Is Goosebumps: Dead of Night a fabulous foray into fear or a miserable misuse of money?
I do like a good horror story these days. There aren’t many good ones around, but when I find one I tend to enjoy it a great deal. This wasn’t always the case — as a youngster I was terrified of most things horror related. With that said, I did have a few Point Horror books that I enjoyed, and sometimes I’d watch Are You Afraid of the Dark?. I never did get into the Goosebumps books, but their reach was so great that I am quite familiar with a few of the major characters and I love the idea of the horror genre still being accessible to youngsters. Goosebumps: Dead of Night would terrify most younger players, but probably not for the reasons the developers had hoped.
You play as an unnamed character, referred to as Twist, who is in Goosebumps author R. L. Stine’s house for no adequately explained reason. You find yourself in Stine’s study where the wordsmith has been trapped inside his typewriter. He tells you you need to find ten pages that Goosebumps classic Slappy has torn from books, releasing the monsters within. Only by doing so can you recapture Slappy and the other monsters before they can escape to wreak havoc elsewhere.
Goosebumps: Dead of Night is broken into three stages. The first has you sneaking around Stine’s home, avoiding monsters and collecting the lost pages, followed by a jaunt through a conservatory to collect potion ingredients, culminating in visiting Nikola Tesla’s tower — which is inexplicably in Stine’s house — to stop evil from being spread around the world.
The first stage is reasonably enjoyable. You’ll find pages hidden in sensible places such as cupboards and bookcases, whilst you yourself need to find hiding places to avoid the increasing number of threats that are unleashed. Each enemy has their own traits, such as ambushing you if you stay in the dark too long, or stealing pages you’ve already found. If you are caught, you’ll suffer a quick Five Nights At Freddy’s style jump scare before being popped back to a previous checkpoint. There’s some fun to be had in this Slender knock-off, but it’s certainly not the peak of horror gameplay.
The conservatory fares less well as you try to find ingredients for a potion. You’ll be directed where to go and do some light puzzle-solving by sending bees to certain places. Unfortunately, they often don’t do what you expect them to, often resulting in death. There’s a nice little mini-game towards the end, as well as a choice to make that makes a minor difference to the end of the level which is nice at least. The flawed mechanics make this somewhat annoying, and there’s very little in the way of exploration.
The final area has you doing old-fashioned, redirecting laser puzzles to acquire a lightning gun before going through a painfully dull set of mazes to flip some switches. These mazes are filled with gummy bears that will kill you when you walk headlong into one around a corner. You can destroy them with your gun, but it takes longer to kill them than it really should. This culminates in possibly the most boring boss battle in history, in which you walk very slowly in a circle shooting at things that are no threat whatsoever. You are then greeted with a cutscene that explains nothing and leaves a whole heap of loose ends.
Goosebumps: Dead of Night starts off well enough, with a cutscene featuring Jack Black reprising his role as R. L. Stine, and that first stage is enjoyable enough thanks to there being a good variety of foes to outfox, but it doesn’t take long to get through that early enjoyment. The attempts at keeping things fresh through different stages is a fine effort, but they just don’t do anything all that fun. Having a number of different villains from the books together is nice, but nothing that hasn’t been done before.
On a lighter note, the sound is pretty good and works very well when it comes to figuring out where enemies are in the first stage. The voice work is also good, as you may expect when professionals are involved, but there aren’t really all that many voice lines. The visuals are basic, but have a certain charm to them, with a consistent cartoony aesthetic throughout. Objects that can be interacted with are all relatively clear too. And if you’re a fan of the books I’m sure there are plenty of references to be found throughout.
These are the only positives I can really muster up for Goosebumps: Dead of Night. The controls aren’t great, and the game itself just doesn’t feel nice to play as a consequence. Thankfully, as it only clocks in at around two hours you don’t have to suffer through them long. Considering that this costs nearly £35 and has little-to-no replay value means even if there was much enjoyment to be found, it would last next to no time and leave a bitter taste thanks to that excessive price. A generally poor effort that not even the kids will really enjoy.