Also On: PS4, Xbox Series X, PC, Switch, VCS
Developer: Orbit Studio
Haunted House is a classic Atari 2600 game that you either love or hate. It was a simple maze game where you wander through a haunted house looking for treasure. Your character was represented by a pair of eyeballs and you had to avoid ghosts and monsters while using a lantern to find the hidden treasure. It was simple but offered a slight challenge. This remake takes that premise and adds a few new twists and challenges, and it works… to an extent.
This version of Haunted House is a roguelite similar to Hades with less to worry about weapons and combat. You control one of many kids trapped inside a haunted mansion, a place cursed with magic that makes its rooms constantly change layouts with each new run. You set out looking for your Uncle, who has also been trapped inside the mansion. You must solve each rooms puzzles to eliminate the monsters and move onto the next room. How you do that is dictated by what you have to do in each room. For example, you may only have to find a magic Idol and place it on an alter to finish the room. However other rooms have you sneaking around, avoiding traps, checking chests and activating torches to complete the puzzle.
Each time you get caught and lose all your life, you begin back in the lobby and have to try again. You don’t lose progress through the mansion, but the rooms will change and be different every time you play. You do have a lantern that can eliminate the enemies, but it’s difficult to get the hang of, fortunately, you can find traps and other items that can help you get past some of the ghouls that are trying to kill you and health items to keep you alive. there are also collectables you can find throughout the mansion that will unlock some rewards like more health, a stronger lantern and more speed.
Using the traps and your lantern for “combat” is really awkward. Sometimes it seems really useless to try and fight and your only option is to try and run. Sometimes getting away and hiding works better than engaging in actual fights here. Most of the time you will be sneaking around so that the baddies won’t see you, but even that isn’t fool proof. You will find yourself going back to the lobby many, many times due to a cheap enemy, a failed trap, or making enough noise that alerts every creature in the room. One thing you can find while exploring is old Atari 2600 cartridges, which filled me with hope that this would unlock the ability to play them, but sadly no they are only for extra currency. In fact, most hidden collectables do nothing spectacular, which seems like a missed opportunity, as there is no real reason to seek them out.
Visually, the game is cartoon like and very PG. Since it’s a roguelite aimed at a younger audience you won’t be seeing pools of blood or scary demons made of fire. Just goofy slime monsters, and very tame looking ghosts. The rooms of the mansion are stylized in a similar manor to kids movies like Monster House or Paranorman. The sound design is very fitting with with some age appropriate music tracks and some light grunts and groans from the ghosts. Nothing fancy or too overly impressive, but it works for what is presented here. There are no voices for the characters, only text, and yes there is a TON of reading especially in the tutorial levels. Your little ghost buddy you meet in the intro is… quite chatty.
Overall, Haunted House is fun for a while, but it begins to lose it’s charm the further you get into it. The game is okay for a few runs, but you may begin to lose interest quickly and want to stop. It’s a decent remake for sure, though very average overall and just not as compelling or satisfying as other roguelites or even other Atari remakes available. Maybe try a demo before purchasing to see if this will appeal to you.
Note: Atari provided us with a Haunted House PS4/PS5 code for review purposes.