Review: Haunt the House: Terrortown
Ever since the classic Ghost Master gave players the power to scare idiot homeowners out of their dwellings, I’ve been eager to see more games about being the haunter rather than the hauntee. Poltergeist: A Pixellated Horror was another fine offering, if a little simple. Now we have Haunt the House, possibly the most polished of the haunting simulators yet, but still not as deep as you might be hoping.
You take on the role of the cutest ghost in the entire world (seriously look at him) as he works to scare away every mortal in sight. You’re going to need more than his adorably pitiful ooOOoo though, which is why you can possess just about every object in the game. Once you have taken over a chair or lamp or dresser or whatever, you get some new options to terrify those in the vicinity. Most objects can move or make some little sound, but once you raise the overall terror level in the building (shown in a big, helpful bar at the bottom) you can unlock new moves with certain objects like projecting apparitions and breaking things.
Starting out, the gameplay appears dead simple. You find the largest gathering of people, possess something, mash your spook button until everyone flees, then repeat. After a some time with your ghostly bud you’ll come to discover there’s a little more nuance to it than that. People recover their composure after escaping a spook, so chasing down specific victims and chain-haunting them is far more effective for getting them out of the house. You can also corral terrified residents to windows which they will gladly leap from to save you the wait for them to reach the door. Not all spooks are equal, either, as the ones that can be unleashed rapid-fire can send people into a tizzy before they can escape.
The base scenario, Terror Town, features an open map with four locations to haunt. There’s also the mansion from the original Flash game, a holiday map, and a train with three cars. Most areas have 20 to 30 people to run off, along with some secrets to find like fatalities you can cause and objects with special spooks. That should be enough to keep you busy for an hour, but beyond that… I can’t really say. You’re scored on the efficiency of your haunting and there are achievements to turn up, though if neither of those interest you then this is going to be a short game.
I will say that I can’t get enough of the bold, cartoony look Haunt the House revels in. Possessed objects do all sorts of ridiculous and adorable things, from tables dancing to portholes becoming eldritch portals. Your victims are all wide-eyed caricatures with giant expressions and silly screams. The sound design sells a lot of it, in fact, with equally adorable honks and swishes for the spooks and an old-tymey cinema soundtrack. It looks great, sounds great, and plays great (especially with a controller), it’ll just be over before you know it. But if you like terrifying virtual people as much as I do, it’s a good time while it lasts.