Among the Haunted

by aurelim


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Mix of genre did not quite land., November 11, 2023
by manonamora
Related reviews: ectocomp

This was a collaboration project between two authors of different styles, where a cosy slice-of-life and horror mash up was attempted.

There are indeed some horror elements to this game, especially at the start and towards the end of the story, but I found them being muddled through the rest of the text, its gripping effect drowned in lengthy passages and passive interaction, diluting the tension and fast pace. By the end, the horror aspect resembled more a list of references weaved through the quirky slice-of-life concept.

Granted, mixing up genres, especially when they are so different, is pretty difficult. But I can't help but wonder how it would have looked like if the writing focused more on the slice-of-life or more on the horror rather than make both genre work on the same level. The concept of a single mom with two kids trying to survive Halloween is already a neat concept, adding the cookie haunted house they live in adds to the charm, but I fail to see how the murder clown would fit in there. On the other hand, if the horror aspect was taken further, the single mom having to deal with a haunted house on Halloween was already a solid plot!

I think more interactivity and player agency would have greatly helped the game in general. There are many instances in the game where you go through multiple lengthy passages, with only a click-to-continue link, pulling the reader through the story, rather than making it an active participant*. It is a bit of a shame, especially as the blurb sets expectations of choices with decorating the house, or going trick-or-treating, or pulling a prank... While you have some small choices, the bigger aspects happen without requiring the player. I would have loved to be able to** place particular decorations in specific places (which could affect the prank later on), or choosing a different costume to go trick-or-treating (rather than that one or nothing), or responding to passers-by/candy-givers during the trick-or-treat phase. The added agency for the player would have helped with the pace of the story (and potentially added to the horror aspect - oh, but what if I had chosen another path...)
*even if the PC is supposed to have a set personality, many of the choices made for you could have been interactive.
**most of those don't require more than an extra line or two of variation in the text.

One final gripe with the accessibility of the game itself: when the passage has an image for the background, the text is often very hard to read, even when a dark-ish overlay has been added. Either the dark overlay needs to be darker/less opaque, or the image should be less bright (a combination of both would be best).

One thing that I noticed however, was how the prose and style stayed consistent throughout the writing, even with the switch in tone and genre. This is pretty impressive considering the writers have quite different styles. This speaks volume about the synergy during the creating process.

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