Haunted Games

Collected game reviews of the creepy, the forgotten, and the unsettlingly cute.

Developer: Airtight Games

Publisher: Square Enix, 2014

In supernatural mystery adventure Murdered: Soul Suspect, you guide Detective Ronan O'Connor as he investigates his final case: his own murder. Set in a fictionalised version of Salem, Massachusetts, the game soon sees Ronan in pursuit of the mysterious Bell Killer, a serial murderer obsessed by the town's supernatural past. The game's time period is ambiguous. You don't see anyone on a mobile phone and and you'll find CRT TVs and chunky early TFT computer screens, which could put this somewhere in the late 90s. But it's all an alternative reality anyway, primarily to give the game an excuse not to hove too close to Salem's real history.

Designed by a Japanese team to appeal to western – and specifically US – audiences, Murdered: Soul Suspect is populated by ghosts with unresolved questions about their mortal lives, and often deaths. That's Ronan's own motivation, as well as the root of optional mysteries that you can solve for other ghosts that he encounters.

At heart, this is a visual novel in a 3D engine, and it's a solid approach the physicality of investigating murder scenes. Ronan might not be able to communicate with most living humans, but his ghostly powers present other means of finding the information he needs, from interacting with vestigial sprit memories that occupy a place, to possessing and influencing humans and other animals, to accessing hidden areas by walking through walls. As the game progresses, you'll unlock an increasing array of these ghostly powers.

Ronan examines a wall on which a ghostly chalk image of a frowning bewigged judge is drawn.

Unusually for a generally thoughtful narrative adventure game, there are moments of action. The game contains both passive and active threats. Passive threats include geography that's lethal to Ronan. Named ‘Lost Souls’, these are sucking holes in the world, capable of disintegrating a ghost's essence. The active threats are demons, once-human ghosts that have lost their souls and sense of identity by lingering too long without understanding their unresolved mysteries. Demons stalk certain areas of the game and will destroy Ronan on sight.

You can avoid them, but this isn't really a stealth game, and you'll need to get rid of them in order to thoroughly search the areas they occupy. At least they don't respawn. The best option is to sneak up and destroy them by completing a quicktime button-press that pops up on screen. Although the demons add real tension to some areas and there are a variety of tactics you can use against them, such as distracting them ghost crows, they can be annoying when you encounter them towards the end of a long sequence that must repeated if they destroy you. This is most notable is part of the mental hospital where three demons stalk in close proximity to one another and area's the helpful ghost crow isn't immediately apparent.

The game evokes shades of police procedural TV shows as well as supernatural thrillers, alongside the crime scene investigation elements of more traditional mystery visual novels. However, its puzzles are a weak point. Once you've gathered all the evidence you can find at a scene, you'll have to pick between one and four elements that are relevant to the case at hand, such as working out new leads or establishing a relevant piece of evidence.

Finding the next lead in each of these investigations makes the story to move on and causes new events to unfold. Selecting the right answer is usually trivial, although a couple of sequences rely on your reading of image cues about emotion on the face of a character, which can be a challenge. Finding other clues depends on you carrying out an extra interaction, such as clicking on a computer screen while possessing someone, which isn't always immediately obvious.

3D world feels suitably alive. NPCs, each with a couple of different thoughts that you can read, wander around, interspersed with a healthy number of named characters. The city of Salem feels like a character as you wander its streets which, to your undead eyes, are filled with ghostly objects, buildings and people from the past, as well as the present. Salem serves as a hub world connecting the different locations you'll investigate.

The fact that you can re-enter locations that you've already completed the main objectives makes the world feel more open. Major investigation locations are large, but gated off until you get to the relevant plot beat.

Navigating the town of Salem can be a challenge, as its memory-haunted streets are hard to distinguish and identify the city's landmarks, even after several hours of play. You'll find modern roads blocked off parts of decaying or burning buildings that have been boarded up for years, and rooms that can only be accessed by someone with the ability to walk through walls. If that's an atmosphere that appeals to you, then this game is drenched in it.

