Falling somewhere between an unreleased Sega CD or CD-i game, 2D House of Terror (80 MSP) makes for a nostalgic combination of animation / voice-acting and minigame-styled gameplay, if you’re a fan of those archaic consoles. I know some people will defend and ramble off a top ten at will with this next bit, but the mention of either machine to my mind doesn’t exactly reek of quality. I’d give the edge to Sega CD, as it’s the whole Zelda / Mario CD-i debacle rearing its head every time.
The ‘game’ part of this package, which feels more like animation with lazy controls drizzled over it than anything else, consists of five minigames. That’s right. Five Whole Minigames. This is lightly dressed up in a story about four friends looking for a treasure left behind by their great uncle Willsworth, avoiding traps and enemies set up by a Death-like figure who is never really explained. You could also play in Random mode, which recycles the same five games in different order, minus the plot.
The story is an excuse to pit players against each other to fight for higher scores. The four cutesy characters are playable, either solo, with A.I. handling the rest, or with up to three other friends locally. Each game splits the action into four squares, and it doesn’t help that you’re competing for screen space, having to work off 1/4 of the viewing area throughout. The friendly (everyone wins in the end) sense of competition demands this type of layout, of course, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. If you’re playing on a small TV, well, good luck.
Ranging from shovel-slapping zombies to spinning a record to knock off rats with musical notes, there’s some charm to it, but nothing here sticks out as hugely playable. The controls are sluggish to begin with, and get overly-complicated in some of the minigames, stretching the tolerance of an adult, let alone a child (the expected demographic?) who isn’t as versed in video games.
Turns out the Sega CD mention in the opening is more than opinion, it’s almost prophetic; a free Dreamcast version (!?!) of 2D House of Terror will be released eventually. You can likely keep up with that bit of news at the developer’s site.
And if you have the opportunity, that may be the route to go, if at all. I can’t recommend it here. The dollar for the XBLIG copy is completely ill-spent in my opinion, as unless you have local friends to fill out the roster or you’re a sucker for minimalist animation and barely-there interactivity, you’ll be bored to tears with this.