Andrew Newton with a selection of spooky retro games for Halloween…
It’s that time of year again for ghosties and ghoulies to prowl the world of the living and terrorise the neighbourhoods. However, if you are able to ward off these supernatural horrors away with a carved pumpkin with a smiley face then you may want to try out some of the spooky videogames we were playing in times of yore.
Blinky’s Scary School – Zeppelin Games – ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad, Amiga, Atari ST
One century before the events of the game, famed ghosthunter Red Laird McTavish cleared all the spooks and spectres out of Castle Drumtrochie and ever since then his ancestors have bragged about it. Now, after yet another boasting by current castle resident Hamish McTavish the head spectre has had enough and sent the star pupil of the Scary School to exact revenge and make Drumtrochie a castle fit for ghosts.
This entertaining platformer sees the world’s most adorable looking ghost, the titular Blinky, journey around the rooms and battlements of Castle Drumtrochie collecting magical ingredients to help him fly, clear all the ghostbusting defences and scare the Hell out of Hamish. Only problem is Blinky has only been given one night to do all this in.
To complete his task, Blinky will need to avoid the various deadly creatures that inhabit the castle (easier said than done as he has a woefully small jump), these include deadly bats, deadly spiders, deadly snails (what?) and deadly clockwork mice.
Really, Blinky’s Scary School isn’t the slightest bit scary as it’s far too cute (I mean, look at that cute smile). The only thing that’s scary about the game is the size of Blinky’s shoes. Why does he even have feet?
Cauldron – Palace Software – ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64
Thanks to the old Hansel and Gretel story witches have had a lot of bad press and having a witch as a hero in an ’80s game was as rare as hen’s teeth (another ingredient for spells there, chums). Unlike the old fairy tale not all witches are old hags, have warts and fly around on broomsticks but in Cauldron she is, she has and she does. Look, she’s a crone ok, it’s part of the job just like bricklayers having a brickies arse!
Appearances aside, the witch in Cauldron needs to set out into the night to rid the world of the evil pumpkins and get the Golden Broomstick but her quest will take her over forests, mountains and graveyards and through maze-like caverns, all of witch (which… sorry) are filled with an assortment of nasty creatures intent on stopping her. Players will need to avoid ghosts, spiders, bats, birds and for some reason rotating ribcages to find the coloured keys for the right coloured doors, behind which lay the ingredients for the potion to destroy the evil pumpkin.
Was Cauldron a fun game, it certainly was but was it scary? The answer is no, though it’s a blummin’ good game to ignore all the trick and treaters too. I really like the sequel, Cauldron II, as well.
Spooked – Players Premiere, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64
In Spooked take the role of Gerard, a tough ghost hunter who is down on his luck due to nobody believing in ghosts until one evening when he gets a phonecall asking him to go to an old abandoned gothic building to sort out a ghost problem. It’s no wonder the house is abandoned as it surrounded by a desecrated Indian burial ground, a closed prison which was home to a massacre, a ruined gasworks that exploded and killed all workers and a burnt out church that is home to a devil worshipping cult, it has to be the most unlucky house in videogaming history (and I’m including the Resident Evil mansion in that as well). When Gerard gets to the house the door slams shut behind him and now the spooks are out for revenge.
Gerard will need to explore the haunted house avoiding the ghosts and skeletons (which look like a skull with feet) and find a way to get out. Rather than having a particle accelerator Proton Pack to catch the ghosts, Gerard is able to collect insects and other creepy crawlies and mix them in cauldrons to make spells with which to zap any nasties that get in his way. There’s different types of spells to use against enemies but the main spells to find and make are the letter spells. Collect all of these spells and it’s time to face the spooky old man in a life or death game of hangman….. yes hangman.
Just like Blinky’s Scary School, Spooked suffers from being far too cute and even the grimace on the skeleton’s face wouldn’t have you trembling in your socks. It’s a smashing little game though and well worth a play if you get chance.
Splatterhouse – Arcade, TurboGrafx-16, FM Towns Marty (a weirdly named Japanese only console by Fujitsu).
Like the beginnings of a predictable horror film, two students, Rick and Jennifer, take refuge from a storm in an eerie mansion known as the Splatterhouse but as they enter the door slams behind them, there’s a brief scream from Jen’ and next thing you know Rick is waking up with the Hell Mask (not Jason Vorhees’ mask) stuck to his face turning him into a super strength monster.
Taking the role of Rick in this side-scrolling beat-’em-up, players will roam the mansion and grounds hacking and slashing a variety of different monsters in order to find Jennifer. Some of these monsters are pretty weird and include disembodied heads, worm like creatures, creatures with chainsaw hands and large foetuses floating around in bubbles. There’s some seriously warped and fun ideas for enemies and the developers need applauding.
Such was the success of Splatterhouse in the arcades that it had home ports and sequels.
Maniac Mansion – LucasArts – Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, NES
Maniac Mansion is a point-and-click graphic adventure that follows the story of Dave Miller, a teenager who attempts to rescue his girlfriend Sandy Pantz from a bonkers mad scientist who is being controlled by a sentient meteor. The mansion is inhabited by Dr Fred, the mad scientist, his wife Nurse Edna and their son, nicknamed Weird Ed, plus there’s some weird green tentacles thrown in just for good measure.Dave needs to get into the mansion, rescue Sandy and get out without getting caught or killed by the crazy occupants.
Before entering the mansion, players are able to choose two out of six characters to join Dave. Each of these has their own unique ability that will help solve puzzles, such as being able to play musical instruments or repair appliances. Only certain characters can solve particular puzzles and if the player doesn’t have that character then it is a case of finding an alternative path. These extra characters are also useful for taking over from Dave should he get spotted by the crazed occupants and comes to an unfortunate end.
Maniac Mansion, being a LucasArts game features all the humour while still paying homage to the B-movies and cheesy horror films of yesteryear.
So, that’s 5 scary …. not so scary games ….. not really scary games at all to keep you occupied this Halloween. Why not save the treats for yourself, load up an emulator and give some of these a go for yourself.
Happy Halloween! Bwahahahahahaaaaaaaaaa!