Hands-on Preview – Haunted House
BIG (short for Brazil Independent Games) Festival isn’t known for international gaming reveals from any kind of relatively important publisher, but Atari decided to actually showcase a brand new game at the show, most likely due to the fact it was being developed by a Brazilian studio in the first place. Sure, there was another Recharged revival title at the show, but the flagship game the company was mostly promoting was a brand new take on their classic (I think?) Atari 2600 game, Haunted House.
The original Haunted House was a simple adventure game where a pair of eyes was supposed to look for three pieces of an amulet inside a pitch-black mansion, all while avoiding ghosts and other enemies. Other attempts at reviving the franchise were released over the past years, including a cartoonish adventure game, as well as a (terrible) modernized survival horror take on it, which has since been delisted. This new Haunted House is actually an isometric roguelike, but one that, according to its developers, de-emphasizes combat.
That was a bit weird at first. It’s not that we can’t attack enemies with a device that’s a mixture between a flashlight and the Ghostbusters‘ proton pack, but you’re weak, you’re frail, and they aren’t. It was indeed best to avoid conflict, but here’s the kicker: I am way too fragile, slow, and my dash stamina doesn’t last for long. I assume this is where the roguelike elements come into play, but I didn’t have a lot of time to play the demo to see these improvements take shape. If so, they can result in me become less annoying to control. If not, then oh boy.
As for the rest, I did like the cartoonish art style. Let’s pretend that the last Haunted House has never happened and let’s revert back to cartoonish visuals. I also appreciated the nods to other Atari games and other pop culture references. Sure, that is present in literally every single Atari release, but I get what they do it: Atari is all about nostalgia. Ride on that train, guys, there is no shame in that.
I didn’t see enough of this brand new take of Haunted House to properly feel excited (or not) about it, but it sure felt… interesting. A roguelike that de-emphasizes combat is a tough sell, but if the fragility and lack of pace of my main character gets fixed before released, then this might have a chance to succeed. At the end of the day, it all boils down to the quality of its lasting appeal. Will it have a decent reward system? Will the core gameplay loop be replayable enough? I guess I’ll have to wait for the final release to see.
Haunted House has no confirmed release date as of now, but it’s slated for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC, Switch and the Atari VCS.