The Atari 2600 wasn’t exactly known for creating games of great depth. So it was a surprise to just about everyone when Atari announced a remake of one of the more popular games from that era, Haunted House. Back in the glory days of sparse visuals the concept of controlling nothing more than a set of eyes through a dark mansion was certainly intriguing, but nowadays that mechanic simply falls flat. It also doesn’t help that the core concept hasn’t been fleshed out a whole lot. What we are left with is a game that is great for nostalgia, but not quite revamped enough to qualify as updated.
One of the bigger additions to this update is the addition of a narrative, or at least an attempt at one. Instead of playing as just a set of blinking eyes, you can now choose between Jacob or Silvia. These siblings have a reason to be at Graves Mansion outside of just wanting to visit a freaky haunted house. This was the last place their grandfather was seen alive and their goal is to uncover the mystery of what happened to him. As you can imagine this is about as compelling as it is deep, which isn’t saying much. There are journals lying around that give you some insight, but none of it is integral to the overall game. Instead you are left feeling like this tacked on story was there simply to make the game feel more modern.
The original game had you collecting urn pieces in dark rooms while avoiding ghosts. The sequel returns to this formula but also adds a host of other things to collect. You can also now light up rooms with fireplaces which are meant to be your safe haven, but you are constantly lighting matches to keep your torch lit in the beginning of the game. The ghosts are also not hard to avoid so having your torch lit is not a necessity. To expand the game outside of the simplistic find and retrieve mentality, the developers have added even more finding and retrieving in the form of other objects. Seriously adding more things to collect that have no pertinence on the game itself is lazy padding, and don’t help make the game feel any more in-depth.
Visually the game does look quite impressive, especially the lighting. Torches cast nice shadows and the enemy designs are definitely leaps and bounds above the original bedsheet baddies. My biggest complaint is the repeating textures and items. With as big as the mansion is it is easy to get lost in this maze of monotony. Everything else fares much better with rock solid frame rates and decent design.
What it all boils down to is a game of hide and seek while trying to avoid various baddies. The game is great for a younger crowd, but the simplicity and monotony will even wear on their nerves after a while. Still if you have a soft spot for the original it is hard not to appreciate some of the work that has gone into this remake. Shallow gameplay and simplistic design are the biggest culprits here, but to be honest there are just some games that were not meant to be remade under any circumstance. Haunted House is not a terrible game, just one that probably should have remained a fond memory.
Review copy provided by publisher.