I’m incredibly particular about my spooky horror games, especially around Halloween. With that said, there’s SO MANY games tagged ‘Horror’ on Steam and maybe only a good handful worth it. The Conjuring House piqued my creepy interests, but rightfully so?
Now, I’ve been playing The Conjuring House since the day it came out and man, it surprised me dang near immediately. Like a lot of popular horror games on Steam right now, you’re not really equipped with weapons so much as you’ve got a baller flashlight and that thing needs batteries like you wouldn’t believe. Now, you wake up in a cell and attempt to find your pals but you get that figurative door slammed by ghost-demon-peeps pretty much immediately. After finding out the place is not just haunted but the keys to perhaps banish Karen (I named the Lisa-like-P.T. lady demon ‘Karen’ because it kinda helped me not be AS scared) are perplexing as hell. Finding some magical items, you can stave them off slightly once in awhile via cut-scene help, it makes it not quite so bad. You just immediately find yourself having NO clue what any of the items or things mean, but you play ball regardless.
The entire thing is akin to a haunted house where chases (and bolting your buns into special holy bathrooms for safety) are frequent. A lot of times, Steam indie horror games will include constant chases to pad out a game. It’s something I can’t stand, let me add, because it halts you from progress but not through mazes or puzzle difficulty but invincible chase enemies. If you are given a weapon and the bosses have hit points and are difficult, that’s one thing. So, I realized what with the cut-scenes and the very helpful almost finger-pointing aid that the game gives you to find your objectives, this was not the case. In fact, if you end up being chased often, that’s because you’re not actually listening/reading the contents of things and are just wandering blindly. I appreciate that, mind you. Too often, it’s easy to get jaded in the indie horror scene since we’re just so damn used to games having little content other than chases and hiding.
The Conjuring House has some damn beautiful visuals and atmosphere that make you halt your steps every so often to make sure you’re not hearing things. Tables flip, demon babies chase and furniture jitters and trembles as yet another friend of yours is being taken by the house. This makes up for having to fetch keys, seek out numbered codes (that change locations they spawn in quite frequently) and just cross your fingers that you’re making progress. Jumpscares have become passé now since Five Nights at Freddy’s launched a hundred jumpscare horror indie games, but in The Conjuring House it feels quite natural when it DOES occur. Broken planks make you double-take, wondering if the next time you see it that something may bolt through it. Removing sheets over statues to find clues gives you that feeling of jumpscare dread but it doesn’t stop you from jumping if/when it does happen.
What it comes down to in this game is that it knows you’re going to be tense and it dangles that dread carrot for hours. When scares and confusion comes, it’s not poorly written but it wants you to be confused and seeking answers which is another thing positive for it. Finding the tortured bodies of your friends leads you to wonder if you’ll actually see them again but in a mangled, scuttling form and when you don’t see them — it’s even more tense. There’s a lot to shutting down the terrors of The Conjuring House and it promises a decent five hours if you blaze through without too much confuzzling going down and that’s not bad for an atmospheric indie title.
When the Steam hallways are so cluttered with trash, finding something this pleasurable isn’t easy and when companies send me their titles (Full disclosure: This game was sent to me but I never promised to cover) to give them a peek over, I tend to respond back with a “Sorry, but I don’t really think you want me writing on this one, fam.” pretty fast. I hate when half-butt indie horror wastes my time with poor AI dynamics, rough pathing and systems that are about making you THINK that you’ve obtained your money’s worth. Things to look out for: A lot of mazes with similar styles of texturing that are time-savers but painfully pace-halting in gameplay, repeat boss spawning with their spawn timers too short, which doesn’t give the player time to find their next objective and reliance on text paperwork to make the player take long halts to read in-between action beats. These things are grossly used in a lot of horror game indie pieces nowadays and so I must say I’m quite discerning about these games, you know? Trust me, I’m looking out for both of us when I seek these cheap tactics out.
What surprised me is that The Conjuring House, while having a few moments of side-eye towards backtracking through rooms and seeking keys in order to access new doors, the game didn’t want to fight me too often like a lot of those games do. Hallways and rooms were different styled enough that I could actually start to memorize the layout of the house within a couple of hours. Granted, there is a LOT of text via papers littered everywhere but not so much that I was frustrated with it but more or less wanting to make sure I read it fast enough to avoid starting Karen, Jeff or Crazy George (Yes, I head-canon’d quite a few folks…) up again. They spaced out items enough that they encouraged you to lean into the flashlight far less than you’d expect, kind of akin to ammo reserving in survival horror games. Sure, you won’t find batteries everywhere or talismans everywhere — but that just means to REALLY think before you use them.
There you go — is The Conjuring House a good game to play leading up to Halloween for some good old fashioned spooky times? Darn tootin’ it is! It’s almost too perfect for streaming as it’s visual candy for a horror-junkie and your audience will dig on helping you through puzzles and mazes. Get into this game and play it with friends! Once you do, let me know if you ALSO expected one of the haunted fellas to come back as a scuttlin’ little crab demon! I swore this was going to go down and if it had, well, I would’ve wet myself ON SIGHT!