Like your Halloween to be a bit less "blood and guts" and a bit more "spooky fun for all ages"? Armor Games and the Electric Toy Company have you covered with the iOS action puzzler House of Shadows that will keep you on your toes as you slink around haunted houses collecting treasure and keys while you avoid ghosts, as well as resonate with anyone who has ever had to babysit a younger sibling while they Trick-or-Treat. Well, I mean, presumably you've had to endure the frustration of dragging a little kid along behind you, if not necessarily having to rush off to the rescue when they get themselves trapped within a maze-like haunted mansion. But look at the bright side! At least this isn't like the time you wished your little brother away to the Goblin King.
In each level, you'll need to grab a key that opens the door, and then find your way to it without any of the spectres that patrol the halls seeing you. Just tap or drag anywhere onscreen to move, and you'll pick things up automatically. Ghosts can't see in the dark, so you'll want to use the shadows to your advantage. As their awareness of your presence creeps up, the icon above their head will gradually fill, so stay out of their line of sight or be prepared to run... right into the nearest wardrobe to hide, if there's one available. Presumably these sullen spirits are protecting all the treasure laying around, which you'll also want to nab even though its mostly optional, since gems are spent on unlocking new houses, and coins need to be gathered to bypass certain doors. All of this is easy enough to begin with, but when timed pressure plates come into play, along with more spirits, shifting light sources, and other hazards, you'll need to be quick on your feet and figure out how to make your surroundings work for you in order to proceed. Are you sure this is all worth it? I mean, c'mon... realistically, how attached could your parents possibly be to their second-born?
With its rich cartoony presentation and slowly mounting difficulty, House of Shadows is both instantly likable and effortlessly playable. It's a simple concept to be sure, but while the basic gameplay means kids will be able to get the hang of it, the stealth elements and gradual increase of complexity means it can be both engaging and challenging for adults too. The lighting effects are a great touch and implemented surprisingly well, especially since they're easy on the eyes. Movement, however, can occasionally be a bit frustrating if you're swiping around willy-nilly, since the game's path-finding will kick in if you accidentally tap or drag to the opposite side of a wall and your character can abruptly reverse course as a result. It forces you to move more slowly than you might like, and can lead to a few annoyingly accidental spectral embraces if you've got a spirit on your tail. But if you're patient and plot your path with care, you'll find House of Shadows to be a wonderfully charming bit of Halloween fun, packed with 60 levels (and more to come), and some devilishly tricky stages hidden in this treat. Just try not to jump when something goes BUMP in the night.
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPad (First Generation). Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.