Haunt the House: Cute or Highly Disturbing?

When I first played this Haunt the House, I played a short flash version. I loved it so much I bought a fuller version of the game, Haunt the House: Terrortown, on Steam for $4.99. This is a pretty short game for the most part but tons of fun. You play a cute little unhappy ghost. The objective is pretty simple, you have to scare all the people out of the house. This can be translated as scaring them out of the house or scaring them to the point they jump out the window and kill themselves. You scare the people by possessing objects and moving them around or using special options that are sometimes unique to the object you are possessing. Now in the Terrortown version of the game, there are people who are exceptions to the rule of being scared. Each one of the four buildings has anywhere from 1-3 people you cannot scare. No matter how many people are screaming around them and running around they will not move. They kind of just sit there, oblivious to what’s going on. The only way to get rid of these people is by using a certain object’s option to kill them. This can be by electrocution, jump scare that has them falling to their death, dropping heavy objections on them, etc. The thing that baffled me when I started the game, was why these people were so special. Why does the ghost target these specific people to kill? Well by the end you find out. Let me tell you, it turns this game from insanely cute to kind of disturbing when you think about. Everything in this game was unique from the storyline to the game mechanics.

The clock tower you start at in the beginning of the game.
The clock tower you start at in the beginning of the game.

Now at the beginning of the game you take residence in a clock tower. You notice this by the little tent in the tower by the dials of the clock. There are 10 bells. Each (with the exception of one) has a face on it. Below the bells is a fogged up portrait, with all 10 faces blurred out. From this point they take you through a tutorial of all the controls. It’s fairly easy with the directional buttons to move, the “S” key or spacebar to possess objects, and other letter keys to use the special ability an object can have. There are five buildings, starting from left to right, the museum, the hospital, the clock tower, the theatre, and the cruise ship. Each building has 20 people (the clock tower an exception) that you have to scare/kill. At the bottom of the screen is a scare meter to show you how scared people are in the house. At the top middle of the screen there are 10 bells that need to be filled in. When you start one bell is already filled in.

museum
The museum in Haunt the House.

The museum is one of the best when it comes to interaction. You have statues, bones, and even a UFO ship to possess. This level has one person you have to kill and the one and only spirit you need to set free. You have to kill the man standing on the dinosaur’s head, and then you have to break open the sarcophagus to free the spirit of the “mummy”. Once you do this, both the man’s spirit and the mummy’s spirit go soaring off into the night. At this point two bells become filled in. When you go back to the clock tower you see spirits circling the bells. The mummy bell and the bell with the red necktie and thick eyebrows. At this point it seems like the objective is also to kill people so you can use them to haunt with. You can change which ghost you want to haunt with throughout the game.

The hospital in Haunt the House.
The hospital in Haunt the House.

Through the game each person you have to kill has a unique death. At the museum the man falls to his death from the dinosaur. In the hospital, the nurse dies of electrocution and the clown dies from slipping on a banana. At the theatre, one man has a heavy bag fall on him. The other man in the theatre gets started by the loud piano, falls into the water, and drowns to death. Finally at the cruise ship the man in the scuba suit gets crushed by an anchor, the chef gets hot steam blown in his face, and the captain startled by the ship’s horn either falls to his death or drowns. Everything in this game is very unique, every object you can possess has unique scare abilities. Sometimes when you possess animal like objects, you can actually have them make the wrong sound. For example, you can make a duck decal on the wall bark like a dog. Even stranger, it seems that the minor scare mechanics scare people more than the major ones. Minor scares being, moving objects across the room and rattling things. Major scares being making full on dark spirits and monsters appear. I also find it weird that when you scare people and they are insanely scared, they sometimes run farther away from the door. It almost seems like it pokes fun at stupid horror movies where the people do things like “examine what the noise was” or “mess with something that unleashes a monster.” Yet this aspect made the game slightly difficult because I felt like I was playing goalie, defending the staircases and doorways to other rooms. Another interesting aspect is that animals can see you. They sometimes run away from you when they see you.

