Last year I shared with you my thoughts on some games that you should be playing over the spooky Halloween season. I’ve decided to continue the trend this year, except I changed my philosophy a bit in that I covered only games that I’ve played this time around. Also, instead of 20 choices I’m giving you 13, which seems both appropriate given the day this article is honoring and necessary given I’ve run out of time! Anyway, hopefully this list will be useful to you in finding just the right game to occupy your Halloween night, and you can always check out last year’s list since it’s still full of valid choices.
Dead Space – I’d say that so far this is probably the creepiest game I’ve played on my iPod Touch. The mood is much more “Alien” than zombie rush, and the game does a great job of doing something when you least expect it. The visuals are top notch, there’s plenty of game play, and the level designs are well thought out. This is also one of those games that use more of a “special effects” type music than a true soundtrack to evoke some true chills. I’d say this definitely ranks top on the list of games to play over the Halloween season.
Hysteria Project 1 & 2 – If you’re not quite as much into the FPS style of game, the Hysteria Project games are another great way to get some frights. I’ve played through both of them (the first one two or three times), and even though you know what’s going to happen the second time around they are still interesting. The games employ a Full Motion Video technique that was somewhat of a fad in the 90’s, but unlike most of those games the developers of Hysteria Project did it right. The acting is actually decent, the action sequences are challenging but mostly fair, and the games do a good job of fulfilling your curiosity and making you want more at the same time.
Dark Meadow – This is an interesting game. It’s kind of a rail shooter, kind of an RPG, and would be a great adventure game if it actually had any adventure elements to it. I’m kind of disappointed that it wasn’t what I was expecting game play wise, yet at the same time I get lost in the moment every time I wander the abandoned halls of the once great hospital. The graphics are great and quite moody, though the game never really gets to the point of being scary. Your only “friend” is an old man whom you barely see but continually annoys… I mean informs… you about things over the speaker system. In the end, though, you’ll be hard pressed not to want to know what went on in that hospital before – and after – it was shut down.
Phosphor Games Studio, Dark Meadow, – $2.99
Vampire Saga: Pandora’s Box – Some would argue that this is a hidden object game, but to me it felt more like an adventure game that just happened to have hidden object sequences in it. Either way, this was a great game. The storyline was interesting and held me through the end, even though I thought I had guessed it all mid way through (I was actually partially wrong). Aside from some cheesy cut scenes the visuals were sharp, and the sound effects and music was top notch. Pandora’s Box did have a couple of control issues, but the package as a whole more than made up for that. I usually try and finish adventure / hidden object games mainly for the simple fact that they are short enough to do so, but this is one I kept coming back to because I wanted to.
Haunted Halloween Escape – There is a subset of adventure games known as the “room escape” game, and while the term has become a bit broader over time, it generally refers to a situation where you’re trapped in a small location and must get out. In this case you’re trapped in a house (which almost feels small enough to be a room), and the décor is decidedly Halloween oriented. The game doesn’t take long at all to play, but it’s full of puzzles, quite amusing and it’s free. There’s even a bit of replay value if you don’t get all the bats the first time around.
TeraLumina Games, Haunted Halloween Escape, – Free
Undead: The Last Refuge – While the majority of zombie based games focus on trying to escape the undead masses, The Last Refuge has you defending your poor little abode from the inevitable zombie overrun. The game play is simple but solid: blast zombies before they get in, and repair shutters when possible to keep them out. This is one of those that can actually get scary because you’ll get so focused on one set of windows that you’ll forget about the rest… until some of those pesky zombies sneak up behind you and start attacking. The visuals are pretty decent from what I believe to be a home brewed engine (in other words, not Unity or Unreal 3), and even though it’s a confined area the action never really feels old.
Bulkypix, Undead: The Last Refuge, – $2.99
Zombie Wonderland – Take Undead: The Last Refuge and turn it into a sitcom and you have Zombie Wonderland. Instead of just one rundown shack you’ll have several buildings to protect, because that’s your job. When the going gets tough you can even stick an automatic machine gun in a window to help keep things protected. Clients don’t like a mess, though, so if you have to shoot some zombies inside the structures you need to make sure you clean up the guts before your shift is over. Various locations with different layouts, zany zombie types and an undead zombie rooster make for a crazy zombie slaying experience.
Helsing’s Fire – It’s hard enough finding a creature game that isn’t zombie related, but it’s even more of a challenging finding one that isn’t action based. One of the best games that meet both criteria is Helsing’s Fire. This puzzler is quite original thanks to its mix of light and color based mechanics. Of course it doesn’t hurt any that there’s plenty of witty banter between the monster slayer, his sidekick and the villains you meet, or that the visuals have a very slick, stylized look to them. There is a large number of levels to master, and it’s a nice change of pace from the physics based puzzle games that run rampant on the App Store today.
9 Feet Under – This cute “infinite faller” game features an underutilized but important staple of the Halloween mythos for its protagonist – a black cat. You’re basically chasing a mouse down a bottomless grave, chomping and clawing at all sorts of ghoulish apparitions along the way. As befits the hero’s stature you get 9 lives with which to wreak underworldly havoc, and the best part is that you can slow your descent by hitting the attack button while you’re in the air, effectively slashing you claws out all the way down. I don’t know that it accomplishes too much, especially with the jagged ceiling closing in on you, but it looks cool.
ROARigami Games, 9 Feet Under, – $0.99
iDracula – Undead Awakening – Before everyone and their brother were making dual stick shooters, there was iDracula. For a non-level based romp of pure carnage, this is still one of the best the iPhone has to offer. The graphics are great, the game play is simple, brutal and intense, and the random upgrades make for a different experience every time when it comes to customizing your character. There is a nice variety of weapons and four different game play modes will provide you with hours upon hours of monster kill time. Plus, this was probably one of the earliest creature features to not feature primarily zombies as gun fodder. If you haven’t tried this dual stick feast yet, this Halloween would be a great time to get initiated.
Giggle Ghosts – If you’d like something with a Halloween theme that you’d feel comfortable letting little kids play, this is the game for you. All the ghosts need to get to their party, and it’s up to you to make sure they arrive by tapping chimneys so the smoke blows them towards the happenin’ mansion. Once the guests have made their way to the house you must drag them onto the house or tree to make their journey complete. Keep in mind that this is probably more for keeping them quiet in the car then sitting down and spending quality time with them, however. While as an adult you may initially get caught up in the infectious laughter of the ghosts are they are being whisked away by the breeze, you’ll soon realize that the game play is a bit repetitive for older tastes.
Busy Bee Studios, Giggle Ghosts, – Free
Dead Escape – Yeah it’s about zombies again, but I like the approach this game takes to the subject. Instead of another “run around and blow everything away” game, Dead Escape is actually more like a point and click graphic adventure using a 3D engine. The visuals are pretty decent and the dialog and voiceovers are corny, but somehow feel appropriate. Most importantly, though, is that the pace of the game is a nice change from the typical “destroy first, ask questions later” paradigm of zombie based titles. This is definitely one to look into if you want something different than the typical zombie fare.
Wabo Studios, Dead Escape, – $1.99
Hopefully this will give you a good head start towards using your iPhone or iPad to get spooked out over Halloween. Like I said last year there are certainly more good frights to be had than what I’ve listed here, but at least these thirteen games should serve as a strong launching point. Enjoy, and don’t drop your device when things go bump in the night…
Don’t forget to check out our 20 Games To Play This Halloween (2010) for more App Store suggestions.