In the 1990s I walked into my English teacher’s class and saw a library section filled with almost every entry in the R.L. Stine Goosebumps series and I have been a fan ever since. The books captivated me quickly, and I have always wanted the series to grow up as time passed and the ’90s are now a great memory. This young adult horror series has some of the most iconic backlogs of characters and stories to draw from so any related game that is announced gets me excited.
Yet, as gaming has matured, Goosebumps entries have continued to disappoint. Cosmic Forces has released Goosebumps: Dead of Night with Jack Black reprising his role from recent movies. The horror game has a similar premise to some of the movies where R.L. Stines’s creations have come to life to terrorize you. Let’s take a look at how this game capitalizes on reimagining this great series.
A Goosebumps game? The story is an easy win
Categorized as a “family-friendly” horror game, Goosebumps: Dead of Night is sadly geared to a very young crowd. That should be fine in most cases as the series has sold more than 400 million copies, spawned a television series, and several successful movies that I enjoyed. Just like those movie entries with Jack Black as a lead, I prepared myself to go in not expecting award-winning horror, but instead a nice Goosebumps-flavored experience that utilizes recognizable and iconic characters in unique and interesting gameplay.
Goosebumps: Dead of Night features Slappy the Dummy unleashing Stines’ nightmares into the world. Your job, with the help of Stine (Jack Black), is to fight through Slappy’s nefarious designs and put the monsters back where they belong. Reimagined from the mobile/VR game, Goosebumps: Night of Scares, ‘Dead of Night’, it comes with some added features and expanded content.
I expected to be spooked a bit! This is Goosebumps after all, where the click of a camera could lead to death or a cuckoo clock can turn the hands of time. Sadly, some terrible design choices and a lack of quality we expect from the series that made Dead of Night failed to hit the mark for me. The game quickly feels cumbersome, repetitive, and underdeveloped. However, there were some great cinematics throughout and memorable moments. The best part of the game comes from the narration by Jack Black as his usual eccentric and engrossing personality comes out nicely as the game progresses. Slappy and the monsters he brings to life are nefarious and great to interact with – or really better to try to avoid interacting with them or you risk a game over screen.
Narration and story progression quickly became the main motivation for continuing the game when it should have been the gameplay. There is an obvious lack of depth by catering toward a young audience, but at the same time, some elements may be hard to recommend to parents with young children.
Twist, your playable character, gets occasional help from characters like Dr. Brewer, Stine himself, and Nikola Tesla through three levels, and it has a very basic gameplay formula that feels like it is stuck on mobile. Jumpscares occur frequently and some terrible controls often force you to crouch walk to even progress as there are often roaming creatures that force you to hide – under a bed, in a closet, in a bathtub – over-and-over again. Patience begins to wear thin as you will just want to progress the semi-interesting plot but are often forced to wade through these repetitive sections.
Nostalgia is very strong and I was looking forward to this entry. We were offered a review key for Nintendo Switch from Cosmic Forces, and the game performs well enough with only one severe drop in frames at one section of the game. However, Dead of Night fails to scare or engage. Fans of the series will be able to recognize all of the characters and have fun if they are very young. Even so, I find it hard to discern what age group is appropriate for this game. I think anyone over 10-11 should probably be OK, however, there are some scary scenes that may end with you being stalked by a clown called Murder or stung to death by bees.
Anyone older than 10-11 should surely be expecting interesting scares like this – at least I was at that age. The narrative is fantastic throughout, but half-baked visuals, a lack of interesting collectibles, and easy puzzles make this entry hard to recommend for an older crowd. The game is simply too easy, not scary enough, and hard to recommend other than to a specific age group.
There are many puzzles throughout the game, and after the 1st level, it becomes much more puzzle-solving than horror. The third level is the best where you shoot giant gummy bears inside a giant factory from Nikola Tesla. The game lasts maybe 2-4 hours maximum, and for $40 dollars this is a very hard sell unless your children absolutely love the series. We think it is highly overpriced.
Sound, Music, and Voice
Like like with the Goosebumps movies, we would highly recommend entering this game with limited expectations. Some cutscenes are high-quality and Jack Black keeps things interesting if you can slog through some other very cumbersome sections.
The music and the voice acting is great throughout. The atmosphere is perfect and the developers successfully set the right tone throughout the game. R.L Stines’ writing is captivating because of its tone set and because of the characters that eventually became visualized through the media it has spawned. With more budget and a much more modern take on how a horror game should be built, a Goosebumps game could easily be a smash hit.
Buy, Pass, or wait for a Sale?
Simply put, developer Cosmic Forces captures the essence of the Goosebumps series but fails to develop a compelling game for most age groups. At 2-3 hours, the game needed more love if so little content is going to be made – especially at the $40 dollar price tag. I see the passion that developers put into this game, especially with the narrative progression, music, and use of source material. Fans will enjoy most moments as long as they do not mind part of the journey to get there.
Some of the classic monsters from the best-selling Goosebumps series have been unleashed, and they are hungry. Avoid them at all costs, or they may scare you to death. Isn’t that a great premise!? However, I must warn you to avoid Goosebumps: Dead of Night for $40 and wait for a sale.
It is a great experience especially with family members who are not gamers. The most fun I had was letting my wife and sister play, and since the controls are simple enough, they enjoyed the game. Critical eyes will come away disappointed but fans may love being able to interact in this world. We recommend waiting for a deep discount on sale, then this game will be easily recommendable especially with Jack Black attached.
Goosebumps: Dead of Night is available now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox One, and Steam for $39.99.