The Game: As with the original Atari 2600 game, you’re exploring a dark haunted house populated by ghosts, spiders, and even a few walking skeletons. Your task is to track down all the treasures hidden in the maze-like rooms of the house without allowing any of these creatures to touch you. If they get hold of you three times, game over. And if you find all the treasure before that happens? Well…you’ll just have to find out. (Mean Hamster Software, 2002; written by John Swiderski)
Memories: One of 2002’s bumper crop of homebrew Atari 5200 releases, Haunted House II 3D is a sequel to a favorite among many 2600 owners. But is it radically different from the original? No – and that’s a huge part of the game’s charm.
The pseudo-3D background graphics, while they add a lot of visual interest to the game (which, in its original incarnation, was played out in pitch-black rooms), are really just there to offer clues as to which directions you can travel. A closed door means you can’t go up, and a solid wall on the left or right means you can’t travel in that direction. They really don’t have any other bearing on the game, but that’s just fine.
The creature attacks, when they happen, are as fast as the lightning that often accompanies them – not so fast that you can’t get away from them, but fast enough to scare the bejeezus out of you.
There are three difficulty settings – easy, medium and hard – and two different mazes. Easy is more than enough to kick my butt. Hard just kicks my butt faster. And harder.
Overall, it’s a fitting tribute to the original Haunted House, it has a nice flavor to it – it really feels like something Atari actually would’ve given us had the 5200 survived a little bit longer – and it’s a good opening act for programmer John Swiderski’s Mean Hamster Software, which promises to release more retro titles for classic consoles in the years to come.
Haunted House II was officially released at Classic Gaming Expo 2002 in Las Vegas. (In the interests of full disclosure, and just a wee bit of a brag, it’s also worth noting that I won the AtariAge contest to design the label artwork for Haunted House II 3D, the prize for which was an advance copy of the game.)