Goosebumps: The Game
Genre: Point-and-Click Horror
Every kid at my school growing up read or knew what the Goosebumps books were. Moreover, nearly every kid I hung out with collected them. When book fairs were held in the elementary school library, it was a race to see who could get to the latest titles first. If you didn’t get there fast enough, they were gone. Honestly, Goosebumps was a pretty big thing for us in K-5 and probably segued into my love for horror in general.
Despite taking breaks here and there, the series doesn’t seem to have gone away completely at any particular point. Aside from the original 62 books in the series, there have been choose-your-own-adventure books, boards games, comics, and a television series among other mediums keeping the franchise’s porch light on. Goosebumps seemed to turn up the volume full blast, however, with the 2015 film (which coincidentally, I thought was a pretty cool little horror film for the younger set).
At the same time, a game was released simply titled Goosebumps: The Game. It was meant to serve as a lead-in to the film- and we all know how we feel about most games adapted around films. While this isn’t the first Goosebumps video game to be released, most of the other games feel like they drifted by unnoticed. This game had a pretty tough track record to fight upstream against from the minute it started development. Even knowing that I had to throw some money at it and see how my beloved childhood series fared.
Like plenty of books in the actual series, Goosebumps starts up with your character- for which you decide whether you are male or female at the beginning and give yourself a name- finishing up a normal day at school. Cranky teachers are leaving, the parking lot’s nearly empty, and after briefly forgetting your phone in your locker, you start the trek back to your house. Everything seems like it’s just going to be another boring afternoon.
Unbeknownst to you, there’s been an accident across town. Someone’s moving truck appears to have crashed. According to the drivers, the client is a mysterious man who has just moved to the neighborhood with a truck full of strange crates and odd possessions but they don’t know much else. Unfortunately for you, the only thing you really know is that the accident has made you have to change your route home. Super inconvenient, am I right?
The next few hours start to go from annoying to strange to downright dangerous as strange figures lurk in the woods, an old woman you’ve never met appears at your family’s home, and the neighbors are starting to seem a bit off. With your mom nowhere to be found and your older brother being just an unreliable as he ever has been, it’s up to you to figure out exactly what’s going on around your town- before it’s too late.
Following the basic ‘point-and-click’ mechanics that have lasted throughout the years, Goosebumps doesn’t stray far from the proven formula. By selecting the edges of the current screen, you can move to the next one. You can also combine items, though doing so can be bit obtuse at times. All in all, though, there aren’t a ton of novel concepts but the game sticks to the tried and true formula very well.
The standout mechanic lies in the phone that you receive during the introduction to the game. It has a few functions, though only two that really stand out. The first is that you can call your brother (which, spoiler alert, is useful about one time) and your mother. Your mother will give you hints as to the correct way to proceed which can be useful as anyone with experience in this genre can attest to. The other function that players will find useful is that it gives you a map so that you can get your bearings. As everything is in the first person, it is easy to miss doors and other exits that you may need to proceed. Referencing the map becomes a key function. Unfortunately for you, your phone runs lower and lower on battery power as you proceed through the neighborhood, so if you aren’t fast enough to find the one or two phone chargers in the game, you’ll be missing some incredibly advantageous information.
Other than that, the game carries on the age-old tradition of this style of game: explore, experiment with items, and avoid instant game overs as much as you can. There’s a save feature that you can use whenever you deem it necessary so even meeting an unfortunate end shouldn’t set you back too far so long as you’re vigilant.
The Good, The Bad, And…
As a bit of a shocker (on Shock Street), the game has some competent writing and story elements. Traveling through the environments and reading the thoughts of the protagonist felt reminiscent of reading the old books. Even when the protagonist comes off a bit snotty or judgmental, it’s all endearing. There are a ton of references to the Goosebumps franchise, as well, whether you are receiving achievements or catching glimpses of items from the stories. Unlike a lot of games based off of a source material, this game feels like a labor of love made by fans of the series rather than something tossed out to make an extra buck before the movie was released. Heck, it even creeped me out once or twice- though players beware, you’re in for a jump scare every so often.
Exploring the neighborhood as well as the house- oddly enough revealed to be connected to the Goosebumps mythos- is all well and good. There is a lot to look into and the game stays pretty well paced for the most part. Where the game really picks up is the third act which involves an anxiety-inducing sequence of events that leads into a really interesting and fairly well-done conclusion to the story. I haven’t had as much fun with a game of this style in a while like I did during the final act of Goosebumps.
If you’re not a fan of the books, though, and you’re interested in Goosebumps because it seemed like a nice horror-lite game, you may be a bit disappointed. I honestly don’t know if it’s possible to beat the game without knowing some of the lore of the Goosebumps books, and you certainly won’t get as much out of the optional objectives that are strewn throughout the game. With a lot of experimentation, most players should be fine but it’s easy to see how the frustration could catch up to someone unfamiliar with how Monster Blood works or what to do with prune juice should it be offered to you.
Much as I loved the third act of the game, it’s also the only place that I found a way to charge the incredibly convenient phone in to amp up its battery again. This really becomes more of a problem if you’re trying to complete the game at 100% but it seems almost like the game is punishing you for exploring and taking your time. If you’re relying on your map throughout the game, having it suddenly ripped from your hands is a tough break to work around.
Almost everything about Goosebumps looked stylized and fantastic. The NPCs are just creepy enough to be offputting, friendly or not, and the areas that you explore are well depicted. The only things I couldn’t stand looking at were the protagonist in the rare time they were in front of the ‘camera’ and the protagonist’s brother. Sadly, these are the two main characters of the game, and even though you don’t need to see them often, it’s not impressive when you get to. Still, I loved to look at this game’s art overall.
Appropriately, the game is filled with eerie noises and some impressive sound effects. The sound design is crisp and clear. I’d be lying if I said that I remembered much about the ambient music throughout the game, but it does play enough with silence in certain areas that the deliberate intention to unnerve the player pays off.
I can say without hesitation that I sincerely enjoyed the time I spent with Goosebumps: The Game. It smacked of style, passion, and puzzles that were fairly difficult but were able to be overcome with determination and trial-and-error methods. If you enjoy games that can be bested in a couple of sittings and coming up with imaginative solutions to propel you forward, I can definitely recommend this game. It’s easy enough to track down since it appears to have come out on just about every system under the sun.
You may want to keep a walkthrough handy for the rare few times that having knowledge of the series is vital to your progress, but the game is solid and scratches the itch of a point-and-click adventure if you have it. The game only clocked in at a few hours, though, so be sure to know that while you can replay it to hit some of the extra side objectives you may have missed, there isn’t much point to playing through more than once.
Plot Discussion and Therefore, Spoilers
There isn’t much to discuss about the plot, to be honest. While the game is fun and the story is neat, it doesn’t go further than surface deep. What you see is what you get throughout the course of the game. The one real rub that I have- and this is the only spoiler, though it’s a bit of a big one- is that the game wraps up in the same manner as the movie. While both of them have a logical and easy to predict ending, having seen the movie I felt like I was cheated out of my own unique ending.
As a lead-in to the film, though, there really isn’t much of a way for this to end otherwise- with R.L. Stine packing up and moving off to the next city once he helps save the day- a task which only he can truly perform.