The Video Game Critic's
Halloween Review Special
Part 2 of 5Updated 2018/3/16
The Critic's "Fright Factor" ratings:Child's play "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."
Creepy "I see dead people."
Unnerving "That cold ain't the weather. That's death approaching."
Intense "I know you're there Tina. Because I can smell your brains."
Terrifying "It’s Alive! It’s Alive!"
Unbearable "No tears please, it's a waste of good suffering."
Splatterhouse (NEC 1990) A
Splatterhouse serves up a generous portion of glorified violence and gore, and I like that! You control a muscle-bound psycho named Rick who wears a hockey mask just like Jason from Friday the 13th. His girlfriend is being held captive in a mansion, and he'll need to bash his way through a parade of gruesome monsters to save her. Chained zombies spew green vomit, corpses fall from the ceiling, and giant red slugs burst from chests. You'll fight shambling ghouls, slimy worms, undead werewolves, and a towering dude inspired by Leatherface of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Fortunately there are plenty of potent weapons lying around including two-by-fours, shotguns, and meat cleavers. Smacking a zombie with a board causes it to splatter against the wall, and it looks pretty sweet. Some side-scrollers are repetitive, but Splatterhouse keeps things fresh with short stages that are full of surprises. You'll battle chairs and silverware in a kitchen, slosh through a sewer, and creep though a room of mirrors. The excellent soundtrack perfectly matches the macabre subject matter. Splatterhouse is the perfect game for Halloween because playing it is like walking through a virtual haunted house.
Ghost Manor (Turbo Tech 1992) F
Addams Family, The (CD) (NEC 1991) B
Castlevania Dracula X: Rondo of Blood (CD) (Japan) (Konami 1993) A
This rare title, only available in America as an import, is considered by most Castlevania fans to be the best of the series, and they'll get no argument here. Rondo of Blood is visually stunning, even today. The graphics are painstakingly detailed and high resolution, and the use of color is nothing short of brilliant. The demons and creatures you encounter are highly inventive, and effective animations usher in the appearance of bosses. For example, before your encounter with the werewolf, you can see his silhouette in front of the moon in the distance before he leaps into the foreground. The gameplay is typical Castlevania, where you use your whip and special weapons to battle monsters while collecting items hidden in candles. One aspect I especially like about Dracula X is although you can take multiple paths, the stages don't contain a myriad of confusing staircases like so many other Castlevania titles. I should warn you that this game is extremely hard and will frustrate novice gamers. Complementing the gorgeous graphics is the best soundtrack I've ever heard in a Castlevania game, along with crisp, distinctive sound effects. You can save your game and return to any stage you've completed. Castlevania Dracula X: Rondo of Blood is a classic, and if you can get your hands on it, an excellent addition to your Turbo Duo library.
Night Creatures (NEC 1992) D+
Much like Altered Beast on the Genesis, this side scroller allows you to transform into wild animals while battling monsters from beyond the grave. I really, really wanted to like this game. The graphics are exceptional, with spooky scenery set in graveyards, catacombs, and deserted villages. Night Creatures looks like a more serious version of Ghouls and Ghosts, and the creatures you encounter make quite an impression. There are nearly 40 different monsters if you include the bosses, and they tend to be surprisingly creepy. The effective visuals are matched by a haunting refrain that plays in the background. Unfortunately, the gameplay does not live up to the presentation. The interface used to switch weapons and transform is awkward, requiring you to pause the game. Your character takes a lot of cheap hits and is constantly dying. Even transforming into animals drains your life, so you can only do it sparingly. My best advice is to punch while squatting, which seems to make you much less vulnerable to attack. Night Creatures lets you save your place if you're running on a Turbo Duo, but overall this title feels like a missed opportunity.
Sega Genesis Games
Addams Family, The (Flying Edge 1992) C
Scooby Doo Mystery (Sunsoft 1995) D+
Zombies Ate My Neighbors (Konami 1993) B-
Your enjoyment of this game will largely depend on if you've played the SNES version (which was released first). If you haven't, then Zombies Ate My Neighbors is an engaging, light-hearted romp with a Halloween theme. Its 55 stages of overhead shooting mayhem will take you into zombie-ravaged neighborhoods, hedge mazes terrorized by chainsaw maniacs, and beaches crawling with Creature From The Black Lagoon clones. One or two players can battle these evil minions by tossing everyday objects like tomatoes, plates, pop-sickles, and footballs. The whimsical soundtrack perfectly complements the action, and an easy-to-read password is provided after every few stages. Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a good game, but if you cut your teeth on the SNES version, you're bound to be disappointed. First off, the right side of the screen is reserved for scoring and the radar display, forcing the main play area to be somewhat squished. The graphics don't look nearly as sharp as the SNES, and the certain visual effects are missing altogether. For example, monsters don't turn blue when you freeze them with a fire extinguisher. But the audio is the biggest letdown. The music is muted and some sounds have been reduced to simple beeps. The bass-heavy effects that rocked the SNES just sound harsh. My friend Scott remarked, "it gets more and more disappointing with each sound effect!" The only way this edition improves upon the original is the red blood that drips down the "game over" screen, as opposed to that cheesy purple goo of the SNES edition.
