Review – Haunted House

A lot of you may have never even heard of this game, but I was actually looking forward to replaying Haunted House, a reboot of an Atari 2600 classic, widely considered to be the first (ish) survival horror game of all time. I had the chance of previewing the game a while back, at BIG Festival 2023, as well as interviewing one of its developers. All that was missing was getting my hands on the final product, touted to be a brand new take on the series after a disastrous reboot attempt in the mid-2010s, and see if it was worth the wait.

Haunted House lamp

Your lamp is your most trustworthy weapon… and it’s still weak as hell.

As previously mentioned, Haunted House is indeed a roguelite, but one with a lesser emphasis on combat. In this game, you control one of many kids trapped inside a haunted mansion, a place cursed with a spell that makes its rooms constantly change layouts with each new run. Each room contains a puzzle. Solve that puzzle, and the door to the next room is unlocked, and all enemies inside of the current room are destroyed, becoming currency which can be exchanged for in-run upgrades. You can also collect rare gems which can be exchanged for permanent upgrades for your character in the mansion’s lobby.

The emphasis on combat might be lessened, but it’s not nonexistent. It’s just that you only have access to a few traps and a magical lamp that can defeat enemies like a Ghostbusters proton pack, but there are two issues: traps are finite items located at random (and at small quantities), and your lamp is stupidly slow, whilst enemies are fast and bulky. If possible, sneak past enemies. Their lines of sight are always visible, and you also have access to a few stealth-based buffs. Health and ammo are scarce during runs, so be careful. Haunted House is not a hard roguelite by any means, but it’s not a cake walk, either.

Haunted House disguise

Don’t mind me, I’m clearly a very dead ghost, just coming through.

Furthermore, the combat could have received a little more polish. It’s not bad, but given how Haunted House is presented in an isometric perspective, aiming and throwing your traps can be tricky at times, especially when there’s more than one enemy near you. The game tends to automatically direct you towards the nearest foe, even when that’s not exactly who you want to get rid of first.

So you know the drill: keep exploring the mansion, obtain items, get defeated, cash in on your permanent upgrade currency, start another run with improved stats, and try to make to the end of the section, where you might be able to unlock a new character after beating a boss. There is also the possibility of looking for classic Atari cartridges scattered throughout the mansion (don’t ask why, maybe the ghosts are really into Combat or Yars’ Revenge), which can be handed over to a nerdy kid who also inexplicably lives in one of the rooms in the titular haunted house.

Haunted House butler

A butler? Well then, we now know who’s the murderer in this mansion.

This isn’t a mind-blowing gameplay loop, but Haunted House isn’t trying to be Hades or anything like that. Its appeal is the fact it’s mostly centered around stealth and slight puzzle solving. It is a bit annoying at first, given how utterly frail your protagonist is, but it doesn’t take long until you’re able to upgrade your health and the power of your lamp. In fact, I was able to cash in on both after a mere run. This is when the game becomes more interesting and more replayable. There’s enough room variety to ensure multiple playthroughs, and the progression system is fair enough to motivate you to play “just one more round”.

It’s a good thing that Haunted House features a somewhat appealing gameplay loop, because it’s not going to win anyone over with its presentation. Again, it doesn’t look bad, with cute, hand-drawn visuals, but it’s a bit cheap and repetitive to look at. I assume the game didn’t have a big developmental budget to begin with, as all of its cutscenes were completely static, and there’s no voice acting, or even voice clips, to begin with. Thankfully, whilst the theme song is played ad nauseum, it’s good enough to never get on your nerves. It sounded a bit Scooby-Doo-ish, and that’s never a bad thing.

Haunted House Tobias

I have so many questions I don’t even know where to begin…

Haunted House overcomes its low budget aesthetics and occasional lack of polish with a simple, but unique gameplay loop featuring elements from roguelikes, stealth games, puzzlers, and survival horrors (well, the PG kind of survival horror). It just features enough room and puzzle variety, as well as decent progression system, to keep you wanting to play just one more round, just to see if you can finally beat that one annoying boss, or if you can find another Atari cartridge to hand over to that nerdy kid at the lobby. By no means the most impressive roguelite title out there, but a decent return to form to a franchise so heavily mistreated in the past.


Graphics: 6.5

Hand-drawn, with the occasionally impressive particle effect, and cute, but also a bit repetitive.

Gameplay: 7.0

It’s quite different from most roguelikes, with its emphasis on stealth and puzzle-solving, but the controls are responsive and somewhat easy to learn. I feel like the combat could have been a bit more polished, especially when deploying traps.

Sound: 6.5

The theme song is played ad nauseum, but it’s good enough to never get on your nerves. The rest of the game is mostly devoid of sound effects and there is no voice acting whatsoever. The “combat” music is also tense enough, being played just at the right time.

Fun Factor: 7.5

It’s a neat mixture between a kid-friendly survival horror, a stealth game, a puzzler, and a roguelike. There’s enough room variety to ensure multiple playthroughs, and the progression system is fair enough to motivate you to play “just one more round”. Not a mind-blowing game by any means, but still very enjoyable.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Haunted House is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC, Nintendo Switch, and Atari VCS.

Reviewed on PS5.

A copy of Haunted House was provided by the publisher.