Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion is a Steam game with a cute exterior, but is really a primordial soup of horror game references. And best of all, it’s free. Well, at least the original game is.
|Developer||Lag Studios/Albino Moose Games|
|Publisher||Lag Studios/Albino Moose Games, Screenwave Media|
|Release Year||2015, 2017 (HD Renovation)|
|Free Download||Click here to download from Steam.|
|Purchase (HD Renovation)||Click here to download from Steam.|
|Purchase Karamari Hospital DLC||Click here to buy from Steam.|
|Purchase Soundtrack||Click here to buy from Steam.|Yes, I know the developer changed it to Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion. But this one cheap hack of a developer called Spooky House Studio can go suck a dick for trying to copyright a generic phrase. What’s next? Should I go create a Brown Cow Studio and threaten to sue someone for creating a game called Brown Cow? I’m still going to call it Spooky’s House of Jump Scares. It sounds better.
So it’s been a while since the name change and I had a minor change of heart. While fans of the original game may still call it Spooky’s House of Jumpscares, I’ll start calling this game Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion since it might be better for driving traffic to the game. It may be a matter of time before the old name drops from people’s minds anyway, so might as well just live with it.
But for the record, I still don’t agree with the circumstances behind the name change. It was a petty thing to threaten a lawsuit over.
When it first came out, Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion quickly grew in popularity. Certainly not at the level of Five Nights at Freddy’s (how most unfortunate), but it still managed to catch on with famous Youtube channels like Pewdiepie, Markiplier, the Game Grumps, and Cinemassacre. Though it’s a rather simple game, Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion has a fairly dedicated fanbase.
Oh, she is so kawaii desu! <<<<<<3333###3#33#33halpmeithinkimturningweaboo3333
Well, yeah. That’s not the only reason. It’s because the game can get legitimately scary and even interesting, even when you take the jump scares out of the formula. For a free horror game, that is not a bad deal—but if you paid money for the HD Renovation, you might be a tad disappointed.
Why Am I Even Here?
The story is that you’re some random history enthusiast who had heard of tales of a haunted mansion, so you decided to check it out. Immediately, you were greeted by the little ghost girl known as Spooky.
Aw! I just want to pinch her itty-bitty ghosty cheeks… <3333
She said your goal is to explore 1,000 rooms in the haunted mansion. And that’s basically it. A walking simulator. That’s all you do for the rest of the game. Sounds boring, right?
Well, to be fair, this game has some pretty neat quirks to it. So I wouldn’t dismiss it for its simplicity.
Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion is a first-person exploration game, similar to many other free indie horror games that you could get off of Indie DB, Game Jolt or someplace. While you initially have no means to defend yourself, you will acquire an axe later on that allows you to clear obstacles and fend off enemies.
You have a health meter and a stamina meter. If you take any damage, the health meter will regenerate slowly over time. The stamina meter is for running and using your weapon. It depletes very quickly, but also regenerates just as quickly.
The graphics are strangely cartoonish, which seems to clash with the horror theme. Sort of like what happens when you attempt to turn Minecraft into a horror game. However, I feel that it does work to this game’s advantage. The look and feel of the house seems to reflect Spooky’s personality. Not only in its simplicity, but even in its grimness. Many of the rooms you enter have low lighting. If you decide to stop and smell the flowers every now and then, you will even find some rather fucked up paintings.
And as stated in the title, you get a lot of jump scares like these!
These Specimen 1 cardboard cutouts are harmless and are only around to hopefully make you shit your pants after making a sudden loud noise. Ohhh, but that’s not all. You know what’s even cuter?
The monsters are the most fascinating part of Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion. We’re not just playing through any ol’ horror game for cheap thrills. Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion is basically a primordial soup of homages to horror video games and other media. Even the transition to opening doors into new areas is a reference to Resident Evil. You have one Specimen based on monsters from the Silent Hill franchise. Another Specimen based on Resident Evil. Another based on the Kaernk from Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Even some references to non-horror games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Earthbound. Most of the Specimens have their own lore, theme songs, methods of attack, and even unique death screens.
