It has taken me a little over two hours to finish Slay the Princess, but that can’t be right. My experience, like my playthrough’s ending, feels infinite. A spiraling swirl of unraveling possibilities with peaceful, haunting, and bewildering facets.
An adventure game with branching narratives and a vast assortment of dialogue options, it should leave me itching to see how others played their roles as the protagonist destined to save the world. But Slay the Princess let me travel every path, live (or die) through every scenario in a perfectly paced, looping journey. Pierced throughout with evocative, hand-drawn visuals and flawless voice-acting, Slay the Princess might have just slashed its way to the top of my favorite games this year.
A text adventure classic stands ready to welcome players to the astonishing two hours’ traffic of this stage. “You’re on a path in the woods. And at the end of that path is a cabin.” Its familiarity is almost comforting, and players will become still more familiar with it as the game goes on.
Using almost stereotypical elements — like naming the first chapter “The Hero and The Princess” — feeds into the enthralling play between treacherous expectation and unforeseen contradiction. Even reading this, you won’t be ready for where this game goes.
Everything plays out in a series of still-ish drawings, leaving much of the action to my imagination. Rather than diluting the experience, my brain is able to conjure up details, guided by impeccably illustrated prompts, that makes each scene far more impactful than even the highest-fidelity graphics could have. But what is present on the screen can at times be intense. So, listen to the game’s early content warning.
This is usually the part where I’d try to sketch the story. However, Slay the Princess defies retelling. It’s one of those games you have to experience in order to understand. The developers insist early on that the title is a love story, and I can’t argue with that.
Though, somehow through all the layers and twists, decisions and realizations, the game’s core really is as simple as the title suggests. I’m here to slay the princess. I can only awe at a team that can make something so simultaneously simple and complex.