Slay the Princess review - princess built up like a lizard

Slay the Princess review – guided by voices

The most difficult battle we face every day is against ourselves: our insecurities, our doubts, our fears, our injustices, our arrogance. A million voices inside yourself that have to be silenced in order for us to function. Slay the Princess reminds us of how fragile human beings are, despite masks, façades and attempts at being something else, even divine and superior. A beautiful visual novel, filled with existential dread.

The whole idea of Slay the Princess is that we are dumped in media res, without introductions or explanations. We are in the woods, heading towards a house with a single objective given by our narrator: slay the princess or she’ll end the world. Naturally, it’s not nearly as simple since our “voice of the Hero” will provide doubts and internal narration: should we really believe our narrator without even talking to her?

The writing continues on this whole thread of “is she really a monster or not?” and the answer is both. Slay the Princess is a commentary on existence, but also on our relationship as players with game characters. Is everything really gone when we reset the game and start again? Do our memories carry on when playing, even between different games? How can we define ourselves as players interacting with a piece of media?

Mechanically, Slay the Princess does function like most visual novels. We progress through dialogue and click the desired option when we wish to interact with characters or objects. The game indicates with “Explore” the options which are just conversations and do not change anything, thus indicating that only acting (or rather, reacting) brings changes to the plot.

I am not sure if it is by design or not, but my playthrough of Slay the Princess seemed to be almost dictated by a puppeteer. I felt like everything was perfectly clicking into place, my every choice not being “wrong”, but feeling like that was the way things were supposed to go. It’s like my choices were being respected by the game, instead of mocked at or leading to a game over like in countless other examples of visual novels (or adventures in general). Here’s looking at you, Disco Elysium.

In this, Slay the Princess functions like a well-oiled clock. Everything clicks, and it feels like destiny that you are at that point in time and at that place. While the writing does hinge a bit too much on the “is she a monster or not” trope at times, especially after the first times we’ve already been through it, everything else is just smooth and meaningful. An incredible accomplishment by the team. I was glued to the screen until I got to the end. Not many times do I complete a game in a single session without a break, but Slay the Princess had me enthralled.

Graphically, Slay the Princess does present an interesting conundrum. Everything is drawn by hand like it was pencilled in. There is a definitely a pinch of anime style in how the princess is drawn, and her especially huge eyes were initially distracting. But in the end, they lend themselves perfectly to how she will change and modify her whole being with every twist and turn of the plot. The horror is definitely there, heightened by the sound design, but it does never go overboard. Definitely more of a psychological horror, than a somewhat bland gorefest.

Also, a note for the voice acting. It was all done by two actors doing all the voices for all the different internal voices of the “hero” and for the princess’ numerous shapes as well. Quite a feat indeed.

Slay the Princess is one of the best visual novels of the year, if not one of the best narrative games period. With a well-oiled plot that leads the player down twists and turns, a perfect clockwork of dialogue and choices that will leave us questioning our very existence and being, along with a satisfying ending regardless. This is one that fans won’t really want to miss, but all lovers of good fiction should definitely want to grab that dagger and get to work.

Our Slay the Princess review was made possible with a key by Stride PR. Slay the Princess is available on Steam.

Slay the Princess: An existentially horrific visual novel, with an incredibly well-written plot, a beautiful score and graphics that will enrapture all senses. One of the best narrative games of 2023. Damiano Gerli

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Damiano Gerli

Damiano Gerli was born with a faithful Commodore 64 by his side. It taught him how to program basic adventure games and introduced him to new genres. Then, he fell in love with Sega -- while the Master System wasn't as powerful as the Genesis, it was where he played Sonic and Outrun. Years later, he got the idea that he was the most Sega-knowledgeable person in the world, so he opened a website in 1997, The Genesis Temple. Damiano is a gaming industry professional and historian, loves adventure and indie titles, but he never shies away from action and triple-A RPGs. Basically, Damiano is been writing about videogames for 20 years, with no plans to stop. Say hi to him on X at @damgentemp.