We’re coming up on autumn and with that, Halloween! Let’s just assume the world as of 2021 isn’t scary enough and pretend we need our lives to be a little more spooky. That means it’s time to lean into horror games. Spookware‘s a not-especially-terrifying comedy adventure that features skeletons, so it’s perfect for the season (as is anything that features skeletons) and it’s got a few interesting ideas besides.
Lefti, Midi and Righti are a set of skele-bros with a sweet bone car and big dreams. Well…moderately big dreams. Dreams like going to high school because they’ve heard that’s a thing people do. We follow our ossified pals as they traipse about the world getting into trouble and solving problems – or not – along the way.
Contrary to what you might think based on Spookware’s advertising and title, this game is largely an exploration-focused adventure game spiced up with WarioWare-style microgames rather than a microgame-focused experience. We follow a trio of skeleton siblings as they go on comical adventures like surviving high school and solving a murder mystery onboard a cruise ship. If you imagined a bunch of skeleton puns coming from a game about skeleton brothers going on comedy adventures…you’re absolutely right. And it’s great. Please enjoy. From an adventure game perspective, Spookware’s pretty simple, with basic puzzles focused largely on ensuring you completely scour every available area.
Of course, we’re here for microgames, right? Spooky ones, even! Spookware has a bony finger on the pulse of what made classic WarioWare microgames good, but it doesn’t quite manage to nail that same feeling. Spookware’s games tend to be a little too complex to make sense at first glance, and when you’ve only got a few seconds to figure out what to do and then do it, complexity’s not a desirable trait. Spookware’s microgames are at their best when they’re focusing on an established theme, like the first stage’s rhythm games that range from bongo-playing to woodchopping while using a consistent control style.
It’s when you combine the adventure and microgame aspects of Spookware that the game finds its stride. Adventures and microgames are two great tastes that taste pretty great together, as it turns out, and having the odd bit of frantic gameplay here and there helps shake up the pace when you’re solving puzzles and searching for clues. Nobody’s going to hold up Spookware as a masterpiece in either regard, but it makes a great point for the concept of combining these genres and it’s certainly a worthwhile few hours’ worth of gameplay as a result.
Spookware has a really appealing cartoon vibe that brings to mind old-school animated features from the ’90s. It’s pretty great and really jives with the comedy. Likewise, the microgames tend to be more goofy than anything. That brings up one point worth mentioning – Spookware’s going for a light horror vibe, so some of the microgames are moderately spooky in theory, but there isn’t many jump scares or much serious gore here. It’s fine for players with weak constitutions, in other words.
Spookware‘s an unfinished experience thus far, offering only the first of four episodes. That means there’s time to refine the experience a little bit…and it also means that the developers might just drop the game entirely and leave us with what we’ve got here. Thankfully, what we’ve got here in Spookware’s first episode is entirely playable and enjoyable – but it’s best taken as a great example of a concept that could be taken even further. Here’s hoping there’s a little more polish in future episodes that can really help these bones shine.