Review – Goosebumps Dead of Night
Video games based off of licensed movies or TV shows are notoriously bad. They tend to only be made for the sole purpose of being a cash grab piggy backing off the success of its source material. There have been a few notable exceptions, like Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics, and Dragons: Dawn of New Riders. However, for the most part they’re nothing but a cheap shell of its source material. Goosebumps Dead of Night from Cosmic Forces is yet another title to add to the licensed tie-in dumpster fire.
Goosebumps Dead of Night is the second game based off the best-selling children’s books, TV show, and subsequent films. The first game, Goosebumps: The Game, was a point-and-click adventure game that didn’t fare too well. Shockingly, Goosebumps Dead of Night is even worse. Instead of creating a new adventure that makes you feel like you’re navigating through one of the “choose your adventure” books, Goosebumps Dead of Night is simply a rehash of the mediocre movie from 2015 with Jack Black.
The ventriloquist dummy, Slappy, has escaped his book and torn out its pages. He has also managed to free many of the other monsters and threats from the other Goosebumps books as well. You are tasked by R.L. Stine (voiced by Jack Black) to find the missing pages and make the book whole again so you can stop Slappy from his nefarious scheme. The premise sounds like it might lend itself to be a decent video game, but the product we’ve been given is dreadful in every way.
Unlike the first game that was a point-and-click style adventure, Goosebumps Dead of Night is a first person survival horror. I appreciate the concept and in theory it could have made for an exciting game with tons of opportunities for fan service, but in reality it is a disjointed, jumbled mess. By all rights this should have been a VR game, but due to wanting to reach a wider audience, they went with a classic console game instead.
The pacing is awful. The first act consists of you searching the house for the loose pages, all while evading enemies wandering around. You’ll have to be wary of the Graveyard Ghoul on the top floor (who spawns from a sarcophagus for some reason), the Werewolf of Fever Swamp on the lower floor, as well as Murder the Clown who will pop up beside you if you remain hidden for too long. Believe me, it sounds far more exhilarating than it actually is. Plodding through the house looking for pages while having to constantly stop and hide every minute or so isn’t so much tense as it is annoying.
The second and third acts pick up a little bit and actually has some puzzles. Understandably, they are on the easy side since this is a game geared toward children. However, even though they’re not terribly challenging, they’re long and tedious and require lots of backtracking and moving things around. I barely had the patience to get through them, so I can only imagine how a child will feel. At one point you even get an electric ray gun to shoot at giant gummi bears, but even this is dull as you’re just wandering through maze-like gray stone paths looking for your objective. There’s no tension or creepiness at all, nor is there anything interesting to look at.
Speaking of looks, Goosebumps Dead of Night is all over the place with its graphics. The whole first act takes place inside of a house and it looks like something you’d see in an early PS2 game. It’s hideous. There’s even a bizarre circle around you when you look at the wooden floors that makes everything within it look like it’s been dropped even further in resolution and covered in mud. You can see what textures they were going for outside of the circle though, not that they’re a whole lot better. This might be the first time in a video game where I’ve experienced graphics looking more polished when they were further away from me. Congratulations Goosebumps Dead of Night on setting records!
The visuals do become more diverse and polished in the second act though when you’re in the plant covered laboratory in the basement. They’re still not mind blowing, by any means, but they are significantly better than the graphics in the house. The third act seems to combine the efforts (or lack there of) form the first two acts and has a blending of decent looking assets and ugly as sin textures and resolution.
None of this matters too much though as Goosebumps Dead of Night has the worst screen tearing I’ve ever experienced. It actually made me nauseous. Anytime you turn, the screen tears in three to five large chunks that all look like they’re fighting with each other for dominance. I truly don’t understand how this happened. This game is not visually demanding at all. How can you take something so remedial and have it perform so poorly? Like I said earlier, this should have been a VR game, as then they would at least have that excuse for the poor graphics, but on regular consoles and PC, they stick out like a sore thumb.
Then there’s the sound design. Aside from the Goosebumps‘ TV show theme playing in the menu screen, I couldn’t tell you what the rest of the soundtrack sounds like. It’s that unremarkable. The sound effects are technically alright, but listening to the same noises over and over, like the gnome’s porcelain feet hitting the ground nonstop, gets tiresome very quickly.
Not to mention nearly every voice is done by Jack Black who is giving the worst performance of his life. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jack Black. I’m a huge Tenacious D fan and love him in most movies he’s in. However, he’s dreadful here. He sounds no better than an average dad reading his kids a bedtime story and doing the voices. Some moments were so terrible that I actually cringed. I’m not just using that over-used expression either. I mean I physically tensed up and grimaced, that’s how embarrassingly bad it was. It’s clear he was just phoning in this performance. Then again, I can’t fault him too much for that.
I wasn’t expecting Goosebumps Dead of Night to be particularly great, but I had no idea it was going to be this disastrous. The gameplay is beyond basic and uninspired, even for a children’s game. The graphics are all over place and even made me sick at times. It’s like they blew most of their budget on Jack Black, who only agreed to take the part because he was contractually obligated. The worst part is that there are some great ideas in here, in theory. If Cosmic Forces had been able to put more money and care into this title, they could have potentially made a really fun game for kids and adults alike. But as it stands, Goosebumps Dead of Night is one nightmare you should run away from.
Certain areas have decent graphics while others look like something you’d find in the early PS2 days. The screen tearing is so severe that it actually made me nauseous.
With children being the target audience, this is a bare-bones baby’s first survival horror. There are a couple puzzles, but it’s mainly just collecting things and hiding under tables.
Jack Black provides nearly all of the voice acting in the game and it’s the definition of cringe worthy.
Between the low res graphics, crazy screen tearing, horrible vocal performances, and mind numbing boring gameplay, Goosebumps Dead of Night is a nightmare to play.
Final Verdict: 3.0
Goosebumps Dead of Night is available now on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch.
Reviewed on Xbox One X.
A copy of Goosebumps Dead of Night was provided by the publisher.