While that adds to the sense of ghostly remnants of the past being layered upon the present, it's not particularly helpful when it comes to hunting for elusive objects. Fans have made maps, and, once you've tired of hunting for items by yourself, I strongly suggest using them. Many of these – a cemetery, a mental hospital, a church – are predictable features of a ghost story, but this feels more like comfort than cliche, and ties in well with both the story and its setting.

As well as the main plot and NPC ghosts that need help resolving their own mysteries, Murdered: Soul Suspect contains a variety of haunting little ghost stories, each with its own animated cutscene. They're all unlocked by finding ghostly memory-objects scattered around the expansive levels. This gives you an extra incentive to explore very thoroughly and, at times, to re-enter an area that you've just completed. For example, a new skill you obtain towards the end of the cemetery allows you to find an object towards the beginning of the zone. It's a glorified easter egg hunt, but in a game so focused on story, the opportunity to get more story is welcome, even if your experience of these extra narratives, once unlocked, is entirely passive.

The main plotline unfolds at a good place, with both cutscenes and found memories tying current events into the past of both Ronan, his relationships, and the city itself as you come closer to uncovering the killer. The game received mediocre reviews at the time of release – it has a Metacritic score of just 59. But over 10,000 Steam users have between them kept it at a Very Positive rating for years, and that's probably because, more than being a good game, Murdered: Soul Suspect is a good story and a compelling interactive experience.

I played entirely on the Steam Deck, and while its compact screen probably didn't help the experience of navigating Salem, this is an excellent pickup and play game to work through over the course of a few weeks..


More than the sum of its parts, Murdered: Soul Suspect conveys an engagingly mysterious ghost story and a genuine sense of place, despite some weak game mechanics.

Important addendum: you can't pet it, but you can possess the cat. (Nothing bad happens to the cats of this game.)

A black short-haired cat arches its back and yowls, eyes wide and ears flat to its head.

Addendum to the addendum: You can disable the demons if you'd like to play this as the chill mystery game that it was apparently designed to be. See this Steam discussion page: https://steamcommunity.com/app/233290/discussions/0/618459297889916876/

#LinuxGaming #SteamDeck #ActionAdventure #SteamPlay #MurderMystery #ACAB

Something that's not getting published but might be useful if you have to work with .ima floppy backup images created using WinImage, rather than Linux-standard .img files that you can just mount as a device.

Do all of this as superuser.

List your loop devices: losetup

If there's anything in this list, pick a loop device number that doesn't appear. I used 10.

If you don't already have a dedicated mount point for floppy drives: mkdir /mnt/floppy

losetup /dev/loop10 disk.ima mount -t vfat /dev/loop10 /mnt/floppy

I threw each disk of the sequence into a different loop device, and then sequentially mounted them on /mnt/floppy to swap disks in DOSBox.

You can also copy the mounted loop device to a more Linux-friendly img file, thus: dd bs=512 if=/dev/loop10 of=image.img

Thanks to this person from 2008 who published the solution to their own question, thus saving me a lot of trial and error: https://forums.fedoraforum.org/showthread.php?185346-How-to-deal-with-WinImage-ima-files-in-linux

Why yes, I am still making replacement floppy disks to replace dead ones in sets of installation media.

Back up your magnetic media while you still can.

#SoftwarePreservation #DataRecovery #FloppyDisks #Linux

WizWay, 2017

Remember Dragon's Fury (aka Devil Crush) on the Sega Mega Drive and TurboGrafx-16? If so, then you know what you're dealing with here.

Demon's Tilt is an homage to that game: a single digital pinball table with a vast number of secrets, multipliers, special zones that upgrade your ball, spawnable enemies that wander around the table, secret areas, bosses, and three distinct sections, or tiers, of the table to play on.

A combined screenshot showing the entire Demon's Tilt table. It glows luridly.

This is “occult pinball” (because there's lots of secrets, right?), so it wouldn't be complete without the odd pentagram (in the background of some stages of the priestess Lilith's transformation cycle), but that's about it as far the fun symbolism goes. However, there's a satisfying array of skeletons, wild animals, and miscellaneous dungeon scenery to populate the ominous tower where the table is set.

Demon's Tilt has a nudge mechanic to allow you to shove the virtual table just enough to change your ball's trajectory. It's massively important to high-level play, and I am very, very bad at getting the timing of it right. I'm rather better at cradling to catch balls and line up shots, which you'll also have to do a lot of.

