Friday, October 12, 2012

Mulliga's Haunted Halloween 2012 - House of Hell

Another Halloween, another season of supernatural spooks and scares. As always, Shangrila Towers celebrates October with a series of ghoulish posts. Tonight, we'll check out a tale of terror that you make up as you go along...

Haunted house adventure games have a long tradition; for instance, "Resident Evil" can trace its lineage back through "Alone in the Dark," "The 7th Guest," and "Maniac Mansion." The roots of the genre go even further than that, though, reaching at least as far as a choose-your-own-adventure book called "House of Hell":


Written by game designer Steve Jackson (not the GURPS Steve Jackson), "House of Hell" drops you into the classic horror scenario: it's a dark and stormy night, your car is stranded on the road, and you seek shelter in a seemingly deserted mansion. As with all gamebooks, you flip to various pages based on choices you make. Do you knock on the door or go around the back? Do you go down the hallway or up the stairs? Do you try to fight a strange creature, or run away?

The main reason why "House of Hell" is a classic is its simplified version of the sanity system made famous by "Call of Cthulhu." As you encounter spooky events during your adventure, your Fear score increases. The scarier the occurrence, the more your Fear score increases - small shocks like a door slamming only give you a single Fear point, but being startled by a headless ghost coming through the wall adds a boatload of Fear to your total. Once your Fear score hits your maximum, it'sgame over (you literally die of fright).

That being said, the book is much like any other choose-your-own-adventure: you progress blindly through the story via trial and error, wrong choices, and dead ends. In any other story, this design is irritating, but for a haunted house, it makes sense that random hallways would be deadly, or that you left a critical item in another room. So, if you have the opportunity, wait for a dark and stormy night and knock on the door to the "House of Hell"...

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