Originally debuting as a bite-sized WarioWare clone as part of the horror-themed indie compilation title Dread X Collection 3, SPOOKWARE @ The Video Store was sort of like a demo that showcased a very entertaining and quirky bunch of horror-themed microgames. Now we have a fully-fleshed out title on our hands, though it feels like a thematic mash-up, rather than a straight-up clone. The end result is just as spooky as it is hilarious and entertaining.
The Skelebros – Lefti, Midi, and Righti – have decided to stop wasting their youth watching movies and embark on an adventure in the outside world. Currently, the game has one chapter for now, with more to come in the future, but it should keep you occupied for more than a few hours. The three levels on offer are pretty hefty in size and have plenty of tasks that’ll keep your hands full.
See, SPOOKWARE is more than just a collection of microgames. The game does start off with a handful, which are randomised each time. After that, though, there’s actually a bigger emphasis on exploration, talking to NPCs, and even a bit of detective work as well. A lot of walking back and forth around the school, cruise ship and town can get tiring after lengthy periods of game time, but the dialogue is no doubt entertaining enough to help keep you going. The humour is both surreal and silly, with some terrible skeleton puns tossed in there for good measure. Plus, the chemistry between the cast is always memorable and establishes them as a loveable trio, thanks to their distinctive personality and those adorable little faces they make.
Don’t get me wrong, the microgames themselves are most definitely a lot of fun to play. Like WarioWare, you have a limited number of lives and a boss stage on the 9th one each time. You can expect some dark humour and grisly sights here and there, but it’s nothing that’ll turn stomachs. The use of lifelike images of heads being sawn off, bones being collected and fish being gobbled up is very charming, like it’s trying too hard to be spooky (intentionally, of course) but comes across as kinda nutty. While hearing the same two lines when you complete or fail a microgame can get a tad monotonous, these are still a blast to play. You can even add them to your collection back in the Skelebros’ basement, and remix your own stages with whichever games you like, too.
You’ll get to play microgames while you’re doing certain tasks like examining items, playing the bongos, and interrogating people with evidence to counter their claims. They’re put to good use, and not only do they give you a break from all of the walking and talking, but it also prepares you for the playstyle of said games at the end of the stage, e.g. playing a rhythm-based microgame in order to recruit new band members. Thankfully, the controls are simple and responsive, with both the keyboard and controller so there’ll never be a moment when it’s the game’s fault if you flub it up.
Extra credit goes to the visuals, music and sound effects. The Skelebros produce distinctive noises when talking, and, as mentioned before, their little facial expressions that appear on crumpled bits of paper at the bottom of the screen are highly expressive and will never fail to make you smile. Everything else looks like dioramas made of pieces of paper with backgrounds printed out on them, and there are even 2D doodles of the many bony NPCs that you’ll come across. Its soundtrack is a blast as well, and is a real joy to listen to during the exploration sections. You’ll be tapping and whistling along to them in no time.
There’s so much to praise here with SPOOKWARE. It has a loveable cast, a memorable soundtrack, charming visuals, goofy writing and great microgames, but being balanced out with some adventure game elements helps it stand out as so much more than a simple copycat title. It’s distinctive in its own right, very enjoyable to play, and is going to be more than enough to amp you up for the second chapter.
A review code was supplied for this review.