I’m seeing no evil… I’m seeing no evil…
The key to beating Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion is to know when to use the running ability or the axe, as well as coming up with strategies on how to avoid the monsters. While most are fairly easy to avoid—as all they do is briskly move towards you—, some have special abilities that will hinder you. Quite a few Specimens can phase through walls. Specimen 5 can make the walls look like rivers of blood to throw off your vision. Specimen 10 will distort your vision and enter a secondary form if you’re too far or too close to it. For a large chunk of his domain, Specimen 12 can only be avoided by entering specific hiding spots and will kill you in one blow if he gets too close to you.
Though you can use similar strategies for most of these monsters, there’s enough variety here to make this game better than a typical free horror game. It actually makes the act of going through 1,000 repetitive rooms a lot more tolerable. There are two different endings depending on how much you used the axe for your playthrough. There are even damn mini-games!
Despite the horror overtones, the game is strangely optimistic in its presentation. Though it could be Spooky herself playing tricks on you, the house seems to encourage you to keep moving forward despite all the trials and tribulations you’re up against.
Hell, you even got some supportive, intellectual conversations about Jungian philosophy from this pink cat.
TICK! TOCK! TICK! TOCK!
The sound design is also pretty damn good. Though you have some fairly typical ambiance for a horror game—with plenty of background noises to catch you off guard—the actual theme songs for the Specimens are memorable and catchy. My particular favorites are “Your Consenting Mind” and “Getting There.”
However, there is one design choice I don’t agree with. Supposedly, the theme music for the monsters don’t play half of the time in order to make their encounters more difficult. However, these chases are not really that hard if you can still hear the monster noises through the ambiance.
It feels like much of the good music was wasted to only play once in a single playthrough. Sometimes, the lack of music just makes the actual encounters feel uneventful, which goes against the game’s appeal. I think the music is part of the reward for a monster encounter. This may be wishful thinking, but I’m hoping this needless feature gets removed in the future.
And now, we’re moving on to the Karamari Hospital DLC. Unlike the main game, this DLC actually costs some moolah.
Karamari Hospital DLC
Karamari Hospital is a little different from the main game, as it changes up the rules a bit and tries to shoot for something original.
The premise is more or less an alternative ending, from what I understand. Instead of entering room 1,000, you stop dead at 995 in order to take the elevator. But suddenly, the elevator malfunctions and drops into the deepest possible bowels of the house. And this takes you to the aforementioned Karamari Hospital.
For me to say that so casually, I’ve already accepted the insanity presented by this game.
Your only objective in Karamari Hospital… is to escape Karamari Hospital. Yeah, that’s basically it. Instead of trying to explore as many rooms in the house as possible, Karamari Hospital puts a larger emphasis on exploration and puzzle-solving. You may also get a little backstory on Spooky herself. This DLC is kind of like the area where you first encounter Specimen 12, where you have to go through a house in order to progress. While Karamari Hospital lasts longer than that particular section, it’s hard to say if it is really a $5 experience. It’s really short. But seeing as how we got a much longer game for free, I can’t complain. Got to give the developer some profit for the extra hard work.
And also, this DLC is scarier than the original game. So, at least it has that going for it.
And kudos to the new monster designs.
Hell, let’s not forget this priceless gem.
Get it? That’s Rebecca Black!
And that about sums up Karamari Hospital. Everything else, I would just find out by giving it a play.
Honestly, I find it difficult to find a right way to criticize free games. Mainly because it’s unfair to uphold them to the same standards as mainstream video games and even indie developers that put a price tag on their games. But despite its minimalist approach, I came to like Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion more than I expected. It’s one of those horror games with some atmosphere that you can quickly jump into and you can invest a few hours of your time into.
Take that as you will, but I feel like the game is worth a shot.
So now… let’s judge its merits as a paid game!
So there’s another version of Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion known as HD Renovation, which is remade with Unity instead of GameMaker. And it’s exactly what you expected. It’s an HD remake of the original game, which you have to pay $9.99 for. And I just so happened to get this one on sale.
