|Haunted: Halloween ’86
|October 24th, 2019
|NES, Switch, PC, Xbox One
Haunted: Halloween ’86 is a new NES game that is here to spook you, 80s style. For those of you who are familiar with NES homebrew releases, Retrotainment originally designed Haunted Halloween 85 for the NES and have since made this game as a sequel to it. Like its predecessor Haunted: Halloween ’86 was released as an actual NES cartridge playable on real hardware. While they are far from the only people out there to make new games for old hardware, it still amazes me that there are indie teams out there that are committed to bringing new software to these old consoles. Of course they didn’t want to leave people who only have modern consoles out so they released this new game in digital format on the Nintendo Switch.
The game starts off on Halloween night. Donny and his friend Tami are about to go put on their costumes to go out with their other friends until someone tells them about some weird noises coming from the farmhouse. Donny, feeling the need to prove how brave he is, decides to go investigate. Once there, they are attacked by a creepy guy later revealed to be Harry, the antagonist from the first game. Donny and Tami fall down a hole and end up in what appears to be an underground dungeon. The duo set off to fight their way out, and put a stop to Harry before him and his ghouls take over the town. Haunted: Halloween ’86 has you traveling through seven levels of creepy streets, rivers, caves and even railroads. Your character’s health bar is indicated by their skin tone. As they take damage they become more and more infected until eventually becoming fully green and turning into a zombie, in which case you lose a life. You can switch between Donny and Tami at just about any given moment with the select button. They have their own health so making good use of the select button will effectively double the amount of health you have. In addition to this, the two characters can learn and perform all sorts of useful skills by inputting basic button combinations. For example, pressing down then forward and the attack button will let them slide or hitting up twice lets them do a dodge move which makes them invincible for a brief moment. You can also pull off double jumps and dragon punch style attacks. You will need all of these tools because these levels will challenge you and the bosses, while not terribly difficult, can take a few tries before you get their pattern down.
On paper this all sounds great, but the problem is your characters have a lot of momentum in their movement, making it very easy to accidentally run into enemies. Also the hitbox and range on your attacks is disappointingly small meaning you really have to get up close to them in order to deal any damage. Combine this with the amount of enemies on screen and you’ve got a game that can become frustrating really quickly as you take damage in what seems like no time at all. Perhaps my biggest issue with the game actually has to deal with the graphics. The game is 8-bit and for the record many of the sprites are well done and animated. However the backgrounds are incredibly dark and the limited color palette can at times make it a bit hard to see where exactly you are allowed to jump. There was one level in particular that featured some layered scrolling in the background however the objects in the background still existed on your plane of movement, making it tricky to identify what was part of the playing field and what was part of the background. With some practice you can get past it but it did lead to me making more mistakes with my jumps than I would have otherwise. Because this is technically an NES game, the music is all classic spooky chiptune. It isn’t too memorable, however it gets the job done and helps create a spooky atmosphere.
Other than some alternate difficulty modes and a funny versus mode where the two characters can duke it out, there really isn’t much reason to keep coming back to Haunted: Halloween ’86. It’s a game that isn’t really bad, but also not a particularly remarkable one. Once you get over the fact that this is a new NES game, you’ll start to see this game’s flaws more and more and realize that there are other exciting indie platformers out there. That said, Haunted Halloween is worth checking out if you are looking for more NES games to play. The game won’t take you too long as a playthrough will take about an hour or much less if you get good enough at the game to speedrun it. The digital version isn’t terribly expensive at $9.99 and can be fun for a little while if you are feeling nostalgic and find yourself craving a Halloween themed retro game. If you are interested in a physical NES cartridge with the game, check out Retrotainment Games’ site.
Review copy provided by the publisher