Developer: Retrotainment Games
Publisher: Retrotainment Games
Platform: NES, PC (soon)
Tested on: NES
Haunted Halloween ’86: The Curse of Possum Hollow – Review
Last year we were treated to an amazing new release for Nintendo’s first console, the ‘NES’, namely Haunted Halloween ’85, which was released later on Steam as well. With retro games being collected by many fans of old-school games, it was to be expected that a title such as Haunted Halloween ’85 would fare well amongst collectors, and those who simply yearn for the games of a distant past. Retrotainment noticed that the fans of the game wanted more, and because of that, we have the chance to play the sequel, namely Haunted Halloween ’86: The Curse of Possum Hollow, in which Donny, and his girlfriend Tami, will have to battle ghouls, zombies and many other monsters yet again. We were eager to put the cheeky duo to the test, to see if they hadn’t lost their edge.
Donny has survived the ghoulish experience that occurred in 1985, where he singlehandedly fought off zombies and other nightly terrors. Nonetheless, this has earned him some bragging rights to his friends and girlfriend, as he saved the day back then. Now, a year later, everyone is getting ready for Halloween once again, and after meeting up with some friends, Donny hears that something is amiss, and he is asked the check it out. Even though the young Donny isn’t exactly squeamish, it’s clear he did not really want to check it out, he is pretty much challenged by his girlfriend Tami to prove his bravery. Sadly for Donny, the nightmare seems to be starting again, but luckily this time Tami will kick evil’s ass alongside the hero of 1985.
The story in Haunted Halloween ’86 is quite simple but still fairly good for a NES title. While the first game threw a gigantically long text at us at the beginning of the game, the storytelling format has changed significantly in this iteration, as you’ll get more conversations between characters, rather than a big text to plow through. By choosing this approach, it makes the game more appealing, and you get slightly more attached to the pixilated characters.
When we look at the capabilities of the NES, Haunted Halloween ’86 looks amazing, ranging from the characters to the backdrops. Not only do many of the environments explode with details, they offer a lot of variation and show that the developers tried to put Nintendo’s rather antique hardware to the test. The vibrant colors, within a dark theme, set the right tone for this title. Overall, we are amazed by the amount of work that went into this homebrew title, and how modern it feels in its somewhat ‘obsolete’ 8 Bit dimension.
There is only one minor remark to be made, namely, it’s sometimes hard to see which part of the backdrop you can interact with, or in other words, use as a surface to cross gaps and other obstacles, simply because they are well blended in the background and don’t really stand out. Trial and error seems to be the way to go here.
The soundtrack of this 8 Bit horror adventure is magnificent in all its ‘catchy’ glory. You’ll be treated to some classic chiptunes, while making sure some tracks reoccur in specific situations, to give it a certain signature feel. Overall you’ll get an upbeat soundtrack to plow through, albeit with a very appealing grim undertone.
Haunted Halloween ’86 is, just like its predecessor, a very traditional action platformer, where you’ll constantly be battling undead foes, avoid traps and other obstacles, while hoping to punch the chapter’s boss’ lights out. That being said, don’t let this charming game fool you, as it will be a dark and very hard journey if you want to reach the end of the game.
In our humble opinion, this installment of the HH series requires a lot more skill than part one, not only to dispose your enemies or kill the bosses, but the overall level layout feels a bit more complex, and a very big step away from the simple platforming in the first part. That being said, the format remains the same, where each chapter is divided into different zones, where the beginning of each zone will serve as a checkpoint. If you die, you’ll start from there, if you lose all your lives, you’ll have to restart from the chapter you were in. Don’t fret, if frustration strikes, you can simply write down the password for the stage you’re in, and start off from said point, if you wish to continue your journey.
Unlike the first part of the game, where you could only do a small barrage of punches with Donny, including a very clumsy uppercut, this title added tons of moves for you to use in your quest to push back the darkness. Each stage unlocks a few skills, which range from dodging, performing Street Fighter-like moves to a well appreciated double jump. In this part of the series you’ll also be able to take control of Tami by pressing the Select button. Tami feels a bit more agile than Donny, but overall they can perform the same actions. Switching characters is in reality a simple extension of your health-bar, as when one character is close to becoming a zombie, you can switch, and play with a fresh character. Keep in mind that the unutilized character will not heal automatically when inactive. Some items will heal both characters, while other will only heal the active character, thus keep your eyes peeled and switch at the right time.
Even though we liked pretty much everything Retrotainment threw at us, the game has a few hit detection flaws and a few jump bugs, where the game registers you’re in the air, thus already activating your second jump because the game thought you were already jumping before that. We also experienced a few instances where enemies would just pop up, when we moved a bit too quickly through auto-scroll levels.
If you have a NES at home, be it for nostalgic reasons, or simply because you like collecting and playing NES games, Haunted Halloween ’86: The Curse of Possum Hollow is one of those titles that should be added to said collection. This brand new NES game pretty much has it all with it’s very addictive soundtrack, grand visuals, great platforming action and many undead skulls to bash. If you’re into retro games and have a working NES or want to buy one, this game will certainly provide a few hours of fun. Those who don’t want to invest in a physical release, or simply don’t have Nintendo’s ancient hardware at home will have to wait for the Steam release of HH ’86.