Another month and another Atari release/remaster. This time a re-imagining of the 1982 Haunted House a game loosely credited with starting the survival horror genre and influencing games like Alone in the Dark.
I say re-imagining because apart from the map exploration, and item management Haunted House 2023 takes a huge detour from its influence. Honestly, I don’t think that is a bad thing either.
Developed by Orbit Studio, Haunted House is an isometric roguelite with stealth elements. The plot is pretty simple, the player takes control of Lyn Graves, whose friends have been kidnapped by the ghouls of a mansion they visit. It is then down to Lyn to explore the mansion, to collect pieces of a mysterious urn and rescue her friends. Lynn does that armed with a trusty lantern and determination.
This means exploring a map, split up into rooms, each room has an objective that must be completed before Lyn can move on. These tasks vary from having to find an idol, to stopping a thief, or eliminating a number of ghostly enemies patrolling the area.
To impede the protagonist’s progress are patrolling monsters that will attack on sight or sound. Fortunately, Lyn has a number of tactics up her sleeve, the first is that she can cover her lantern and walk slowly so as to make her less conspicuous, if spotted she can fight them with her lamp but the better option is to sneak up on them and hitting them with one shot, the second is to use weapons littered around the area that can stun/distract/destroy the ghouls.
There are also collectibles and side missions that Lyn can turn in for meta currency and improve her stats (health, stamina, lantern power etc.). All this will be necessary as each area has a boss that then leads to increasingly harder areas.
It is a solid gameplay loop and there is a lot to explore and unlock. I was a particular fan of the collectible Atari cartridges; on delivery I got a summary of the game I had found.
The art style is also a highlight – Lyn is well drawn and each of the monster that litter the house is expressive. The world of gloomy lights, leering paintings and creaky bannisters feels like it could have been a set for an animated Goosebumps movie.
The target audience being preteens that are into light horror (that have probably binged Stranger Things) is probably my only real gripe with Haunted House. As an ardent roguelite player a lot of the challenge is on the light side. I ran through the initial boss on my first try and made inroads to the second boss. I found most of the objectives in each room to be simple, and it felt like only some fussy controls that confounded me, more than the enemies. I understand that this is aimed at a more beginner crowd and in that regard it excels. Haunted House just doesn’t have the lasting power of some of the more of fully fledged ventures.
Scoring this makes it hard as the subjective rating, for me, is average. But do I think that some people are going to try it out and have a great time with it.
A ‘roguelite for beginners’ Haunted House has a charm to it, that anyone eager to dip their toes into something different should try. Definitely not for the terminally rogued.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.