The Theatre from Haunt the House.
The Theatre from Haunt the House
The portrait at the end of Haunt the House
The portrait at the end of Haunt the House

By the end of the game, once you have scared out all the people and killed the people within the buildings, you are shown why you have killed all these specific people. It is revealed that the sad ghost is a little boy who died. He’s very lonely and misses his family very much. The portrait is revealed and it is all the people he has killed, and the mummy’s spirit turns out to be his cat. The people he has killed are his family. From a relaxed perspective, that seems really cute and answers the questions bought up in the game. Yet if this was a gritty horror game or movie, this would be frightening. This kid would be seen as a little psycho, not a cute lonely ghost. When you take a second and think about it, he has cut short the lives of eight people. He possibly killed an animal as well. From a serious perspective, this is a scary game that tells the story of a boy who is so lonely he would rather kill his entire family than move on or make other ghost friends. I think the decision is up to the player on how to interpret the game. I like the game it’s tons of fun and the developers give you free additional content. No matter how you interpret this game, it’s fun and entertaining from the moment you start to the moment you end.

The cruise ship from Haunt the House
The cruise ship from Haunt the House

  5 comments for “Haunt the House: Cute or Highly Disturbing?

  1. February 12, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    This sounds like a really creepy twist at the end to discover. I’m intrigued as to whether there were any indications that the ghost you were playing as was a child? In some ways, there is the child-like element of spooking people that fits in, but that could also be for all ages. Do the locations that you haunt seem only like places that a child would visit? I very much like that the cat has to be rescued from a mummy as cats where mummified by the Egyptians and highly prized by them in general. I think that was a nice choice on the game designers’ part.

    • blissfulmomo
      February 12, 2015 at 11:01 pm

      During game play there is no indication that the ghost was a child. I mean I guess by the childish nature of some of the object possessions but they also tend to be really dark. It’s not until the end where the portrait is revealed. The only person in the portrait that you haven’t killed is a little boy, and it kind of resembles the ghost with the blushy cheek marks.

  2. blindedwithscience
    February 12, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    This is like a Casper the Friendly Ghost episode gone so, so wrong. The gameplay looks so nice and cute, and to get to the end and find out why these people were killed…that is certainly a twist. And, I think you’re absolutely right. If this were a gory-super-scary-game, people would taking to all sorts of media to talk about the crazy game where you play this dead kid who kills his entire family so he has someone to be with. I think this game is a fine example of how much a cartoonish appearance can change the tone of a video game. And, being completely honest, I kind of want to play it now, haha.

  3. kokopelli11
    February 13, 2015 at 12:36 am

    I had heard about this game in the past and have always wanted to learn more about it. Adding a link to the flash version of the game was a great idea, because it gives readers the chance to create their own opinion based on their game-play experience. I agree with your position that the representation of the game as having a happy tone is accentuated by the bright color palette of the stages in the game as well as the character designs having large eyes and generally joyful in appearance until you start scaring them. The overview element of the story is what can drastically change a player’s opinions on the game. The story of the ghost reuniting with his family is cute, but he still killed his entire family and I noticed that once they were ghosts, they did not look happy to be reunited with him until the game designers decide to show the family portrait. Overall, I found this article about the game “Haunt the House” to be very insightful and gives examples as to how the game can be viewed as cute or as depressing and disturbing.

  4. isolemnlyswear
    March 20, 2015 at 1:11 am

    I’ve never heard of this game. It looks really fun and I like the concept of a cute looking game with dark tones. I would be interesting to see the game portrayed more seriously and scary. I like the idea of making a disturbing game cute because it almost makes it scarier. In serious disturbing games, at least you know what you’re getting into but with this it shocks you will the ending. Another part that made me curious was the part you talked about with the different scares. I’m curious why the characters get more scared by the jump scares than the major scares. It might have something to do with them being related to the ghost. This is a really cool concept for a game and I’ll have to go check it out myself.

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