Taking screenshots while you're playing pinball is incredibly hard, so I've instead made a full-table view out of some promo shots. If you're playing on a standard widescreen or ultrawide display in landscape mode, you'll never see the whole thing, but I've seen posts showing Demon's Tilt running in portrait mode, and it looks incredibly fancy.

Even if you're rubbish at pinball, it's good to dip into for a quarter-hour of fun every now and then, although it's clear that, in the hands of an expert player, this game could eat hours.

The chiptuneish soundtrack and low bit-depth samples add the atmosphere, and while I'd like my occult pinball to be more, well, occult, this really does what it wants to perfectly.

Buy Demon's Tilt for 16,79€ on Steam – https://store.steampowered.com/app/422510/DEMONS_TILT/

Also available for Switch, Xbox, and PS4.

#LinuxGaming #Pinball #CasualGames #SteamDeck #ActionGames #IndieGames #Occult

Connor Sherlock & Cameron Kunzelman, 2017

Set deep in the woods of the US state of New England, Marginalia is an elegant walking simulator that really does make you feel like you're lost in a forest.

At first, red lampposts mark out a forest trail, each conjuring a new, fully voiced, narrative snippet. As you start piecing together the nature of the forest and memories that you're exploring, both the glowing markers that guide you through the dark and the story of the narrator's missing boyfriend begin to take on a stranger, more otherworldly tenor with shades of cosmic horror.

There are no jump scares, and the mood is one of ominous mystery, rather than full-on terror as you explore the vast forest. The ambient soundtrack is excellent and, for me, brought to mind Cult of Luna's more synth-driven moments.

Marginalia takes just over half an hour to complete, and there are no alternate endings (unless, like me, you fall off a big cliff and end up accidentally exploring a ravine instead of the mountain peak that everything's leading to).

Either way, the story is the same. The narrative is static. Interaction and emergent gameplay elements here are all about how you explore the deep woods. I managed to get myself turned around in the darkness, a familiar experience to anyone who's taken a half-familiar road too late in the day.

Marginalia a one-shot with no saves and no restarts, bar Steam Deck's suspend. However, you'll probably want to play this one straight through without too many distractions.

I had a fun time with it on the Steam Deck while keeping someone else company, but it's much more absorbing on a big ultrawide display, or at least in a dimly lit room, all alone.

Buy it on itchio for $6: https://connor-sherlock.itch.io/marginalia (includes the fantastic OST and a Steam key, get this one!) If you bought the Bundle For Ukraine in March 2022, you already have a copy (sans Steam key).

Alternatively, buy it on Steam for 4.99€: https://store.steampowered.com/app/889280/Marginalia/


Steam Deck screenshot. A car is parked at a cliff edge. In a bluish mist below, there are trees as far as the eye can see.

Red lanterns strung among trees.

A mountain range, all red-lit snow and sharp peaks. A purple light glimmers on a distant mountain top.

#LinuxGaming #HorrorGames #WalkingSimulators #SteamDeck #LGBTQgames #ShortGames #HauntedGames

Horror Soft, 1990

Every movie and TV series got a computer game license in the early 1990s, and these were rarely good. Horror Soft's Elvira: Mistress of the Dark was a rare exception.

It doesn't have all that much to do with 1988 horror-comedy film of the same name, but that's really not a problem. Like the film, Elvira has inherited property and has found a recipe book of spells that she can tap into.

This time, however, it's a castle in England, and instead of being up against conservative US America and a scheming warlock, Elvira is facing off against mediaeval witch-queen Emelda and the unquiet dead that she's brought along with her, conveniently allowing this modern-set game to have the look and feel of a fantasy RPG.

To tackle this, the Mistress of the Dark has... placed a small ad in the local paper and hired the first person to come along and answer it. That's you. You don't get a name, and you don't get to be Elvira, but you do get to interact with her.

This is one of my favourite games that I've never finished. I adore the lush atmosphere, the lovingly rendered B-movie gore, the adventure-game/flick-screen dungeon crawling RPG hybrid gameplay and interface, fantastic soundtrack, and the presence of bisexual icon Elvira.

