I absolutely hate jump scares. I’m enough of an anxiety-ridden mess in the real world, I don’t really need the extra stress in a virtual one. That may seem a bit odd coming from a self-professed horror fan, but my preferred flavor always leaned towards the psychological. Jump scares are, too often, a crutch, a way to startle and simulate the sensation of fear without earning it. This is why the PC horror genre is saturated with early access jump scare software; “horror”, at that level, is cheap and easy, exploiting the trend started by a particular never-ending franchise about animatronics.
That isn’t to say that they can’t serve a purpose. The genre is very much about anticipation and execution, after all; waiting for the killer to pop out of the closet at just the right moment. What many fail to understand, and what Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion gets right, is that the expectation of that moment and the prolonging of the execution, is often even more effective. Starting up a game with a title such as this one, you immediately have an assumption at to what’s on offer, but the opening series of rooms are… quiet. Nothing pops out at you and somehow, you unconsciously decide, that’s even worse.
This is why, against type, I gave Spooky’s a try, knowing that it expanded upon the titular concept, constantly finding new ways to defy expectations whilst still serving as an affectionate tribute to the genre as a whole. It didn’t take terribly long for the game to unravel and start to show its true face, though as I watched the room count get higher, I did find myself wanting to know how much more it could escalate. It’s a feeling that I rarely get now, let alone with horror games; the notion that I could actually be surprised. While the game offers a format that is, predictably, perfect for overreacting Let’s Players, it’s good to know there’s something for the rest of us, the horror fans that want their own demented imaginations to fill in the blanks between each moment of shock.