Haunted Halloween ’86: The Curse of Possum Hollow (Xbox One) – Review
Follow Genre: Action, Adventure, Platformer
Developer: Retrotainment Games
Publisher: Retrotainment Games
Platform: NES, PC, Xbox One
Tested on: Xbox One

Haunted Halloween ’86: The Curse of Possum Hollow (Xbox One) – Review

Site Score
8.0
Good: Back to the retro feels, solid challenge, enough content
Bad: ''Skills'' seem a bit useless, environment starts repeating itself
User Score
9.8
(20 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 9.8/10 (20 votes cast)

Haunted Halloween ’86 seems like a bit of a divergent name, especially followed up by ”The Curse of Possum Hollow”, but it’s actually a sequel to Haunted Halloween ’85! That’s right, an entire retro series seems to be born. Funded on Kickstarter, brought out on an official NES cartridge, the Haunted Halloween series promises to bring some classic 8-bit to your home. Whether it’s on your actual NES, your PC, or now also, your Xbox One. 

Story

In the last game, we got a chance to follow Donny Johnstown around as he tried to figure out what the hell was going on that haunted the town on Halloween. This year, in 1986, nothing much has changed. As Donny and Tami are challenged to investigate an old mansion on a hill, they are unpleasantly surprised by a mysterious force and multiple locations seem to be totally screwed (again). The kids find a piece of an old map, and in every level they wade through, they find some more that will lead them on a quest through woods, rivers, quarries and more. Of course, not without being accompanied by hordes of different enemies that try to stop you from reaching your goal.

While playing, the game will mostly stop at either the beginning or the end of each level, to either fill in some gaps of the story or to give a hint of what’s coming in the next level. Mostly this is done by some text bars on location, but occasionally there are also short, classic ”cutscenes” where a small window with a picture is presented and some text below it explains more of what’s going on.

Graphics

Crafted to run on an NES, Haunted Halloween will look like a classic 8-bit game for the NES, but with some adaptations from three decades of gaming included. This means that even though the environments and enemies are pixelated and all, they still look detailed and run smoothly, perhaps more so than other NES games from that era. Most of the environments you find yourself in are a bit dark and grimy, but also have a certain amount of realism to it which includes a variety of rocks, fences, trees, and more, all with little repetition. The screens and enemies are animated without problems, and though the game holds the classic feel and touch of the later 80s gaming era, it has noticeable differences in the number of frames and precision that everything is made with. There is sometimes a problem that the graphics don’t communicate well though, making it hard to guess where you can stand or jump on. But, to conclude: it’s what you expect from an NES game, but with a little more polish.

Sound

The sound you are treated to is a variety of chiptune background music. These tracks don’t seem that interesting as they are not memorable enough in their melodies and the variations in different sequences is low for each song. Moreover, the goal was probably to reflect a haunted Halloween, yet instead, it becomes a bit bland by the grayish sounds that seem to not really express anything. The sound effects are mainly blips and bloops as you would expect from a title with a focus on the NES. It’s not that the sound design is bad, it’s just that the 8 and 16-bit era made sure we got a lot of awesome nostalgic memories from games, and Haunted Halloween ’86’s sound design is not as memorable as those.

Gameplay

Haunted Halloween ’86: The Curse of Possum Hollow is an action platformer that mixes the jumping and avoiding of traps with battling enemies with a small number of possibilities. Every time you get another piece of the map by playing the main story you are allowed to choose another skill that’s available from a limited set. These skills include moves such as a double jump and a dodge, but also a powerful uppercut and a slam from above. However, if you play the game you will find that the utility skills such as the double jump can come in handy, but the combat skills don’t really fit the game since most enemies will be sidescrolling with specific hitboxes that are way more logical to just hit and dodge.

So most of your game will look like a level with different platforms that you try to jump through, themed to the current environment such as a cave or a factory. At the same time, different types of enemies will come at you and you have to learn how to defeat them. Some are faster, some can only be hit in the head, some you need to hit twice and it’s up to you to dodge as much as possible while doing so. What’s interesting is that the game is challenging in throwing all these things at you, especially as you progress further. Yet it never really feels like you are playing an unfair game.

For starters, you play with Donny AND Tami, which you can switch between whenever you want. Donny throws punches, Tami mainly kicks. Maybe Tami feels just a tad lighter to play with but other than that they have the same abilities. Each can take about five hits, so you can take about ten hits in total. If one of your characters dies, you are game over and have to do the current part of the level again. A total game over by running out of lives means that you have to do the entire level over by filling in a password you got upon the completion of the previous level like a real classic game. But like said before, it never really feels like it’s an unfair game. There are enough pickups throughout each level that look like candy corn. These will return some of the hits you can take, and there are also plenty of lives to be found as you go.

The real challenges are some hard jumping parts that mean instant death if you die, quickly depleting the number of lives you have. Or the bosses that can be a bit tough, especially at first. But if you fail, most of the time it will be because you were either impatient or not paying enough attention. Chances are very slim you will make it through in one go though, and this is what gives the game replayability and makes it fun to spend some time trying to clear each level as you go.

Conclusion

Haunted Halloween ’86: The Curse of Possum Hollow is a spicy, challenging game that will throw you back some decades. The graphics are really good for an NES game, the story is good enough to give you curiosity about ”what’s next”, and the gameplay is challenging yet not unfair. Even for your Xbox One, where more classic games can be found in the store, a neo-retro game such this one can definitely be worth your attention.

 

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Rating: 9.8/10 (20 votes cast)
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Rating: +5 (from 5 votes)
Haunted Halloween '86: The Curse of Possum Hollow (Xbox One) - Review, 9.8 out of 10 based on 20 ratings
Pim Hoogeveen


Find me on youtube to see some playthroughs! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuBrlulGywcb0EiYWBnA1ng

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