Haunting Starring Polterguy, The (Electronic Arts 1993) C
Bram Stoker's Dracula (Sony 1993) C
Castlevania Bloodlines (Sega 1994) B+
Castlevania was an insanely popular line of side-scrollers for the NES and SNES. After what seemed like an eternity, it finally arrived on the Genesis in the form of Castlevania Bloodlines. The game plays much like Super Nintendo's Castlevania IV, where you battle creatures of the night armed with a whip and other weapons. So how does this compare to its SNES counterpart? It's not quite as good, but still worth playing. The graphics aren't as detailed or colorful as the SNES version, but they still rate better than average on the Genesis. I found the controls to be a bit tricky when navigating the stairs, but other than that, this is pure platform heaven. I love the bosses, especially the wolf who shatters the windows with his howl.
Ghouls 'N Ghosts (Sega 1989) A-
Splatterhouse 2 (Namco 1992) B
Splatterhouse 3 (Namco 1993) D+
Neo Geo Games
Nightmare in the Dark (MVS) (Eleven AM 2000) B+
This obscure platformer blends old-school arcade action with a scary Halloween theme. I dream of games like this! You play a cloaked crypt keeper trying to keep undead denizens at bay. Each macabre stage features a unique platform configuration crawling with zombies, skeletons, hunchbacks, and ghosts. The monsters are animated in a comical manner, and musical score is very whimsical as well. You defeat enemies by throwing fireballs at them in a rapid-fire manner. Eventually they become engulfed in flames, allowing you to drag them around and hurl them at other creeps. It's strategic and satisfying - not unlike bowling. Clearing a stage causes bonus items to spring forth, and it's fun to snatch them up and rack up crazy bonus points. Every five stages you'll encounter an oversized boss, including a ground-pounding Frankenstein monster. Nightmare in the Dark's colorful backgrounds depict a series of shadowy graveyard scenes, and they add a lot of ambiance. If the game has a weakness, it's the audio. The sound effects are sparse and the soundtrack's upbeat vibe would be better suited to a dance party. The two-player mode is badly flawed, as it's bogged down by some of the worst slow-down I've ever witnessed. As a one-player title however Nightmare in the Dark is spooky fun and a great title to have on hand during the Fall months. Note: While playing this MVS cartridge on my AES converter I noticed some minor graphical glitches, but they did not affect the gameplay.
Super Nintendo Games
Addams Family, The (Ocean 1992) C-
Addams Family Values (Ocean 1994) D+
Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday (Sunsoft 1995) B-
Castlevania Dracula X (Konami 1995) C+
Super Castlevania IV (Konami 1991) A-
Bram Stoker's Dracula (Sony 1993) F
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (Sony 1994) F-
Scooby Doo Mystery (Acclaim 1995) B+
Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts (Capcom 1991) B-
This medievel side-scroller is a complete remake of Ghouls 'N Ghosts (Genesis, 1989) with entirely new stages and monsters. New areas include a haunted pirate ship and a snow stage (who asked for that, by the way?). The graphics, special effects, and music are significantly better than the Genesis version, but the gameplay is about the same. You control a knight running through a series of locations while destroying monsters and collecting power-ups. Although this game should have rated higher than its Genesis counterpart, it doesn't, due to a few major issues. First, the action tends to get slow (read: slow-motion) when the action gets hectic, and when you die, you're sent way back to the start of the stage. At least the Genesis version let you continue fairly close to where you left off. Even unlimited continues don't help when you keep keeling over just before the end of a stage. Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts would have been a great game had it been more forgiving.
Demon's Crest (Capcom 1994) C
Nosferatu (Seta 1995) C-
Nosferatu tries to mimic the gameplay of a Castlevania title, but lacks style and seems generic in comparison. The word "Nosferatu" means vampire, and this platform adventure challenges you to save your girlfriend from the original bloodsucker himself, Vlad the Impaler (the real Dracula). Most levels are a maze of castle ledges and walkways, but bosses are fought outside where there's more room. Your vampire hunter has plenty of fighting moves at his disposal, including a flying round-house, upper cut, and charge. There's a nice variety of monsters to beat up, ranging from the traditional movie monsters (Frankenstein, Mummy, etc) to some truly bizarre original creations. Inexplicably, the second boss is pair of gorillas! The game lacks tension, although there are occassional surprises like falling corpses and hands that grab you from under the floor. Too many traps litter the later levels, and if you don't fall into a spiked pit on your own, you're likely to be pushed into one. In terms of graphics, the creatures look great but the castle walls start to get boring after a few levels. The controls are less than responsive, making it difficult to enter certain doorways or get off a punch in time. The audio is weak, with sparse sound effects and music that's uneven in quality. A few of the tunes have an edgy Nine Inch Nails flavor, but others just sound goofy. Nosferatu not a terrible game, but it fails to distinguish itself in any way, making it a thoroughly forgettable experience.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors (Konami 1993) A-
Addams Family Values (Ocean 1994) D+
Sega CD Games
Night Trap (Sega 1992) B+
Bram Stoker's Dracula (Sony 1993) C
Dracula Unleashed (Sega 1993) D
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (Sony 1994) F
Mansion of Hidden Souls (Vic Tokai 1994) B
This game has a bizarre premise. A boy and girl find a butterfly in a field at night, and the girl says she wishes she were a butterfly. The next thing you know, the boy finds himself in a mysterious mansion, searching for his sister. Its rooms contain talking butterflies that used to be people. The boy's sister will soon be turned into one as well, unless you can find her before "the hunter" does. It sounds pretty silly, but Mansion of Hidden Souls gradually drew me in. Gameplay consists of exploring rooms, finding items, and opening new areas. The first person view makes you feel like you're actually walking through the house. The controls are simple - just push the joypad in the direction you want to go. The graphics are smooth and detailed, and although the rooms don't look particularly dark or scary, eerie music and mysterious voices help convey a creepy atmosphere. The layout of the house is actually quite similar to Resident Evil (Playstation). The story is interesting, and the puzzles are fair and never frustrating. Mansion of Hidden Souls has little replay value, but it's probably worth playing through once.
