SPOOKWARE is absolutely not expected at all. Releasing in 2021 on PC, I remember it being billed as basically a horror themed version of WarioWare. Much like Ultra Mega Xtra Party Challenge, I went into the game expecting some brief – if slightly derivative – fun.
What I was not expecting was something that offered far, far more than that
The game opens up with our three skeleton heroes, Lefti, Midi, and Righti, sat on the couch in their basement watching horror movies. After a brief introduction to the microgame format, they suddenly realise that they have absolutely no idea how long they’ve been sat there for. Hours? Days? Weeks? Years? It’s all been a blur.
As such, they decide to go on a road trip in order to live their lives. Starting off by enrolling at school (halfway through the semester), they attend class and later form a band. Each chapter has a different theme, and they’ve all got a pretty engaging storyline to be following. My particular favourite was one set aboard a cruise ship, where you need to solve a murder mystery and even present your evidence in a Phoenix Wright style fashion. It’s all really well presented, and that includes the visuals that switch between the cartoony visual style of the overworld and the 80s VHS video-nasty look of the microgames. It blends together rather well, and comes off as quite a polished package.
Going into the game, I was slightly disheartened by the lack of any multiplayer functionality. As a game focused around microgames, not having the option to play either locally or online seemed like a pretty glaring omission. This feeling soon vanished after clearing prologues minigame gauntlet and the game started up proper.
Upon starting your road trip, instead of going straight to another minigame gauntlet, you are dumped at the exterior of the school looking to enroll. Surrounded by various NPCs that offer some colourful dialogue, you’ll soon realise that you need to make your way to the front desk in order to enroll. To get started, you simply have to sign the relevant papers via a straightforward microgame and then it’s on your way to class.
It’s at this point that I realised that the game felt far more akin to another Nintendo property: that of Paper Mario. Not only are the flat cartoony visuals a nod to the classic, but so is the gameplay itself. You aren’t really focused on playing endless microgames, but rather following the narrative along as you do varying tasks that are thrown your way. After a rather dull class, the gang make their way to the gym and find themselves tasked with forming a school band by exploring the grounds for other musicians and winning them over (via microgames, of course).
For the most part, you’ll be performing tasks via one-off microgames, but you will still come up against the occasional gauntlet to take down under pressure. With a few lives at your disposal (one representing each skelly), the goal is to beat a set number and then take down a longer boss encounter.
The microgames themselves are pretty strong, offering a decent amount of challenge whilst still being relatively simple. Whether you’re chopping melons, playing a short rhythm game, or just picking up a telephone, they’re all pretty intuitive when matched with the simple control scheme. They’re not all perfect, with the rare one being a little bit too demanding or inconsistent, but the lives and retries make such a complaint negligible.
To cap off the package, the game contains eight chapters that take about about three quarters of an hour to get through, plus addition of a remix mode that allows you to play any games you’ve encountered thus far. With the ability to pick and choose the ones you like, it’s a nice way to add an incentive to come back later – even if this mode probably would have benefitted from having an extra player join in on the fun too.
SPOOKWARE surprised me by being far more than the horror themed WarioWare that I was expecting. With a fully blown story that has you wandering around solving tasks via the game’s microgames, it’s an absolute blast to play. With plenty of content here for the cheap asking price, this is definitely a game to add to your collection!