Have You Played… Spookys House Of Jump Scares?

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.

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19 Comments

  1. Borodin says:

    There’s a trailer on YouTube. There are no scares ther, but it shows well how the art style deteriorates from cute to sinister

  2. Borodin says:

    Can anyone describe the attraction of games in the horror genre? I have an anxiety disorder so I wouldn’t expect to tolerate them anyway, but it just seems like self-harming to me. I would far rather burn the back of my hand with a lit cigar.

    • Halk says:

      It has nothing to do with self-harm, really. As I have never been really scared by a game, it’s just a bit of fun, a bit of excitement. Horror it’s like violence, in some ways. I can get quite sensitive even seeing someone cut his/her finger a bit in real life, but in games? The more gore the better. It’s just a game, so it’s fun.

      My partner does get pretty scared by horror, but still enjoys it. It’s adrenaline, innit. Just don’t take it too seriously.

    • Mctittles says:

      Been a horror movie/game fan for a long time and played some of the scariest. To me it’s like a roller coaster ride, you get your adrenaline going a bit but know it’s safe and in good fun.

      It wasn’t until I tried DreadHalls in VR recently that I understood why some people don’t like scary games. That went from “hey it’s a little scary but I’m safe watching in my house” to “oh my god I’m all alone, someone left me out here miles from home and I’m never coming back! help!”. So I get it now.

    • DoktorV says:

      I’ve mostly defeated my own anxiety problem, though it used to be fairly bad. I found, rather by accident, that horror movies actually helped by encouraging me to practice controlling my fears at the conscious level. With that and crisis meditation to manipulate the subconscious level I got much better fairly quickly.

    • khamul says:

      My theory? Scary games, movies and so on are a way of dealing with the big Scary Thoughts. Like, some day you’re going to die. Or, you and the people you love aren’t safe. Stuff we wall off, because really there’s no way to deal with it.

      So horror games and movies let us deal with those thoughts via metaphor. Bad stuff happens, but the protagonist gets away: the Bad Thing is put in context, it’s controlled.

      They’ve never really done much for me, either. But then, when I was a wee lad, I had the being-chased-by-a-monster dream – you know the one – and I turned around. And woke up. But I haven’t had that dream since.

    • CaptainDefault says:

      My theory is that it’s about elevating your stress levels, and then lowering them and enjoying the release afterwards. It’s that second part that puts me off a lot of horror games, since many of them don’t really understand pacing and want you to be on edge all the time. Dead Space 1 comes to mind; when I played through that I ended up spending time in the brief safe zones doing nothing, or just walking away from the game between levels, in order to force some pacing into the experience.

      Games that effectively alternate between horror and something else tend to appeal to me. Maybe you’ll feel the same way. I recommend SOMA for horror and puzzles/world-building, and the original F.E.A.R. for horror and action. I’m currently playing Dying Light, whose day-night cycle regularly puts you in the dark against enemies you have to run away from, but only for a few minutes at a time.

      • DoktorV says:

        Speaking of games that blend horror with other elements, I thoroughly recommend Shadow Hearts on the PS2. Get past the graphics and it’s an amazing game, with some of the best music of its generation, and a genuinely interesting plot that perfectly balances creeping horror with slapstick comedy. I exaggerate only slightly.
        The sequel, Shadow Hearts Covenant, is also excellent, but it toned down the horror. The second sequel, From the New World, tried to bring back the horror and slapstick but it wound up being kind of weak.

    • Innocent Dave says:

      I used to like the rush and exhilaration of a good horror mod for half-life, back in the day – they scared the crap out of teenage me, but it was exciting in a way my midlands life didn’t really provide. Crucially, after about 15 mins of elevating my heart rate and pumping myself full of adrenalin, I could go outside and play in the sun.

      But yeah, since getting an anxiety disorder, I’m firmly on the nope train with these games. I spend my whole life in imagined danger, so the urge to keep doing that but with better art direction is fairly weak, especially since I’ll still be in imagined danger when I stop playing, so I won’t get that moment of relief and the chance to ride the high a little.

      Oddly, the closest I can get now to the experience of taking a lovely break from a horror game is being in actual danger, which seems to trigger the same “Oh, I know this situation. I can deal with it. Everything’s going to be ok.” feeling.

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      alison says:

      I don’t think that the horror genre is necessarily about true fear. There are so many different ways to do horror – grotesque imagery, religious symbolism, torture porn, splatterhouse… I am not really a fan of most of this sort of stuff, but it’s more because i find it a little disgusting (or contrived, in the case of jump scares) than because it’s scary. People may play to get an adrenalin rush, or because they are fascinated by the morbid, or whatever, but i don’t think it’s because they like the feeling of lying awake at night paralyzed by anxiety.

      To me the scariest games i have played are not horror games at all, but the game equivalent of psychological thrillers/dramas. Most recently i had this experience with The Beginner’s Guide, because SPOILERS PLEASE STOP READING IF YOU CARE, although it’s just a story, the underlying theme of obsession and unhinged stalkerishness made me really uncomfortable and disturbed my sleep the night after i finished it. Emily is Away had a similar effect. Also PTSD simulators like Spec Ops: The Line have had me reflecting on and sometimes fearing for my own sanity while playing. But those are my personal fears, things that scare me. And on balance i do like when games evoke that, because it can be surprising and adds a depth of experience besides pure escapism. That said, i wouldn’t deliberately seek out that experience because it is harrowing. I think you might be right that people who are seeking that are being self-destructive, but i don’t think horror fans are looking for that emotion.

      All that said, if your anxiety is triggered by “scary monsters” specifically, and it isn’t a general anxiety disorder, i would strongly recommend watching the TV show Face Off. It’s a light-hearted reality show about monster make-up, and shining a light on the process used to create all that “scariness” may help to conquer that specific fear.

  3. Turkey says:

    It almost feels like we’re coming up on or we’re in the middle of some kind of crude videogame art movement with all the meta games coming out lately.

    • SomeDuder says:

      This has been going for a while now (non-game games). Doesn’t help that the media is (being paid to) calling them “art”. It’s a videogame, not the action-packed sequel to Van Gogh’s Mona Lisa (Mona Lisa 2 – Mona harder).

      But hey, apparently “eSports” are a thing too, where sitting on a chair in your warm home eating cheetos and drinking disgusting energy drinks all day gives you the right to call yourself an athlete, so what do I know.

      • Craig Pearson says:

        This has been going on for a while now. For whatever reason, idiots attempt to undermine an opinion by claiming corruption (in parenthesis).

        But hey, apparently a free indie game developer has the cash to spread around the media to ensure their free game (which is free) is mentioned months after its release.

      • PikaBot says:

        You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity.

  4. unraveler says:

    Kinda reminds me Eversion – Start as cute and kids-friendly, but become more and more spooky as you progress further!

  5. kittycatgirl2k says:

    My two nieces (12 and 14) insisted I download this during Christmas holiday. They weren’t scared of horror movies, so they claimed, and wanted to laugh at how dumb this game was. A little over 50 rooms later, and they were hiding upstairs and I had to promise the game was shut off before they came downstairs.

    • unraveler says:

      I always find Horror and Video games as much more effective combination rather than movies; Since in a horror movie you are watching someone else being a victim, and in a horror video game – You are the victim!