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Retro Review: Haunted House (Atari 2600)



What better game to review then the most cliché thing on Halloween:


This review will probably be shorter than normal. Reviewing an Atari game doesn’t take much describing because of the simplicity and lack of in depth stories.  However I have so many fond memories of playing this game.  As a young kid I’ve played this game many times and into my adult years as well.  The game being simple and all left a lot up to my imagination, and boy did my imagination always work into overdrive.


Many years ago in the small town of Spirit Bay, there lived a mean old man named Zachary Graves. Old man Graves was not a very well liked person. He rarely left the old mansion and spent most of his life brooding about the decaying, four story house. When he died, the house was condemned and locked up.

The townspeople claim that old man Graves knew the whereabouts of a magic urn that was a family heirloom of the first family of Spirit Bay. It seems that the mansion was the family’s first home and that the magic urn, which broke into several pieces during the earthquake of 1890, is still in the old house. To this day, no one has had the courage to go into the mansion to search for the pieces of the urn. It is common knowledge that the ghost of old man Graves still haunts the mansion.

Some of the neighbors claim to have seen lights flickering in the windows. Some say that they have heard eerie sounds, doors slamming, and heavy footsteps. Some even claim to have seen shadows running through the mansion.

The mysterious mansion has 24 rooms connected by long corridors and staircases. Some of the rooms have been locked up for over 50 years. There is supposed to be a master key hidden somewhere in the mansion. Without the key, it might be impossible to travel from room to room. There is also an ancient scepter hidden in the mansion. Old man Graves always carried this scepter. He believed it scared off evil spirits.

Now that you know the story, ATARI is unlocking the entrance to the HAUNTED HOUSE and letting you test your bravery. Do you dare enter the frightening old mansion? If you do, remember to carry matches; the HAUNTED HOUSE is very dark.

When you are ready to challenge your courage, insert this Game Program cartridge and turn on your ATARI Video Computer System game to enter the main room on the first floor of the HAUNTED HOUSE.

I didn’t paraphrase this at all I copied it straight from the manual to show how well the story telling in the 80’s was.  After reading this it gives you a good picture of what you’re stepping into and sounds like a spooky ghost story.  It sets the mood perfectly and if anyone’s imagination is as vivid as mine you’re already a little spooked to set foot in the mansion…..


The controls are pretty easy considering it’s an Atari controller and you have the standard 8 point controller and one button to contend with.  You move the set of eyes around in search of the magic Urn while avoiding the horrors of the haunted house.  Pressing the action button will light a match (or turn you into meatwad.)


Now with the match lit you can see what’s on the ground if it be pieces of urn or the scepter to ward off evil or even keys for locked doors.  (Depending what difficulty you are playing on.) The object is to assemble all the pieces of the urn and make it back to the entrance alive with as little matches lit as possible and dying as few times also.  The baddies you have to look out for are ghosts, spiders, and bats.  As mentioned before there are 9 different difficulties 1 being the easiest and 9 being the most difficult.  The higher up difficulties range from making the mansion pitch black and having locked doors and faster bad guys.




 Sound and Music:

Being an Atari game this won’t be known for it’s sound effects and music, however the few instances where there is sound and music it fits perfectly.  When getting close to bad guys you can hear thunder and the wind blowing and also when moving you hear thumps that sound like foot steps.  I also really like the little music it plays when going from floor to floor.  In the later difficulties with the pitch black mansion you pay attention more to the sound effects and all that.


With any Atari game this is a good distraction and doesn’t take too long to go through a game depending on your difficulty.  This is the perfect game to still play in the dark with some headphones on. If you need some background music then it’d be a good time to play with the Halloween theme playing in the background.   This is one game I would highly recommend just don’t get lost in the mansion or you will be forever lost….MUAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

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