(Disclaimer: I received this game for free as part of Indie Gamer Chick‘s Indieween event)
Haunt the House: Terrortown is a 2014 expansion of a 2010 game by SFB Games, who recently released Snipperclips Plus for the Nintendo Switch. In this game, you play as a ghost trying to scare people out of various locales (Despite the name, most of these locations aren’t actually houses).
To do so, you can possess various objects, and there are a lot of them. Each object has several different effects, which are unlocked as you make the atmosphere of the immediate area creepier by scaring people. Eventually, as you continue scaring people, they become so terrified that they run out of the locale. Maybe. More on that in a bit.
The main thing to enjoy about this game is the aesthetic. It’s fun and whimsical, despite the plot. Everything is drawn in a fun, cartoony style, and some of the “hauntings” have silly and unexpected effects. The soundtrack is also appropriately old-timey, and was apparently all played with a live band as opposed to made on keyboards. As such, the game is pretty darn fun, when it works.
It may just be my old computer, but in the 2-3 hours (It’s somewhere in there according to Steam), I had the game freeze on me three times. The game constantly keeps track of your progress, so restarting it didn’t lose me anything, but it was still annoying. In a separate instance, one of the people I was supposed to scare out of a locale simply disappeared, forcing me to start the level over (Thankfully, it was fairly early on in the level).
There are some other issues that are really “questionable design decisions”. While you can pick any of the four levels from the start, the full tutorial is actually in the level that’s the second out of the four options on the main screen. While the game does tell you “There’s a more full tutorial in the Terrortown level”, it still would have been better to simply make the Terrortown level the first option. I expect this is because the “first” level in the version I have was originally DLC, but I don’t know why that wasn’t then the “last” level on the screen. An unrelated issue is that the “S” key is the “default” a lot of the time–you use it to possess objects, and it typically confirms selections on menus. The use of the “S” key to do this isn’t my issue here, but the fact that “S” is also “Start a new game” means I very nearly deleted a save file, only being saved by the “are you sure you want to do that” screen that thankfully pops up when you start a new game in a level with a save file.
The other frustrating part is that I’m not sure there’s an actual coherent strategy for scaring people away. As you scare them, they react more than more, eventually devolving to running open-mouthed after screaming in terror. But where they move after that appears to be random. You can scare someone and they may leave right away, or you may chase them around the locale for minutes on end, accomplishing nothing. I eventually settled on “get a person into a state of terror, then leave them alone and let them run out of the scene” as my strategy, but I have no idea if it actually worked better than following them around constantly, or if I just wanted it to. I did make sure to play through all four levels at least once, which, as mentioned, took between two and three hours according to Steam. In that time, I’m not sure I got any “better” at the game, to be honest.
Overall, though, Haunt the House: Terrortown is a fun way to spend a couple hours, if for no other reason than to see the various objects and hauntings you can pull off. The actual gameplay is fun, when the game works, and the graphics and music are lighthearted and amusing. To re-use a phrase from my review of Akalabeth, I’ve spent more time playing worse games and had less fun than I did playing this. I just wish I could’ve figured out what the heck I was doing in the meantime.