reviews\ Oct 30, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Haunted House review


Based on the Atari 2600 adventure game of the same name, Haunted House tasks the player with exploring and unraveling the secrets of--you guessed it--a haunted mansion. Actually, it’s not so much a mansion as it is a redundant maze of the same annoying rooms filled with a ridiculous amount of fireplaces. Seriously, just buy a central heating system! There are four different areas of the house, each with a handful of levels and a climaxing in a boss battle, but the real challenge is forcing yourself to play beyond the first stage. Why? I’m glad you asked. Read on.

As in the original, darkness and light plays a vital role best described as a clunky combination of Alan Wake and Luigi’s Mansion. You’ll need to have a steady supply of light sources (such as matches, torches, and hundreds of cellphones which have somehow been locked away in this very old mansion....) to constantly find your way. And that’s not something the developers seem to want you to do, as they completely missed the past 30 years of progression in adventure games; you’ll be perpetually hindered by the environments which don’t turn transparent when they’re blocking the view of your character or nearby dangers, and even when a mandatory text window pops up you are stopped in your tracks but can still be attacked by enemies. Unacceptable. It’s actually a good thing you can barely see anything at all because Haunted House has some of the worst character designs and kindergarten cutscenes since the 3D0.

Various obnoxious enemies such as rats, bats, and ghosts will chase you down and attack you while you search cabinets and chests for keys. For the entire first area you have no method of combating these enemies other than lighting a fireplace and drawing them into the light. You have torches that cast even greater light than the fireplaces, but they inexplicably don’t have any effect on the magical rats. Eventually though you’ll get special relics which you can use to attack the spectres, making your annoying and incredibly naive character somewhat less of a useless sack. If you really want to punish a friend the game can be played cooperatively, but the current leaderboards don’t even fill an entire screen which means that pretty much everyone except for you would have something better to do.

It both astounds and saddens me that a game like Haunted House can successfully make its way from concept phase to something a company expects you to buy, with money. Even on XBLA, where quality does not always go hand-in-hand with quantity, this is one of the worst releases yet in the nearly 350-game library. Considering its namesake is one of the forefathers of survival horror video games, the new Haunted House brings nothing meaningful to the table whatsoever, and all it can offer is a frustratingly obsolete experience that deserves to be buried alongside copies of E.T. and Jimmy Hoffa.


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