Released on: October 23, 2014
Available Platforms: PC (Steam, Indie DB)
Price: Free (Has DLC)
I love Halloween. The spooky decorations, the gorgeous Autumn leaves, the pumpkin carving, and the myriad of people in costumes to celebrate the festivities are all marvelous things to see! Oh, and the free candy is pretty good too! That said, the past few years, I haven’t reviewed something explicitly spooky for Halloween. Last year, I reviewed Hades, which, while taking place in Greek mythology’s version of hell, wasn’t a horror game per se. There was also Metroid Dread that I reviewed last week, but that game was an adventure game with a haunting creature in certain sections. This year I’m going to change that! A friend of mine recommended a game to me a couple of weeks ago that I thought would be perfect for Halloween: Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion!
Before getting the recommendation, I heard about the game through Youtubers some years ago. Independent horror games were all the rage back then (which I still believe to be true) and for a good reason. I’ve seen some genuinely spooky games come out of indie developers, some even going on to being huge sellers (take Five Nights at Freddy’s, for example). Unlike most genres where not knowing something can break a game for the player, horror games are where the developer has to choose when to reveal their spooky hand carefully, lest they spoil their spook. Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion looks rudimentary on the surface, but my gut tells me there is more than meets the eye when it comes to Spooky and her mansion full of jump scares. Will Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion scare some socks off?
Legend has it that on top of an ominous hill, there lie a haunted house. Nobody knows where this house came from or who lived in it. All we know is that the house just seemed to have always been there. The player’s curiosity gets the better of them, so they decide to go knocking on the derelict mansion. Upon entry, they meet a ghost who introduces herself as Spooky. She challenges the player to go through one thousand rooms. It is up to the player to find the answers that surround Spooky and her decrepit mansion.
The story of Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion is cleverly simple. The introduction gives almost no information as to where the player is or even who Spooky was. The player does find pages scattered through the game that chronicle other visitors’ experiences with the house. I felt the game itself was a ghost story passed along from person to Youtuber, to my friends, and now to me. Since I wanted to review the game, I felt like a reporter who stumbled upon this mysterious, abandoned old house. Like the player in the game, I had to find out what the deal was with this house (or game in this case).
Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion looks primitive, which works in its favor. Most horror games hide their spooky elements by making most rooms incredibly dark. Those games usually have darkness be a core mechanic to their game. Spooky, on the other hand, plays with its visual theme as the player explores the mansion. In the beginning, most rooms are bright and saturated. As the player makes their way into the mansion, the rooms suddenly begin to look weird. Sometimes, the décor takes a drastic shift from seemingly pleasant to putrid and conspicuous.
Then there are the eponymous jump scares. As the name implies, Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion tries to spooky the player by having things jump out at them. Unlike its contemporaries, Spooky’s jump scares catch the player by surprise by having the cutest things pop out of the wall while making sounds that I’m pretty sure are made by a person with a microphone. There are scary things in Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion beyond these adorable jump scares, but these jump scares are not what’s so spooky about Spooky and her jumpscare mansion.
If the player played any first-person PC game before Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion, they already know how to play. For the uninitiated, the player moves with the W, A, S, and D keys, they look with the mouse, run with Shift, and use things with the E key. That’s all there is to the controls. They are simplistic, but for a game like this, simplicity is best.
I am not the biggest fan of jump scares. While the good ones will make me jump, I’m of the mentality that “once one sees their first jump scare, then they’ve seen them all.” Spooky managed to prove me wrong on this point, as I found myself jumping from the scares, only to then laugh it off when I find out that what scared me was a coffee cup with the most adorable smile. What I find interesting with Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion is that the jump scares almost offered a reprieve to the scary stuff of Spooky’s house.
While writing this article, I found out that Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion has downloadable content (DLC), but it is entirely free for the base game on Steam. Not once did the game tell me about the DLC or of any gacha mechanics or microtransactions. It is a free game made by a developer who wanted to scare the pants off the player, which I can respect.
The game issues this warning when the player opens the game, but I will echo it here. Given the nature of the game, there is violent imagery and disturbing sequences that might be too much for some people to handle. I mention this, as not everyone can stomach that kind of content, but at the same time, me writing this warning might entice players into visiting Spooky.
My only real gripe with Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion is that it is a repetitive game. I am aware that this is intentional since this is the game’s way of luring the player into a false sense of security. While it does work well for dropping the player’s guard, I have to call a spade a spade. While the player will stay in a room for 45 seconds (on average), many rooms start to look the same. The game does get harrowing when something is chasing the player, but ultimately, I had to enjoy Spooky’s Spooktacular exhibition in short bursts.
For a free game with no microtransactions to speak of (other than the DLC that the game doesn’t even mention), Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion is a wonderful game to pop open on a dark Halloween night. Disturbing yet curious lore, clever use of jump scares, and a whole lot of personality make Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion a fantastic game to check out on Halloween. Be warned, dear reader: the game might look light-hearted at first, but the things inside Spooky’s House of Jumpscares are not for the faint of heart.