Sega 32X Games
Corpse Killer (CD) (Digital Pictures 1994) F
Corpse Killer (Digital Pictures 1995) D-
Escape From Monster Manor (Electronic Arts 1993) B
I've always enjoyed Haunted House games, so I found Monster Manor very appealing despite the fact that it's really a Doom clone. Your mission is to collect pieces of a Talisman scattered through an old house. This house is HUGE, with each floor consisting of an endless series of corridors and rooms. The rooms contain a few spooky items like coffins, statues, and hanging bodies, but for the most part they are wide open and all start looking the same after a while. You'll constantly need to consult your map to figure out where to go next. The semi-transparent ghosts are nicely rendered, but they could have been scarier (they were modeled in clay). Control is responsive; your movement is fast and smooth, and the shoulder buttons provide a handy strafe function. But the best aspect of Monster Manor is the audio. The background music is incredibly eerie, and the gristly sound effects will send chills down your spine. You often get the impression that something terrible is waiting for you in the next room! One thing I didn't like was how fast your life and ammo drains - you constantly need to replenish yourself. And while in some areas there's so much life and ammo you're tripping over them, there are other areas where they're painfully rare. And boy did I get tired of picking up all those gems and coins, which apparently only affect your score. Despite its flaws, Monster Manor is a pretty exciting game, and I don't think you can get it on any other console.
Alone in the Dark (Interplay 1994) D
Long before Resident Evil (PS1, 1996) popularized the survival horror genre there was a similar third-person, 3D adventure called Alone in the Dark. In it you investigate an old mansion while collecting items, solving puzzles, avoiding traps, and battling monsters. Sound familiar? The graphics are polygon-rendered, allowing for varying camera angles - quite a novel feature for the time. Unfortunately the 3D objects tend to be blocky, the action is slow, and you don't always get the best view. If not for the helpful "run" button the plodding pace would be unbearable. The user interface is clumsy and confusing, with an "action" menu used to perform actions like fighting, searching, pushing, etc. The puzzles aren't bad but getting past certain monsters can be a chore. The framerate during fights is terrible, and a few of these creatures look downright silly! I think I fought the Tasmanian Devil at one point! Alone in the Dark is at its best when you're just exploring. There aren't many thrills to be had, but the game maintains a certain level of suspense thanks to chilling sound effects and background music. You can save your progress at any time. Alone in the Dark was a truly innovative game for its time, but I'm afraid it has not aged very well.
Casper (Interplay 1995) B
Night Trap (Digital Pictures 1993) A-
Philips CD-i Games
7th Guest, The (Virgin 1993) D
I'm still trying to figure out why this slow, plodding mystery game was so popular on the PC in the early 90's. It couldn't possibly have anything to do with the tepid gameplay. Perhaps it was the abundance of eye candy, effectively combining live acting with nicely rendered environments. 7th Guest places you in a mysterious mansion for a night with six other ghostly "guests". As you explore the various rooms, you'll encounter ghosts played by live actors filling in parts of a very scripted storyline. In addition to watching video clips, you also need to solve a series of puzzles. While not particularly taxing, the fact that you don't get any directions makes the puzzles a bit more difficult and fun. Unfortunately the storyline is confusing and the snobby characters aren't particularly compelling. What's most notable about 7th Guest is its biggest downfall: the general lack of atmosphere. Much like the early Alone in the Dark games, the developers failed to understand that bright, clean, colorful rooms just aren't very scary. Even the "surprise" animated clips that are supposed to be intense fall flat. 7th Guest is a novel concept, but despite its good looks, there's not much of a game here.
Part 1: Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Intellivision, Odyssey 2, Colecovision, Commodore 64, NES, Atari 7800, Atari XE, Sega Master System
Part 2: Turbografx-16, Genesis, Neo Geo, SNES, Sega CD, Sega 32X, 3DO, Philips CD-i
Part 3: Saturn, Playstation, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast
Part 4: Playstation 2, GameCube, Xbox
Part 5: Xbox 360, Wii, Playstation 3, Wii U, Xbox One, Playstation 4