It is proper hard, though – combat is in real time, enemies respawn, you only get limited magical reagents, and dozens of gory deaths await you.

While all this is going on, you have a series of adventure puzzles to work out, many of them by gathering information from books and conversation. It's not always immediately clear where to use specific items, however, and some are single-use and can be used in the wrong place.

Horror Soft would later rebrand as Adventure Soft and continue making seminal British adventure games, notably the Simon the Sorcerer series.

I'm strongly tempted to throw this on the Steam Deck and officially declare that Halloween 2022 will not be over until I've finished it. Wish me luck with the touch controls.

Buy it for 4.99€ on GOG – https://www.gog.com/fr/game/elvira_mistress_of_the_dark

Or with its sequel for 8.49€ – https://www.gog.com/en/game/elviras_horror_bundle

Either way, play it on more recent hardware using ScummVM: https://www.scummvm.org/ (Your preferred DosBox is also fine. Works fine in FreeDOS on vintage kit, too.)


I have entirely misplaced my extensive collection of proper screenshots, so here it is running on 3DS.

The gates of a formitable castle in a first person with navigation, inventory and interaction icons along the sides and bottom of the viewport.

#ScummVM #3DS #DOS #DOSBox #DOSgames #AdventureGames #HorrorGames #DungeonCrawler #Elvira #RetroGaming

Silicon Knights, 1996

This melodramatic, bloody and gothic vampire action-RPG for PlayStation and Windows 95 epitomised the “games for grown-ups” zeitgeist surrounding Sony's console, and is a fantastic reminder that grimdark can (and arguably should) also be fun.

A nobleman murdered and transformed into a vengeful vampire, our antihero Kain is set with the task of restoring peace to the doomed land of Nosgoth by slaughtering the Circle of Nine demented keepers of

Its perspective, puzzles and upgradable stats, spells and abilities always feel to me like someone started by asking “what if Zelda, only metal?”

Exactly how bloody a trail of slaughter you leave behind you is up to you, and there are no significant consequences for putting entire villages to the sword.

Kain never feels overly fragile, and you can restore your health by feed on living, human foes once you get them to the brink of death.

The top-down isometric graphics are dripping with atmosphere and I'm a huge fan of games that use this perspective.

Although you can't get in much casual chat with NPCs, Nosgoth feels like a vibrant, living (...dying?) world, and combat is very satisfying.

The 3D-rendered cut scenes have not exactly aged well, but nonetheless have that hauntingly lo-fi PS1 era charm.

Although it starts by railroading you along a fixed path, the game's plot becomes more convoluted and its world more open as you progress. I'm having a lot of fun with this replay.

Once out of print, Blood Omen was hard to come by for many years, following a legal battle over rights to the game's intellectual property between Silicon Knights and publisher Crystal Dynamics, which ultimately hung to the Legacy of Kain series.

Fortunately, you can now buy it on GOG for 6.99€: https://www.gog.com/game/blood_omen_legacy_of_kain

It works nicely with both joypad and mouse on Pop!_OS Linux via Lutris using the GOG version installer at https://lutris.net/games/blood-omen-legacy-of-kain/ (lutris:blood-omen-legacy-of-kain-gog)

The series would never return to Blood Omen's gameplay or graphical style. Although the sequels retained the setting, characters and atmosphere, the first in the series remains my favourite.


Your character screen gives you access to skills and shortcut assignments That top-down world view made me feel right at home as an Ultima fan. Note, also, Very Drama bloodsucking at a distance.

#LinuxGaming #ActionAdventure #Lutris #PS1 #HorrorGames #ActionAdventure #HackAndSlack #Vampires #RetroGaming

Toca Boca, 2018

Yes, this is a review of a mobile game/interactive experience for ages six to eight. No, I will not be taking any questions regarding my motivations in reviewing it.

Toca Mystery House, like many of Toca Boca's other kids' apps, is less a game, more a digital toy. There are no win conditions, and barely any objectives. This is a point in its favour.

The creepy, run-down mystery house is lovingly detailed with peeling wallpaper, a decaying lift, shattered test tubes and mysterious slime. As you explore the house, you'll discover different rooms, each with its own inhabitants and experiments to try.

