Haunted House (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

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Haunted House Overlay: Even the translucent areas retain their spookiness.Haunted House Overlay: Even the translucent areas retain their spookiness.I love the Überlay for this game. It's a silhouette of a stereotypical haunted house. The house is three stories tall and filled with items such as bats, cats, skulls and candelabra. You play the game by moving your Detective through the house and "lighting" each item one at a time, in order, as specified by numbered, drawn cards. (For those just tuning in, "Lighting" involves moving your TV square behind an on-screen area, causing it to glow.) If you successfully light the item, you collect the card for that item.

Most of the house is opaque, so if your Player Spot isn't behind an item and isn't shining through a window (which you're supposed to avoid anyway) you can't see it at all. The effect is like trying to sneak around a dark house in that you don't know when you are going to "bump" into something or suddenly shine your light through a window. If you do accidentally light a window, you lose the previous card you collected. You can also lose cards if you light an item out of order. You try to get through the whole house, collecting as many cards as possible. Cat Card: Damned spooky-eyed, ghost-cat won't stay out of my sock drawer.Cat Card: Damned spooky-eyed, ghost-cat won't stay out of my sock drawer.

Oh, by the way, this is a two player game! The other player is the Ghost. At the beginning of the game, prior to the arrival of the Detective, the Ghost hides the PlayerTwoSpot behind any item while the Detective is out of the room, and then hits “reset” on the PlayerTwo controller, making the Ghost invisible. During the game, when the Detective lights the item immediately prior to the Ghost's hiding spot, PlayerTwo hits their “reset" button again to make the Ghost appear, while intoning "Boo!". The Detective must sneak by that item without touching the Ghost. If the DetectiveSpot touches the GhostSpot, the GhostSpot disappears! The gameplay effect of which is the GhostPlayer taking half of the Detective's collected item cards with him.

Cat Message: No! Don't make me give up my cats!Cat Message: No! Don't make me give up my cats!At the top of the house is a secret message which allows the Detective to draw a card from the Secret Message deck. The message tells the Detective to go back and take a card he might have missed, or give back a card he might already have acquired. It's also a means of sending the Detective back to an earlier point in the house and giving them another chance to acquire a missed card.

After the first Detective's turn, the players swap roles. This game is actually for two “or more" players, so you could have as many Detective's and Ghosts as you can stand, all performing one after the other in an endless parade, possibly taking up an entire drunken Saturday night. Whew. Good times.

I think Haunted House qualifies as the first home adventure game. Your thoughts may differ. Unlike the other games that came with the Odyssey console, Haunted House has many traits of an "adventure" genre game, albeit in a primitive state. The player is given a less-abstract-than-usual setting through which to wander, items to find and "pick up", and a role to play -- that of the Detective. Of course, what is missing is any kind of puzzle element, admitedly a fairly essential trait in the adventure genre. Okay, so it's a stretch. I'm just saying it's more like an adventure game than any other game on this console. (If I can call Submarine a "shooter", then I'm calling this an "adventure".)

Quality-wise, Haunted House is best described as a charming game. The art on the cards is cute. The Überlay, as I mention above, is cool. The gameplay, while not exactly engrossing, can be a good time if you bring to it a good sense of play and humor, if not, a six-pack of Shiner Bock might do the trick.

My son and I enjoy it, even without beer, and have played it on more than one occasion! Believe it or not! In my ratings scale, this was worth missing one episode of Ultraman, maybe even two, but let’s not go crazy here.

The Score: Ultraman: 4, Odyssey: 3.5

Analogic is the next game we'll look at, which I think is the first example of a science fiction-themed video game for the home.


davyK's picture
Joined: 05/21/2006
I like the style of artwork

I like the style of artwork on the overlay. It reminds me of the Disney output around the 60s such as The Aristocats.

Michael McCourt
Joined: 01/17/2007
I see what you mean,

I see what you mean, particularly the style of architecture. The roof kinda has a "rive gauche" thing going on that also shows up in the Aristocats. Maybe it's the tiling.

The overlays for Haunted House and Interplanetary Voyage are probably my two favorites.

Claudia Hoag (not verified)
My first videogame

OMG, Magnavox Odyssey was my first videogame when I was a little kid, and the haunted house was my favorite game!! Wow, what a great thing to remember...

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