Two kids go out trick or treating on Halloween and find themselves in a series of cluttered rooms.
Well kids, it’s almost Halloween and you know what that means—spooky tricks, piles of treats and the inevitable release of bad Halloween-themed video games. Every year publishers try to bank on our holiday fervor by getting us to spend money on themed entertainment. Unfortunately, the quality of these offerings in general, just isn’t very good. In keeping with this disappointing trend, developer Casual Arts brings us Halloween: Trick or Treat, a textbook example of cynically conceived, carelessly made, holiday-exploiting, interactive dreck.
Halloween: Trick or Treat begins with grade-school-age siblings Sally and Mike jumping into their costumes, presumably to do what most kids do come Halloween—go trick or treating. This could be the start of a whimsical, lively romp through various spooky encounters as the kids explore their neighborhood but alas, it’s not. The game features only the barest narrative thread, just enough to get you from point A to point B and this means poor Sally and Mike (and you) are destined for one long, joyless slog through what feels like an endless series of hoarders-like scenes full of random clutter.
While there is some nod to Halloween as the kids move through places like a graveyard to a witch’s house, it’s overshadowed by a gameplay formula that quickly gets repetitive. The game has no story to speak of and numerous hidden object scenes are bridged by either short, simplistic puzzles or by Sally and Mike saying things like, “Hey! A witch’s house! We should go inside!” After about an hour of this, you’ll be dying for a change of pace in the form of an alternate game mode but all you’ll get is a half-hearted arcade-like mechanic that gives and removes points for finding candy cane “treats” and laughing skull “tricks”. Nothing ever really comes of scoring these points though, aside from what Casual Arts, on their official website, optimistically hopes will be “hours and hours of fun as you play the game over and over to see if you can get a higher score than your family and friends.” Hrm…
While these uncompelling supplementary modes don’t provide much motivation to finish the game, things get even more tedious when toward the end of the game they vanish, leaving nothing to do but play through one hidden object scene after another. This wouldn’t be all bad if the hidden object scenes were interesting and fun to play but they really aren’t, partly because they include nonsensical items that have nothing to do with the game’s context. Why, does a graveyard have baseball mitts and fuzzy dice? And since none of the objects are used for anything, why do Sally and Mike want them? Apparently, kids these days just really love spending Halloween night digging through piles of random crap.
In addition to repetitious and un-fun gameplay, Halloween: Trick or Treat brazenly assaults your senses with garish graphics and sound design so annoying, you might even turn your speakers off. The cartoonish stars of the show, Sally and Mike, look less like human children and more like neckless, child-ogres who hunker through visually grating locations made from too-contrasty, too-color-saturated photographs. The effect is disjointed at best: hideous at worst. And don’t go thinking the game’s music or sound effects will make up for this. There can’t be more than five cheap sound effects in the entire game and they all sound like they came from one of those “free sound effects” websites. And the music? Don’t get me started. The game’s sparse, electric piano musical themes are so flat and bargain-basement sounding, you’d swear they were played by keyboard cat.
As a Halloween enthusiast and lover of all things spooky, I’m always skeptical of the quality of Halloween-themed games and I admit I was even more doubtful of Halloween: Trick or Treat’s ability to jump the low bar set by these titles. Sadly, the game completely lived up to (or”lived down to”?) my expectations and has little to offer in the way of beauty, creativity or entertainment. In fact, I’d say it’s the interactive equivalent of those hard, awful-tasting peanut butter taffy things cheap neighbors give out on Halloween—don’t bother putting it in your bag.