April Fools Special: Spooky's House of Jump Scares
Can you, humble player, make it through a thousand rooms?
It’s April Fools Day and the internet is a scary place to be. But you’re safe here. I promise. I most certainly wouldn’t steer you towards a scary, unnerving experience. Not at all.
On that note, we’re going to take a look at “Spooky’s House of Jump Scares”, a first person horror game developed by the folks over at Lag Studios and released originally on October 24th, 2014. Final content updates were made to the game late last year with an alternate universe DLC released earlier this year.
Lag Studios consists of two main members - Akuma Kira and Psychobilly2422. Akuma’s the CEO, designer and programmer for the studio. Psychobilly is PR manager, QA manager, fellow programmer and CEO.
In the game’s universe, a house sits upon a hill. This house, which has become the stuff of (urban) legends, is the eponymous house of jump scares the title is referring to. The player character, a curious history enthusiast drawn to its mysticism, decides to explore it to discover what it’s secrets and finally put the mystery to rest.
Don’t let the cute visuals fool you. Spokky’s House of Jump Scares is a horror game through and through. I’m not going to reveal too much, but a large part of the experience is juxtaposing how you are greeted and talked to by Spooky, the house’s ghostly owner, at certain points in the game and what you actually see afterwards.
Spooky tasks the player with exploring 1000 rooms within the house. This isn’t ransacking, so much as it’s moving from point A to B, often as fast as you can.
The player has a small set of resources at their disposal such as the ability to sprint and swing an ax later in the game. Said abilities burn your stamina bar but, like your health, it will regenerate on it’s own. Other resources will be acquired and relinquished as the context requires such as lanterns/flashlights, keys or notes that usually build the narrative but periodically offer assistance to the player.
The player has a goal of traversing 1000 rooms. It’s worth noting that “room” is a misnomer here. It’s better to not think of these "rooms" as rooms per, but more like segments. The majority of the time, you will simply be moving through a room in search of a door to the next room. Periodically, though, you will reach segments that are more like multi-part hallways or small buildings unto themselves in which you must find keys to unlock the other rooms present before you can reach the exit. There are also gate puzzle rooms where one must enter the gates in the proper order to reveal the exit. Most rooms don’t require much time (roughly five and ten seconds) but together, they evoke the feeling of traversing a labyrinth. Rooms can run the gambit from dungeons and science labs to locales reminiscent of the Otherworld and Majora’s Mask.
While labyrinth-crawling, the player will have to be on the lookout one (or more) of the thirteen otherworldly creatures on the prowl. They range from harmless cardboard cutouts to animated clay figures that can warp the room you’re in to trap you or even specters that cause the player to hallucinate.
Patchwork Visuals: The juxtaposition of the cutsey elements with the more macabre ones makes the latter stand out more. In its own way, it actually makes them more unnerving. If Pyramid Head shows up in Silent Hill, that’s scary but also expected. If he shows up in Equestria, then something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. This applies to rooms just as much as the abominations that lurk within them. There’s a certain level of variation within the regular rooms. They’re nonthreatening and rather consistent in their styling. The segments that first introduce you to their respective monstrosities depart from this greatly. They’re dark, weird and change the mood sharply.
Rooms: the room concept is pretty nice. They are the breadcrumbs that lead you through the game. Most of your time is spent wandering but the self contained rooms add enough variety that it doesn’t feel tedious or drawn out. You aren’t expected to go toe to toe with most of the creatures lurking in the house, but to run instead. Switching rooms allows you to put distance between you and your pursuer and refills your stamina meter. Basically, the rooms segment the playing experience into fun-sized manageable portions that help keep the player from being overwhelmed. Remember: If you can make it to the door, you’ve got a fighting chance.
Homage: The game pays homage to other horror games such as Silent hill, SCP, Resident Evil and corrupts other non-horror titles such as MarioKart, Pole Position, Pacman and Legend of Zelda. Numerous references to the creators’ other work can be found as well.
All I could find wrong with the game was a bug and a small oversight: holding down sprint while transitioning rooms will likely cause you to get stuck upon entering the new room (spelling your demise since this is more likely to happen during a chase) and there’s a door in the later rooms that requires a combination to open the lock, but won’t let you walk away from the door if you don’t enter it, thus freezing you there and halting any chance you may have had of backtracking to get the answer.
I loved the adventure I had with Spooky and her twisted house. I don’t play many horror games because they are more of a handful than I care to deal with (OH HI THERE, FREDDY FRAZBEAR!) but Spooky’s House of Jump Scares was just inviting and fun enough to pull me in and keep me playing. It’s one part warioware, two parts Ken’s Labyrinth and one part SCP. It blends and goes down surprisingly well.
So why not head on over to Steam and hangout with Spooky while you avoid all of the shenanigans on the internet today?
4.5 out of 5 cute skeletons