A lab monster transforms when you mix up different potions to feed it, a thing in the fridge fridge sucks up (or ejects?) goo, and a musical ogre lets you ting their teeth. Elsewhere, the ceiling peels away to reveal strange constellations and a pair of mysteriously alien figures invite you to unfold a glowing box.

It's all very cute, engaging and nicely animated, with good use of sound, although there's not really all that much to find and do, so you/the child you were hoping to distract may not get very extended play out of it.

Despite its mysterious and mildly creepy setting, there's nothing here that'll upset your average four-year-old, but it's absorbing enough to be a satisfying fidget app for adults, too.

Toca Mystery House costs 4.49€ on the Google Play Store and is free with Play Pass. It's also on iOS for 3.99€.

Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tocaboca.tocamysteryhouse&gl=US

Apple App Store: https://apps.apple.com/app/apple-store/id1380057710


Goo globules float in a vaguely gelatinous goo monster. Hands down the most unpleasant thing in the game tbh. A creaking old elevator descends past pipes and cracked walls. Glowing eyes peer through a hole

#KidFriendly #TocaBoca #Android #iOS #Cute #NonViolentGames

Anton Riot, 2016

Anton Riot's Don't Open The Doors is a delightfully squishy isometric claymation action adventure with distinctive graphics and complementary level design.

Don't Open the Doors logo

The world had been invaded by doors to strange pocket universe dungeons infested by dangerous monsters, corrupting the area around each portal and making random objects sentient, mouthy and occasional hostile. It's packed with giant pumpkins, massive mushrooms and sundry squishy insects.

You are... Some dude who will soon some into possession of a large hammer, who's been tasked with blowing the main door up to put a stop to these things incursions. But the guards who're supposed to help you just want you gone, and throw you out of the city without your megabomb.

You rapidly makes friends with Ray, who can conveniently make a new megabomb, if you can find the ingredients. But you'll have to explore the dungeons beyond the doors and undertake missions to find then and level up your skills ready to take on the final challenge.

The claymation is exquisite and the gameplay is an open homage to Bastion, which is hardly something to complain about.

The world is relatively open but a quest log helps you stick to your task list while exploring the doors for upgrades, and you can pick and choose which order you want to tackle them, if at all. Splatting foes and environmental objects with your sledgehammer is eternal satisfying, and the music is this fantastic folk meets Danny Elfman with occasional distorted guitar flourishes affair.

Don't Open the Doors is a sensory treat and an obvious labour of love, which makes it easy to overlook its flaws. The dialogue and characterisation mostly involve sarcastic insults, and the English dialogue is more than a little rough around the edges.

Although the setting is visually inspired and immediately engaging, the plot and lore, such as they are, slide off the brain, making little impression. Combat is a little uninspiring and many enemies are better avoided than taken out, although whacking stuff with a giant hammer is always a solid choice.

DOTD has its weak points, but it's fun to play, lends itself to casual gaming, and definitely has that Extremely Halloween vibe (giant pumpkin boss! giant pumpkin boss!) and holy crap, that claymation is amazing.

It runs well on both the Steam Deck and my Pop!_OS Linux desktop via SteamPlay Proton.

Buy Don't Open the Doors on Steam for 10,99€ at https://store.steampowered.com/app/533950/Dont_open_the_doors/

Watch for spooky season sales.

There's a less overtly spooky survival/life sim sequel, Disdoored, that appears to have been abandoned in early access. You can find it at https://store.steampowered.com/app/845630/Disdoored/


A claymation dungeon, with a large-armed monster and skeletons all around

An unsettling black and white forest is punctuated by red toadstools

A pumpkin patch blocks off a door, standing in the middle of nowhere

#IndieGames #LinuxGaming #SteamDeck #ActionAdventure #Claymation #StopMotion #SteamPlay

Mia Blais-Côté, 2018

Hir Corruption is an extremely short bilingual (fr/en) interactive story written in visual novel engine Ren'py, although it's not a VN in the strict sense.

