I don’t like being touched. The scariest moments in horror movies are the ones where hands reach up from graves to grab at unsuspecting ankles. I fear basement steps, the easy access to the back of ankles and the steady darkness are a potent combination.
Amanda Lange’s Fear of Twine game the Girl in the Haunted House plays on those fears. The game is about a haunted house actress at a Haunted Firehouse attraction around Halloween. The mummy-like costume is cold, the pile of burned bodies around you a suffocating mass of dummy flesh, the darkness your primary companion. The scene is set for some good, old-fashioned Halloween fun.
Which is to say that things go wrong.
The strength of Lange’s relatively short Twine piece (about 5 minutes) is in the way it grasps that physical sensation horror. The slow slide of a dummy’s hand along the main character’s flesh. The rising dread. The desire to leave and the inability to do so. These are carried out in both mechanic and text relatively well. Where the game falls short is in its delivery. Horror is at its best when it’s either campy or leaves a lot to the imagination. The Girl in the Haunted House does neither. With a game of such brevity, Lange misses the opportunity to really build the tension for more than a few nodes. The game feels more like an R.L. Stein mystery than fully fleshed out horror.
With the R.L. Stein comparison in mind, another strength of the work is the diversity of conclusions. With a relatively short playing time, there’s no reason not to play through a few times to see how your character ends up. In my experience? Not well.