Haunt the House: Terrortown Review—Of Good Spirits

You’ve always wanted to be a ghost, Haunt the House will make you realize. There’s a cathartic pleasure in gliding between objects and manipulating them to your will, watching mere mortals flee in terror. It’s a power fantasy, no doubt, but it plays out differently from a shooter, and your damage is mostly psychological. It’s a fresh idea, and it’s not an experience you can get anywhere else.

Haunt the House: Terrortown is a sequel to a 2010 free Flash game by indie developer SFB Games (formerly Super Flash Bros.). Whether this $3.49/£2.79 version of Haunt the House deserves your money is anyone’s opinion, but it does refine the visuals nicely, add a lot more variety and, most notably, allow for analog movement.

The purpose of the game is to terrorize every person out of the house and kill off a few key characters, an act which the introduction refers to as “tak[ing] back what’s ours.” This alludes to some sort of ghostly backstory, but the game never elaborates on this. The deaths of these characters are there to give you new playable ghosts to use.

The ghosts control much like a mouse cursor, moving responsively and smoothly, trailing wisps of white ghostliness behind them. Movement feels perfect. It’s extremely effortless to jump between objects with the controls. Possessing objects involves pressing X, then manipulating objects, either through direct movement (these objects are particularly fun), or the Circle, Triangle, or Square buttons, in order of scariness.

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The game's not complicated, but the helpful tutorials don't hurt, either.

The atmosphere meter is the game’s form of pacing, but it feels artificial. The main appeal of the game involves discovery of the often silly and fun spooks, but getting to these involves spamming Circle-button actions to fill up your atmosphere bar, which are far more mundane than the higher-level spooking actions. As it stands, the Circle-button actions tend to be rather boring compared to the higher-level actions, and the bar only blocks your way to the interesting ones.

With playthroughs clocking in at 15-30 minutes, this isn’t a long game by any stretch, but it’s unlikely that you’ll witness every spook on your first playthrough, and trying out the different ghosts adds a little replayability. Another welcome feature: the game saves your exact progress automatically, so you can continue conveniently where you left off. There is a scoring system, but it feels a little disjointed. Points are lost for every human that jumps out of a window when they’re too scared, but the game’s responsive, fast-paced controls clash with the caution needed to keep people from running, screaming, out of a window in terror. It simply feels better to flit in and out of objects speedily and terrorize people with reckless abandon, and the game creates a conflict when it punishes your score for doing so.

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Nothing says horror like good ol' Breakout!

Once you’ve haunted every object, the game loses its thrill, and the conflicts in the game’s systems can pull you in opposite directions. But ignore score and treat it like the toy it is, and you’ll find that Haunt the House is a unique, charming, and lighthearted romp that lets you take the role of a ghost. In the end, how many games let you do that?

6/10

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Comments

10 Responses to “Haunt the House: Terrortown Review—Of Good Spirits”
  1. onmode-ky says:

    “You’ve always wanted to be a ghost”

    Are there specialists for that? I mean, who ya gonna call?

    “wailing out a window in terror”

    Technically, I don’t think that’s proper use of the word (unless you really did simply mean yelling), but I let you claim figurative speech.

    “Nothing says horror like good ol’ Breakout!”

    Eh? I don’t see anything in that shot resembling Breakout.

  2. Aaron Jean says:

    :P

    You’re right about “wailing out a window”. It sounded right when I wrote it, but when I look at it now it makes no sense. I’ve corrected it.

    Really? You don’t see the 2×5 grid of blue bricks? The operating table(with eyes) acting as a paddle? That’s sadly the only reference/easter egg in the game, that I’ve noticed, though. There are lots of silly gags, but it might have been nice to see some more references.

    On another note, this will be my last review for a while. I lost my Vita(it fell out of my pocket on a city bus, I think), so until I can find a way to access PSM again, there’s nothing I can do for the site besides contributing news articles. I’ll do my best where that’s concerned, but you guys seem very quick to catch PSM news items after they surface, so I’m not sure I’d be able to beat Jeremy to it.

  3. JeremyR says:

    Sorry to hear that!

  4. O says:

    Damn. You have my sympathies.

  5. Aaron Jean says:

    Honestly, not being able to write for PSPMinis anymore is one of the biggest downsides to me. It’s been a way for my work to find a little bit of an audience, and a motivation to keep on writing.

    Well, that, and Stranger’s Wrath HD. I was enjoying that game a lot. Did you ever go back to it after your ragequit, O? :P It was my favourite Vita game.

  6. onmode-ky says:

    “You don’t see the 2×5 grid of blue bricks? The operating table(with eyes) acting as a paddle?”

    Hmm, didn’t notice those before. I didn’t expect what you were talking about to be something so small on the screen.

    And losing your PSV, ouch! Mine still stays at home (no pouch). My PSP is always safe and secure in its belt-mount, snap-shut pouch, though (picture 1 picture 2; came as part of the Fate/tiger colosseum limited edition). Wish I could find something similar for the PSV.

  7. Freelance says:

    :(

  8. O says:

    I finally got past that jump, but I didn’t get much farther. The game had the bad luck of releasing right at the start of a sexy line up for me. I haven’t played it in a long time. I’ll give it another go when I’m done with all the other games I’m playing right now.

  9. Aaron Jean says:

    Stranger’s Wrath is really something special. The story gets really good, and I like that’s it’s not just told through cutscenes. The gameworld feels alive.

    The combat is really open-ended too. There are usually several ways to enter a fortress, and different ways to fight enemies(you can push them off of ledges and into traps).

  10. Jason says:

    WHOOOOOOOOOO

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