Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
If you haven’t played Spooky’s House of Jump Scares [official site], you can probably remedy that right now. The game is free and you could have it installed in a few minutes, provided your internet connection is decent and you’re capable of clicking a couple of buttons on Steam. As to whether you should play Spooky’s House of Jump Scares, I cannot say for sure. I found it to be a very silly game right up until the moment it scared me so much that I threw my headphones away.
The whole thing starts with a joke we’ve seen a thousand times before. Spooky is cute and the game looks for all the world like a parody of the typical jumpscare horror experience. Little cardboard cutouts of ghosts and pumpkins snap into view as cute sound effects play. “This isn’t spooky at all,” you might be thinking. “I’ve been duped!”
And then you find the letters. Every horror game seems to have some kind of audiolog or wordy diaries scattered around its corridors. The art of writing or recording terrified last words, and documenting the descent into madness, is a core part of the horror experience. Spooky’s House contains scraps of story, left by those who have walked the 1,000 rooms before. They’re funny at first. Both ‘ha ha’ funny and weird funny. Later, they’re downright creepy.
And then the pop-up ghost train cut-outs fade into the background as actual entities hunt you through the house, and narrative threads trip and tangle.
I don’t think Spooky’s is a great game but I find it compelling. There’s a certain appeal to pushing through the scares to dig up a little more information about each of the themed areas and the creatures that inhabit those areas. It’s like a cartoon version of the SCP Foundation and I love those ridiculous and occasionally alarming little stories. In a world where Five Nights at Freddy’s is such a success, I wish a little more attention had been paid to Spooky’s, which has a similar tension but a great deal more variety in its technique.
Although the base game is free (and large), you can throw a few pounds to the developer by purchasing the recently released DLC, Karamari Hospital.