Developer: F5 Games
Version Reviewed: 1.0.4
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4S
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
When it was originally released on the iPad late last year, House of the Lost cunningly married a cute, kiddy horror aesthetic with the brutally unforgiving and famously random gameplay of the roguelike genre. House of the Lost Mini faithfully brings that idea to the smaller iPhone screen. No matter where it’s played though, its appeal will remain limited to a relatively small group of diehards.
In House of the Lost Mini players control a young boy trying to survive in a haunted house full of monsters. A basic set-up like this works just fine because what matters here is the narrative of the players’ own experiences. Like in any roguelike be it Sword of Fargoal or The Binding of Isaac, the environments are randomly generated and the deaths are permanent. Progress comes from constantly dying and using what one has learned to try and make it a little farther next time. It’s a divisive design and the game makes no effort to ease newcomers into the harsh experience. However, a decidedly disempowering feeling seems appropriate for a game about a child stuck in a mansion from hell.
House of the Lost Mini is a game where no two play sessions feel exactly alike and that variety is amplified by some of its other mechanics. Players can find various weapons and power-ups in secret rooms including the close-range bat, projectile slingshot, and speed-boosting skateboard. There’s even a weapon crafting system that allows players to combine their loot into something much better. They’ll need all the help they can get though because there are also plenty of enemies. Each has a unique attack that must be countered in the proper way. Standard zombies may be easy enough but fire-breathing pumpkins and charging golems will make short work of players if they aren’t careful.
It’s certainly an intriguing world to endure but too bad it’s so boring to look at. The 2D cartoon artwork, despite depicting a wide array of creatures and mansion environments, is dull and generic. The music is spooky enough but nothing memorable.
However, anyone up for the challenge that House of the Lost Mini provides probably doesn’t care how good or bad that challenge looks. Like a true horror movie, some will love it but for others it will be just too scary.