepily macabre visuals with expressive character designs.
Endings can’t quite account for the multitude of choices.