You are disturbed by a mental connection from another world, where the game's protagonist has found themselves in a dire situation in a famously haunted hotel. If you answer hir plea, it becomes your job to monitor hir vital signs and guide hir to safety. There are seven distinct endings, most of them going from bad to worse, and one of which I got unexpectedly by tapping in the wrong place.

The writing's enjoyable in both languages, particularly on some of the bad endings and on the stairway sequence. However, getting the good ending was surprisingly hard, because one of the choices it hinges on really doesn't signpost the fact that it's any “better” than its alternative in terms of in-game logic. Fortunately, the meat of the story is in your less wholesome decisions.

Rather than offering a language selection screen, Quebecois author Mia Blais-Côté has opted to display both French and English text on-screen. I liked this approach more than I expected to, although I ended up playing the game mostly using the French text, as it's at the top of the screen, with English at the bottom.

The game is runs on Windows, macOS and Linux and can be played with a mouse, controller, or the Steam Deck's touch screen. I used the latter, which was comfy but not as accurate about on-screen button presses as either of the alternatives.

No content warnings are supplied, but prepare yourself for some light body horror, a description of a dead child, reality warping, and a couple of claustrophobia triggers.

Blais-Côté has made Hir Corruption free to download on itchio: https://miaqc.itch.io/hir-corruption

Hir Corruption is no longer available to buy on Steam, but if you previously bought it, you'll find it in your library. Its community page includes some notes and guides: https://steamcommunity.com/app/982770#scrollTop=0

If you fancy spending zero money and perhaps ten to twenty minutes on a tiny, incidentally queer, interactive horror story about reality gone bad, it's a fine choice.


#IndieGames #LinuxGaming #NativeLinux #SteamDeck #HorrorGames #CasualGames #VisualNovels #LGBTQ #HirCorruption #InteractiveFiction

Grey Alien Games, 2015

It's a cute Halloween themed match-three game for PCs with no microtransations, ads or other exploitative bullshit!

There are surprisingly few seasonal match-three games for this time of year, and this one's packed with 100 levels full of skulls, pumpkins, ghosts, coffins, poppets, eyeballs, sinister books, flaming torches and black cats.

You can find Halloween decorations for your house by beating levels, and this gets more impressive looking as the game does one. You can also find gold coins that you can use to by extra house decorations. You can save your house as wallpaper.

Dating from 2015, it's not the most sophisticated match three by modern standards. You can create area-affect bonus items by matching four or more objects, and the yard decorations you collect can give you extra, limited-use-then-recharge items.

Recharges come in the form of dust released by glowing objects on the play field. Some squares have gold tiles or steel plates that require extra clearing or have their contents locked by spider webs.

There's no narrative beyond “match shapes to stamp out evil” and an occasional hint from one your neighbours. (This is fine, I don't actually want to read a visual novel in between making colourful objects go “pop!”)

Music is a synth affair somewhere between stereotypical Halloween/ghost train music and one of those meditation study types. It's likeable enough but there's not much variety. You can switch it off when you get bored, though. Sound effects bang and fizzle in a satisfying manner.

You can disable level timers for an extra-chill gameplay experience, and I'm not very good at this these things, so usually do.

It's for computers rather than ported from mobile, so there are no unexpected quirks when it comes to mouse interaction, and no relics of exploitative microtransaction systems. It works fine via the Steam Deck's touchscreen and works perfectly on my Pop!_OS Linux desktop via SteamPlay Proton.

Anyway, I like the cute spooky match-three game. Grey Alien Games are great this kind of casual brain-soothing fare, and while this lacks the narrative elements and gameplay depth of some of their other games (Buy Shadowhand!), it does exactly what it's supposed to.

Buy on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/388450/Spooky_Bonus/

It's usually 8,19€, but I believe it sometimes gets a discount nearer to Halloween.


![“The main attraction – there are 100 festive sinister-stuff matching levels that can be played with or without a timer.”] Another level. They tiles include eyeballs, ghost and cauldrons. It's super cute.(https://hauntedgames.net/images/spooky_bonus/big-level.jpg) Your decorated house! One of those old wooden US American houses with pumpkins and gravestones and other Halloween decorations in the yard.

#HalloweenGames #IndieGames #LinuxGaming #HorrorGames #MatchThree #Match3 #CasualGames #PuzzleGames