Horror Tycoon is the work of solo developer Smidge Games, and so far it was a fun game to preview. With fond memories of causing deaths in Roller-coaster Tycoon, I was delighted to try out a similar game where you are meant to kill people, not just make creative accidents. Horror Tycoon puts the formula in a spooky setting. It works well and looks to have a bright future for fans of tycoon games. There’s even fun terrifying facts on the load screens. Whilst the bones are there, the game could use some fleshing out. The current lack of variety in Horror Tycoon is a shame, but it’s only a preview, with a lot more to come.
Horror Tycoon is available to play in early access as a playtest on Steam.
Story – Dealing with Devil
Horror Tycoon’s story follows a family bound by an agreement to the devil. At the start of the game your family lawyer passes this contract on to you as your father has died. Now you must take up the mantle of the haunted house killer and scare visitors to death or be sent to hell. With a quota of souls to fill per week you go from location to location, setting up a house of horrors. You must then balance notoriety, along with the money and visitors it brings, with attracting police attention.
As with most tycoon style games, the story is unobtrusive as the focus is on making your own haunted house. That being said, I actually quite like this as a set up. It’s enough to give focus to the game and add a twist so there are repercussions to failing which adds to the tension. As Horror Tycoon is still in early access, we only have the one cutscene to go off of. There’s room for expansion on the story if the developers want to, but it doesn’t feel necessary.
Gameplay – Scared to Death
The gameplay for Horror Tycoon will be familiar to those who have played other tycoon games. However, there is obviously the horror twist. There are different locations, currently there are two, the ‘Backyard Haunt’ and ‘the Forest’, however the developers have said there will be over 20 by the time of the full release. Your start locations are empty spaces for you to fill. There are a few different ways to utilise the area. There are building pieces, such as floors, walls, doors, and windows. These you use to make your path, optimising the space for the most scares whilst balancing your budget.
Once the path is done you need to fill the space with scare attractions. The better they are, the more they cost. Most of these are pretty great and can also be upgraded. The spider nest is gross and creepy, the clowns bursting out made me jump more than once. I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far but the game needs some more. The developers will be bringing in over 50 scare attractions which will help a lot. This is especially the case as more variety means you can make houses with a theme, whereas at the moment it is more of a mix and match. There are also props and lighting you can add to fill the space a bit more. These could use a little more direction as to how they are useful beyond just adding colour to the buildings.
Putting your Scares into Action
Whilst you set up your house, there is a timer counting down, with a wave of guests coming after it reaches zero. Guests will have specific fears, and once their fear meter fills, they will die and you collect their soul. You also can get their bones and teeth to unlock new props and scares or upgrade your current ones.
Overall, I like the premise. It’s a nice mix of the tycoon gameplay with a sort of horror themed tower defence. It’s a fun time planning it out and executing it if you are into these kinds of games. However, the game will drastically improve once there are more options for scares and new locations, as at the moment you will pretty much just use the same ones. This will fix the main issue of replayability for Horror Tycoon, as it was a bit limited in the preview. The time aspect as well is something I think would be best made optional. It often feels rushed as the guests take a long time to arrive at the house, so you have less time each wave. Some optimisation and new features would help as well, such as multiple pathways you can make guests take that are suited to them. Maybe even some deadly traps that you can activate when a guest is alone.
Graphics and audio – Spooky Sounds and Ghoulish Graphics
Graphically, Horror Tycoon is pretty good for a single developer game. The attractions are well made and animated for the most part, although some don’t seem to really do anything. The visuals can get a bit glitchy if the building parts don’t overlap correctly, however they are by and large fine. I’m interested to see what the developers can bring with new locations and designs. They have a good eye for horror imagery. Perhaps we will see some more horror references throughout such as a Alien themed house or a Friday the 13th campsite.
The audio is great. I love the sound of the thunderstorm outside. The prop sounds and jump scares got me more than once, and whilst a bit tacky at times, it makes sense for a haunted house attraction. The effort in the sound design stood out. It’s important it has been executed well as scares rely a lot on sound design. I’ve yet to see a weak link in the audio so it’s looking good for the future as more gets added.
Horror Tycoon was played on Steam for Preview with a key provided by Smidge Games.