Though I was a little too old for Goosebumps when it first released – being the ‘edgy’ teenager that I was in 1992, my tastes for scary fiction skewed way higher, with my favoured authors at the time being Stephen King and James Herbert – I’ve nonetheless read quite a few of the books in the last few years. There’s something incredibly appealing about the creepy, fun stories – many of which have clever twists at the end. Though clearly aimed at kids, they’re often campy, quick and entertaining reads – and their popularity doesn’t seem to be waning, despite how long they’ve been around.
Since 1992, the series has sold over 400 million books worldwide, which is an absolutely astonishing figure. There have been TV show adaptations of many of the novels (the show ran from 1995-1998, with 74 episodes across four seasons), two big budget live action movies and a variety of video games have adapted the source material over the years.
One of these video games is Goosebumps Horrorland for Wii. Horrorland is a scary theme park, first featuring in the sixteenth book in the original Goosebumps novel series – and then later in a sequel, Return to Horrorland, as well as being the basis of an entirely separate book series, named – unsurprisingly – Goosebumps Horrorland.
The game begins with your character receiving a magic ticket to Horrorland, which he promptly rips up and throws away. The ticket magically reassembles itself before his eyes; and soon enough your friend shows up with his own ticket and convinces you to go with him to the theme park. The cinematic sequences are cartoony and have an appropriately Goosebumps-esque style and colour scheme, though the voice acting is a little weak.
Once in the park, you can wander relatively freely – though, somewhat frustratingly, many of the stalls and attractions are mere window dressing and can’t be interacted with. The ones that can be played, however, take the form of diverse, horror-themed, funfair mini-games – there’s bumper cars, rollercoasters, crazy golf, shooting galleries and more.
There are five areas in the park and a total of 30 different rides and attractions; in order to unlock each area, you’ll need a certain number of medals – meaning you’ll need to do well in the mini-games in order to progress.
Which brings us to quite a big problem: some of the mini-games are awful, mainly because the controls are so badly implemented. It’s the dreaded spectre of Wii motion controls, unfortunately, rendering a few of the game types near-unplayable. The golf mini-game, for example, doesn’t adequately explain how to hold the remote – and even when you think you have a handle on how to play it, your character simply doesn’t move in the direction you are attempting, nor hit the ball at any sort of consistent power level. It’s incredibly frustrating. The controls ruin the games in which you need to throw balls at targets too; your cursor disappears off-screen for far too long for you to line it up quickly enough, before your target drops out of view – getting the required number of medals in these stages is another exercise in frustration. The park itself is a chore to navigate around too, with its look-but-don’t-touch variety of stalls, odd layout and awkward camera.
That said, games such as the bumper cars – once you’ve got used to the odd physics and handling model – can be quite a lot of fun. Roller coasters, with their obstacles to dodge and collectables to grab, are also pretty satisfying to complete.
Though there’s an appealingly colourful chunkiness to the (somewhat sparsely textured) visuals in Goosebumps Horrorland, along with some appropriately groan-inducing level of ghoulish puns in the writing, the issues with many of the games means that, more often than not, it’s a far more frustrating experience than it should be. It feels like a rushed, unpolished and somewhat unfinished game – which is a real shame. Horrifying, then – but for all the wrong reasons.
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