Haunt The House: Terrortown – What We Think
When I first saw this spooky-ooky title from SFB Games, with its handsome seemingly hand-drawn, Slavic children’s book illustration art leanings, monochromatic color palette and shadow puppet animation style, I thought how excited I was to revisit the Ghost Master concept as a 2D platformer on a hipster catwalk.
The premise of Haunt the House: Terrortown is quite simple – you are a ghost. You can affect things in the environment to spook people. As you do – rattling chains, make paintings move, lightbulbs burst, you gradually and increasingly upset the patrons of whatever locale you are presently haunting.
There are 5 such locations in total – from a residence to an Opera house – each of which is full of imagination of dozens of little things into which you can jump and elicit spine-tingling mayhem. The game feels like a Science Center field trip – where you spend most of the day poking, prodding and spinning things. Or you know those chew-safe rubber activity stations they leave babies with to toot horns, rings bells and make cows moo? It’s kind of like that.
All of this nuisance-making can be controlled with a game controller and the default scheme is very satisfying and well thought out. The game is fun to play, with a clean menu and HUD and even a variety of different ghosty types you can choose from (available after you have inadvertently killed those whom perhaps you only meant to frighten).
The Sounds of Seance
The Klezmer-via-Elfman music score is soaked in the blood of a young Vincent Price and nicely supports various character animations as they shift from pleasant demeanors to blood-curdled terror; there is a lot of love in this little world of pestering the living. The voice acting, credited to a small group of freelancers, is over the top and energetic, adding humor and even morbidity to the horrible happenings.
Daybreak So Soon?
Alas, just as I began to get really excited about the game, it was over. In fact, it felt so short, I got a bit mad at it. It felt like a demo! It felt like a proof of concept! I had been scammed and conned! Where was the rest?
In hindsight – I didn’t really pay that much for the title, and I did have a lot of fun, but really, it is short. Like app short. Like, the more I think about it…maybe it was an app once?** I realize though, upon further consideration, that what is going on here is that the developers put all the meat of the game into the hundreds of little objects that you have at your disposal – so rather than look at the game as having too few levels, it is more about considering how many tsotchkes that you discover.
More Haunt, Less Taunt!
Nonetheless, the game still feels very short and I would love to see a DLC or update that introduces some more spectacularly engaging and imaginative designs to romp around with. All told, though lovely to look at, the game is a lacking in substance and ultimately feels more like a highly stylized interactive environment. If that is what you are looking for – this is a little slice of awesome pie.
** (In fact, the game was originally developed for PlayStation Mobile where it fizzled out, but eventually got through Steam Greenlight in only 17 days.)