Unfortunately, not much has changed. The basic story is exactly the same, with no additional backstories or dialogue. By the time I’m writing this, HD Renovation has the main game and the Karamari Hospital campaign.
Endless Mode and a Build-your-own mansion mode are not active yet, which is disappointing. I guess you could say this version of the game is Early Access? Eh, I don’t know. And now, there is an Endless Mode, which is exactly what you expected.
Now, let’s begin with the first noticeable changes. The textures are cleaner for sure and some of the rooms look different (though sadly, they’re still mostly small rooms and hallways with nothing interesting in them). There’s also some more background music/ambiance.
Whenever you play arcade cabinets and use the CAT-DOS computers, you have a third-person view of them. I personally don’t like this change as the controls feel more clunky overall.
Some of the monster designs and behaviors have also been altered. Here are some changes I noticed:
- Specimen 2 rises out of slime puddles.
- Specimen 3 visibly crawls out of holes in the ceiling, has a cleaner texture and moves even faster than before.
- Specimen 4 has a shadowy aura around her. She also has a much creepier version of herself, complete with a more horrifying theme song that reminds me of Giygas from Earthbound.
- Specimen 5 is a 3D model, moves faster and can create more illusions.
- Specimen 6 is much more aggressive than before, teleporting more frequently; if you stare him down, he will teleport to your location in about 15 seconds.
- Specimen 8’s voice clips play more often.
- Specimen 9 can show up when you idle for too long in the original game. In HD Renovation, it can pop up much earlier.
- Specimen 10 is a 3D model with smoother animations. It’s also more likely to enter its second form if you move too far away from it.
- Specimen 11 has a burning flame between its horns.
- Specimen 12 looks a little different and has different voice clips.
- Instead of a wearing a towel over her legs, Specimen 13 is now a carnivorous mermaid.
- Monsters 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 can show up as random encounters as well.
- Five new Specimens available only in Endless Mode.
Oh, and some can bust down doors. That’s pretty cool.
Apparently, you can play this game through a VR headset like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and OSVR. But since I don’t have any of them (and don’t plan on getting one), I can’t personally comment on it. But I read that the VR support was terrible anyway, so keep your expectations for that low.
Honestly, it’s nice to see this game continuously getting updates. At this rate, it might end up like SCP Containment Breach where it constantly adds in new monsters.
Speaking of which, the new additions for Endless Mode were… interesting, to say the least. Unknown Specimen 1 is actually White Face from the indie game IMSCARED. Unknown Specimen 2 is an utterly crappy joke character (and deservedly so…) based on Five Nights at Freddy’s. Unknown Specimen 3 is surprisingly a creepy addition with a unique mechanic. Unknown Specimen 4 is a… deceptively cute anime-esque wolf girl with antlers. Yeah, figure that one out. And Unknown Specimen 5 is Lisa from P.T.
With the exception of the joke character, these characters will make your venture through Endless Mode a living hell. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the original game or HD Renovation. They have a strange tendency to constantly harass you.
In Endless Mode of the original game, it’s hard from the beginning because any of the tougher monsters can spawn at any point. In HD Renovation, you get some leeway. But as soon as you meet one of the Unknown Specimens, that particular specimen is going to keep appearing.
In one playthrough, Tirsiak kept spawning—who knows, ya nerds. Maybe she had a crush on me and wanted first dibs, if you know what I’m saying.
In another playthrough, Lisa kept spawning. Yeah, what a lovely lady she was. She slowed everything down by freezing the room counter for a while, basically fucking up my progress. I probably went through over 50 extra rooms that didn’t count towards my progress.
Want to make things worse? Well, in HD Renovation’s Endless Mode, you can encounter two or more monsters simultaneously. That’s what did me in during my last playthrough.
