Werewolves roam the streets, zombies tail the living and vampires hide in the dark. No it’s not the end of the world rather Halloween, an annual excuse for young and old to dress up to hoard sweets and get drunk respectively. It comes as no surprise that developers take the opportunity to release ghoul-themed games during October and Fright Heights is such a title. But is it scarily good or frighteningly bad? Will it suck your blood or does it just suck?
Fright Heights is a tiled-based puzzler, in which players take control of ghostly residents of a hotel in an attempt to scare the guests away. Guests and ghost are placed on tiles in each puzzle, with ghosts adding numerical values to different tiles around them. These numbers represent ‘scare points’, which guests must be placed on to frighten them away. Accumulate enough points on the bottom row and it will be cleared Tetris-style, with each level completed after every row is cleared and an objective is reached.
It is a deceptively simple concept that hides a deep and challenging game. The highest points are gained by clearing multiple tiles at the same time, achieved by filling tiles above the bottom line so that they clear straight away when the line beneath them goes. It makes for a great risk versus reward system; do you clear up the bottom to bring another free line in at the top, or fill the entire grid in an attempt to rid them all at once? The second option can backfire as miss-placed tiles could make gathering enough scare points impossible and a level is failed when the entire grid is filled.
Complexity is added by the various monsters, all of which affect the tiles around them differently. Placement becomes very strategic, especially when combining the scores to try and achieve as many points as possible. This though does highlight a particular frustration with Fright Heights. Although the next three tiles, ghosts or guests, can be seen on the side of the screen sometimes the game decides to be cruel and only gives one or the other, making it almost impossible to get enough points to clear tiles. It can also be annoying when that specific ghost you need to clear your perfectly set up combo just refuses to appear.
This frustration is eased somewhat when ‘puzzle’ mode is unlocked, which has the guests already pre-placed on the grids. It certainly makes for a more challenging experience as more thought needs to go into each placement but as the locations of the guests are fixed, the randomness of what tiles come out cannot be placed on a failed level.
Fright Height adds longevity by constantly introducing new elements, from different ghouls to ghost hunter guests that will reduce the scare points on tiles. There is also a ‘talisman’ system, which can help recover levels that seem like lost causes. A talisman is powered through earning points and can be boosted up to three different grades. When a talisman is activated (uses are bought by boo-bucks earned through play) the upcoming tile is transformed, adding points to tiles all round.
Visually Fright Heights gives a spooky feel well, with the well designed monsters supplemented by the dark purple themes. The spooky soundtrack certainly compliments the game nicely although a lack of variety means it will get exceedingly repetitive with extended play. Thankfully the option to turn off the music is available, helping to ward off insanity with those long commutes.
Although it may not seem it on the surface, Fright Heights certainly rewards the thinker. Being able to see what ghosts are coming means that the player must be constantly thinking two moves ahead, planning how ghosts can combine to gather enough points to clear three rows together. Cynics could write the game off as a gimmicky Halloween cash-grab but underneath the ghouly exterior lies a genuinely challenging and addictive puzzler.
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