“Can you, humble player, make it through one thousand rooms? Can you find what lies at the end? Or… is there even an end?”
Spooky’s House of Jump Scares is a silly horror adventure that balances amusing themes with truly horrifying creatures and situations. Set in a small town shadowed by an eerie mansion, the protagonist an overly-curious history buff who seeks to discover the truth behind the mansion. As soon as you enter the mansion, the ghost of Spooky (the wide-eyed ghost of a small girl who proclaims the mansion is her home) challenges you to navigate the one thousand rooms of her mansion. From there, the player is forced to move through a seemingly endless number of rooms and hallways.
Immediately after encountering Spooky, the player begins to wander the mansion. The mood of the game set by Spooky is not terribly scary, and instead seems to make the light of the challenge. For the first 25 rooms or so, nothing happens, luring the player into a false sense of security. As they player continues through the mansion, “Specimen 1” are encountered, which are really just cardboard cutouts rigged to jump at the player as they pass. The cutouts are silly, and are painted as little cartoon ghosts, spiders, and skeletons. This only perpetuates the feeling of safety, with the only hint of what’s to come being the “romantic” notes left behind by a previous explorer.
Every fifty rooms, the player will encounter a save point and an elevator. The elevator moves deeper into the mansion each time it is used, and with each descent, a new horror is revealed. On the second level of the mansion, the first enemy with the ability to inflict harm is encountered, and after the first silly “monsters,” this real monster–Specimen 2–is a terrifying awakening. From here, the game gets only scarier and the story more dark.
The uncertainty perpetuated throughout the game is truly a work of art. Anticipation and curiosity drive the player forward through each room, where horror ultimately lies behind one of the endless doors. There are 13 total Specimens, ranging from insect-like creatures and corporeal demons to a likeness of the Happy Mask Salesman from the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask.
The controls of the game are easy, straightforward, and very typical of any simple horror. There is minimal interaction with the rooms (usually only reading notes, or picking things up), and the main concern in the game is to push onward. The ability to use a weapon is provided, but because the Specimens cannot be killed, it serves merely as a buffer between the player and death.
Notes are a recurring item in the game, sometimes aiding the player with hints of the next creature to be encountered, and sometimes only adding to the creepiness of the rooms. The notes are sometimes very effective in upping the spook factor, and other times, the poorly articulated nature of the note is distracting and hard to understand. In the case of the note presumably left by Specimen 2, the alliterating poem about endlessly choking sets the stage for his sudden (and alarming) appearance. However, the notes that are left to tell the story of The Puppeteer leave something to be desired in what should be a chilling backstory, and ends up being a poorly written, poorly organized set of essays.
The story within the game, which is contained mostly within the scattered notes, is surprisingly well thought out, despite its lack of propriety. Eerie creatures are explained with eerie backstories, and the experiences of those who have gone before are left to terrify the player. The ending is not really shocking, considering the interaction that occasionally occurs with Spooky throughout the house, but it is solid, and an enjoyable end to an enjoyable game. It is possible to incur multiple endings, one “Good,” and one “Bad.”
Spooky’s House of Jump Scares is definitely not the most thrilling game out there, but it holds its own as a unique blend of the silly and the scary. While slow at times, the anticipation built during these moments is paid in full with creative creatures, environments, and (what else?) jump scares. For those looking to play something that isn’t too scary, but still invokes goosebumps and a few good screams, Spooky’s House of Jump Scares is the perfect solution. Player beware, you’re in for a silly scare.
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