Format reviewed: Atari 2600
Publisher: Atari Inc
Developer: Atari Inc
This innovative release from Atari Inc is arguably one of the first examples of survival horror and it’s a cracker to boot, creating an oppressive creepy atmosphere that no amount of flickering visuals could remove.
You’re essentially exploring the house of the late Zachary Graves that consists of four floors and a basement, with different colours to indicate which floor you’re currently exploring. And explore you must, as there are three missing pieces of an urn that need to be recovered. Yes it’s sounds straightforward, until you understand the mechanic that the game uses.
Rooms are pitch black and the only way you can retrieve the precious urn and escape the house is by lighting a match. Any nearby objects are instantly illuminated for a short time, allowing you to grab them and get out in one piece. In addition to the valuable urn, you’ll find additional items that range from keys to sceptres, for opening doors and warding off the spirit of Zachary Graves respectively. It’s a delightful concept and works exceptionally well, especially when you consider that any creature entering the room immediately blows your candle out, adding further to your desperate search. You’ll want to avoid these monsters, as getting hit by them stuns you. Get hit too many times and your time in the haunted house is over.
Haunted House is a wonderful game that was ahead of its time upon release. Atari released a sequel in 2010, and while it features improved visuals and additional search mechanics, it failed to capture the creepiness of the original.