Both Tirsiak and Lisa followed me in a deadly double team. Tirsiak’s gimmick is summoning shadow creatures to block my path forward, so I’d have to be constantly facing forward to kill them. Lisa’s gimmick is that she’s an even more persistent, annoying version of Specimen 6, in that she constantly teleports to your location. But she only does that when you have your back turned, so you’d have to face backwards to make sure she doesn’t move from her spot.
You know where this is going. I was in a situation that’s nearly impossible to win. Then Tirsiak finished me off and fed me to her invisible pack of wolves. The unfairness of that double team was enraging. And I’m sure if I try Endless Mode again in the future, I’m going to be encountering more teams I will end up hating.
Furthermore, I replayed the Karamari Hospital campaign on HD Renovation and found this bizarre mini-game called Sunshine Academy. It’s a dating sim where you attempt to win the heart of a girl named Ume Ito, and… it’s pretty fucked up and disturbing. Even more so than the arcade minigames. Imagine Doki Doki Literature Club! if everything goes to hell in just a few minutes of starting the game.
And no, this game is surprisingly NOT a reference to DDLC. This update came in 2016. DDLC was released in 2017. Sorry, Monika’s just not feeling it.
I know this next complaint isn’t really a new thing, but… can we please do something about this one specific room in the mansion? You know what I’m talking about. The looping room with the static overlay and the single locked door that will randomly unlock itself after a certain amount of time passes. And sometimes, this bronze man nicknamed Howard by fans just comes out as a jump scare.
This room pops up at least once in every 100 rooms I enter, and it gets old really quick. All it does is slow everything down and keep you in the same room for over a minute. There is nothing new to see in subsequent visits after the first visit to this room. It’s tedious as fuck and adds nothing to the gameplay.
And yeah, that’s about it. The reason that HD Renovation was made with a different game engine is that the original game had some glitches and limited support for 3D models, so Unity gives more freedom to the developer to do whatever.
With all this said though, nothing had fundamentally changed thus far. It’s a little harder than the original, but still not that challenging of a game. Unless you really want to support the developer (good on you), HD Renovation doesn’t offer any huge advantage over the free original game.
Playing the HD Renovation also helps me notice the game’s flaws more. Whether you’re playing this version or the original, Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion is a repetitive hallway simulator with not many obstacles or challenges in your way. Most of the Specimens have the same routine—slowly inching towards you and sneaking in a melee attack. Some can phase through walls and make doors disappear, but it all follows a very predictable pattern. There are very few reasons to not stop running and check behind you for the monster.
I was more forgiving towards the original game since it did feel like a full game that you could play for free. But since HD Renovation is a $9.99 game, I think the repetitive gameplay needs to have more stuff to do in it. For example, you encountered some Specimens in more maze-like areas where you had to solve puzzles and find items to progress. As a suggestion, I think HD Renovation should have this happen more often. In fact, I actually liked Karamari Hospital because it’s essentially this, only a bit longer.
Alas, I feel like I did overrate this game a tad bit, so I’m adjusting my rating accordingly. I still love the monster designs and their fascinating backgrounds, but I’m hoping for more variable gameplay in the future. Since the developer is still adding new features to the game, maybe we’ll see some neat stuff in the near future.
Spooky's Jump Scare Mansion$9.99
- Despite the game's obvious jump scare gimmick, it actually does have quite a bit of atmosphere in its simplicity and its surreal environments.
- The game has an interesting mix of horror, dark humor, and mystery to make its own unique flavor.
- The monsters are generally interesting and memorable, seeing as how they're basically spoofs of other monsters from other horror games.
- The game has a pretty well done soundtrack and helps make each monster distinctive from one another.
- The Karamari Hospital DLC is worth the money if you want a scarier experience and some new insight into Spooky's background.
- The game has minimal gameplay as you're simply moving forward to cover 1,000 rooms. While there is a combat mechanic, it's very basic.
- The hallways tend to be similar in design and have predictable locations of where the exits are.
- Most of the monsters are very easy to avoid and don't pose a threat as their only tactic is slowly chasing you. However, some like Specimen 5, Specimen 6, Specimen 10, and Specimen 12 will throw new twists at you.