08 February 2016

SPOOKY, KOOKY, OOKY

Spooky's House of Jump Scares certainly lives up to its name...well, for a while, at least.  The first dozen or so times that you get "jumped" by a cute-but-spooky cardboard ghost, skeleton, spider, tree stump, or...er...ice cream cone (?)...you will, in all probability, quite literally jump out of your seat.  After that, of course, one inevitably gets somewhat acclimatised to it all.  But what's all this about cuteness and ice cream cones, you ask?  Yup, you got it:  We're knee-deep in the muddy waters of post-post-post-post-modernism here.  But for all its whimsy, this game does at least deliver on the scares and atmosphere, not least of all because it's a great big nudge-nudge, wink-wink fest for fans of famous horror game franchises such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Amnesia (heard of any of those?)!

 

GAMEPLAY


That aside, this is a very competently made, easy-to-learn game which just about anybody can pick up and play, irrespective of their past horror game experience.  It undeniably does a good job of "training" its player how to move quickly through its many - but not that many - randomly-ordered "rooms"/corridor configurations.  You'll undoubtedly traverse the same areas over and over again, and it's a good thing, because you'll need to know them like the back of your hand by the time the really FAST enemies start chasing you, and the architecture itself starts twisting before your very eyes, to the degree that you haven't a hope in hell of finding that exit door unless you've traversed it all before.  It is, having said that, a by-and-largely very intuitive game, and therein fulfils the most basic design principle which any good video game, horror or otherwise, should arguably aspire to:  Namely, it's not hard to learn, but it is challenging to complete.

TO SAVE OR NOT TO SAVE?  THAT IS THE QUESTION


What Spooky perhaps doesn't do well is save points.  Now, I know all of you "hardcore" gamers out there couldn't disagree with me more, but I'd like to think that most horror gamers are in it more for the atmosphere than the boasting privileges, so it's about time that game developers realised that having to repeat the same ten minutes of gameplay over and over again is neither "scary" nor "challenging".  In fact, there's nothing which takes the scary out of a scary game more than knowing precisely what's coming next, 'cause you just did it six times in a row already...and there's nothing less rewarding, at least for myself as a gamer, than having to re-do some bit which I've already "conquered", over and over and over again, ad nauseam. 

Seriously, it's fucking tedious, and completely unnecessary.  Or, in other words:  It's dodgy game design.  Spooky's insistence that you do 50 or 100 rooms at a time before you're entitled to a save point is both insulting and infuriating at times.  I'm not saying we should be able to save at any given second of the game - that can take away the scariness, too - but I dunno, maybe every ten rooms or so?  Twenty-five, tops?  I don't need to get up to room 682, just to be thrown all the way back to 600 after something unceremoniously snuffs me.  

 

 

CONCLUSIONS


I still heartily recommend this game to all horror gamers with a sufficient tolerance for both cuteness and shitty save points alike, but if you're someone who despises unfair check-pointing even more than I do, then perhaps best give it a miss...it's a free game, which in all fairness probably should  be free, and really isn't worth the cost of replacing your computer or monitor after you angrily throw it out the window or punch a hole through it.

 

KARAMARI HOSPITAL (DLC)


Oh, and I plum-forgot to mention the DLC available, entitled Karamari (no, not calamari!) Hospital...which you do  actually have to pay for.  As I mentioned above, my patience was sorely tested by the save-point system of the main game, but rest assured, I did  still eventually make it all the way to Room 1000 (and the tiny bit beyond).  The DLC is infinitely shorter - less than an hour, at best - and even then, I failed to complete it, because I simply refused to do a certain super-dangerous, super-confusing bit over and over and over again.  

My advice to that effect is simple, then...try out the main game, for free, and if you manage to get to the end of that one then maybe - just maybe - contemplate shelling out for the DLC.  It is a completely shameless "tribute" to Silent Hill, which is certainly never a bad thing in my book.  But even having said that, there's other completely shameless and equally "low-fi" tributes to Silent Hill available, such as Lone Survivor and Claire, which are far more worthy of your time and money.  I dunno...maybe just buy the DLC to say "thank you" to the devs for giving you the main game for free?  That's what I told myself  to feel better about my crappy purchase..

 

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Michael B.

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