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Retro Review: Haunted Mansion

Atari inc - 1982 - Atari 2600


Haunted Mansion is an overhead action adventure game for the Atari 2600, and is often refereed to as the very first Survival Horror game. In it, you must navigate a haunted house in search of the 3 pieces of an Urn belonging to the houses long dead owner, Zachary Graves. But don’t think he will let you take his urn without a fight. Mr. Graves will attack you with his army of Spiders, Bats, and even his own ghost.



The game begins with your character (a big pair of googly eyes), on the first floor of the Graves House. Each of the houses 3 floors have 6 rooms, and contain 10 doors. Each time you start the game, the game changes which doors are locked, and which lead to the next floor. The way to tell which is which is the noises made by approaching the doors, locked doors making a thump noise, and each open door leading to a different colored room and music cue. Now, the funny thing about long abandoned haunted houses; nobody pays the power bill. So, each of the houses 3 floors are pitch black. Lucky for you, you have matches that when lit, will illuminate the area around you. With the match lit, you will be able to find the games items; Key, Sceptre, and Urn pieces. Much like the doors, the items will be set in different rooms each play. 


 You can only carry one item at a time, and they each serve a different purpose. The Key will open locked doors, the Sceptre will keep you safe from monster attacks, and the Urn pieces (which you can collect without dropping) that must be reassembled to escape the house. You do have the ability to drop items where ever you want, which can be used to help you keep all your items close by. The enemies are pretty easy to avoid most the time, though there are times where entering a new floor will jam you face first into a Bat, or Spider. Lucky for you, you have 9 lives to make it through the mansion. The game also has multiple difficulties, which will make the walls invisible without the use of matches. 



Haunted Mansion is definitely one of my favorite 2600 games. Now yes, it’s not really a horror game in the way of a scare (unless you suffer from a fear of cubes), but it does keep you on edge in the way of gameplay. You never know where the next enemy will appear, or where the items are hidden. When you enter a floor, and see a ghost and a bat rush at you, you will turn and run, and have to think where to go next. The Horror may be lacking, but the Survival and strategy remain strong. Haunted House is like a classic horror film. It’s probably not going to make you jump like a Resident Evil, or make you wanna hide in an old refrigerator box in a fetal pose like Silent Hill, but you’ll enjoy it all the same. It’s campy, it’s silly, by todays standards it’s the C-horror equivalent of Survival Horror. And that’s all part of the fun. It’s in those simple, yet challenging ascetics, that make this and many other Retro Games, fun even today. A pair of eyes, a dollar store ghost, and bunch of squares is all you need to have a good time. 


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