A game called Spooky’s House of Jump Scares seems self-explanatory, but it’s really not.
I didn’t know much about the game before booting it up, but recommendations from friends and the cutesy aesthetic had me scratching my head: how could this be scary?
Here’s the premise, per the Steam page:
Can you survive 1000 rooms of cute terror? Or will you break once the cuteness starts to fade off and you’re running for your life from the unspeakable hideous beings that shake and writhe in bowels of this house? They wait for you, they wait and hunger for meeting you.
OK, that seems fine?
Each of the rooms are tiny, and most take only a few seconds to walk through. One room leads to the next, and the number in the corner goes up one at a time. Tick-tock! Every 50 levels, you reach an elevator, and have a few moments before heading to the next set.
Nothing even happens in the game until room...well, I’ll leave you to find out. Needless to say, a surprising amount of time goes by before Spooky’s House of Jump Scares gets going. The game wants to lull you into a false sense of security. You run into those paper ghosts over and over and over, and while they might succeed at getting you to gasp once or twice, their effectiveness wears out pretty quickly. The game is being “dumb” on purpose.
Of course, the game kicks off with this warning:
But quickly transitions to an SNES-style opening screen with cute Halloween music:
And does this seem like the kind of specter that could ever harm you?
No matter what you might think, let me be clear: they are fucking lying to you.
Whereas most games aim to unnerve the player through hyper-realistic visuals and shocking gore, Spooky’s House of Jump Scares goes in the totally opposite direction. The simplistic aesthetic seems to taunt the player, as if being scared by the game is a weakness. And what’s with the health bar, considering nothing can hurt me? How come there’s a stamina meter, since nothing has chased me? Maybe they both exist just to screw with me!
Like I said: lies.
It becomes clear something is up when you come across this weird note:
The moment you put the note down, everything changes, and you start to wonder about that weird goo you nonchalantly stepped over upon entering the room a few seconds ago:
The music disappears, replaced by heavy breathing. It’s clear there’s a presence in the room, though I wasn’t willing to sit around to find out what the heck was waiting for me.
The creature begins stalking you, and Spooky’s House of Jump Scares reveals its early brilliance. The 10 minutes spent exploring the same rooms over and over again, with little variation? That all meant something; now you have to get through them ASAP. The fastest path didn’t matter a few minutes ago, and now it’s the difference between life and death.
In the first hour, this is the game’s routine. You’re left in silence to study a set of repetitive rooms with nothing to worry about. Eventually, though, a monster will be introduced, and it becomes imperative you don’t panic, have to manage stamina, and desperately try not to look behind you. Some rooms introduce lengthy mazes where mistakes are, um, bad...
It only escalates from there. One of the creatures is hanging from the ceiling?
Another is hiding in a pixelated Silent Hill-like world?
I don’t even know what to tell you about this...raptor?
Everything unraveled for me when I made it to a world of costumes, keys, and a creepy thing that looks like it was pulled from Majora’s Mask.
That asshole eventually caught up with me, and it was a very unpleasant way to go.
Seriously, if you don’t want to see a needle being driven into an eye, go away.
I’m warning you!
The GIF is incoming!
It’s not great!
Maybe it’s better that it’s finally over.
If you don’t want to play Spooky’s House of Jump Scares, there are two options. Fahey played it a little while ago, and I spent an hour with it before...well, that happened.
You can reach the author of this post at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @patrickklepek.