The HorrorLand theme park has been a fixture of writer R.L. Stine's Goosebumps books since its first appearance in 1994's One Day at HorrorLand. Since then, "the scariest place on Earth" has been featured in numerous Goosebumps books, as well as a board game and a 1996 PC game, but Goosebumps HorrorLand on the Wii almost certainly represents the most bone-chilling, hair-raising, terrifying depiction of the park to date. The controls in this horror-themed minigame collection are so bad, it's scary!
HorrorLand starts by having you choose a young boy or girl as your character, and then kicks things off with you and a friend mysteriously finding tickets to the park. Upon your arrival, your tickets are torn into pieces by the green-skinned horror at the entrance, and you and your friend are quickly separated. It soon becomes clear that the only way you'll escape from HorrorLand is by finding all the pieces of your ticket, which are scattered across the park's five areas. And to do that, you've unfortunately got to ride the rides and play the parlor games that make up HorrorLand's attractions.
Each of the park's five themed areas has six attractions, for a total of 30 minigames, though most of them are just slight variations on each other. To the game's credit, a few of them can be fun for a little while. For instance, there are some bumper-car games in which your goal is to destroy the other cars by ramming into them. You use the Wii Remote to steer, as well as to trigger bursts of speed, and these control well and are entertaining for a few minutes. But you've got to take the bad with the good in HorrorLand, and the bad is very, very bad.
It's not possible to get through the game playing only the more passable attractions, because getting into each successive area requires you to have a certain number of frights. You earn frights based on your performance in each game: a bronze-level performance nets you one, a silver two, and a gold three. Getting into the last area of the park requires you to have 50 frights, so you'll need to have earned at least a silver on most of the attractions to reach that point. It's surprisingly difficult to earn silver in a fair number of the attractions, and by the time you do, you'll likely have played even the more enjoyable minigames enough times that you'll be tired of them. But that's far from the worst that HorrorLand has to offer.
The worst games of all are those that require any kind of back-and-forth swinging motion, such as the minigolf games and the Skee-Ball-like parlor games in which you must roll balls into slots using just the right amount of momentum. The problem is that controlling that momentum seems just about impossible. You might swing the remote back and forth with tremendous speed, only to see your character tap the golf ball ever so slightly or roll the ball gently up the incline. Likewise, you might make the slightest movement with the remote and see the golf ball go flying forward or speeding up the slope. The controls for these attractions feel completely broken. And, like some kind of sick joke, the one game at which you absolutely must earn gold if you want to escape from HorrorLand is Pharaoh's Fairways, one of the minigolf attractions. Even the most patient of players will likely get frustrated with the controls while attempting to pull this off. It's almost as if the game itself, like the horrors who run HorrorLand, want you to be stuck in the park forever.
In addition to the aforementioned game types, there are roller coasters that have you scanning for targets to shoot, flume rides in which you must row left and right to avoid obstacles, shooting galleries, and the like. Some of the rides have an elaborate design that makes them look like they'd be fun to ride, but this doesn't translate into fun gameplay, and riding them a few times or more to try to earn more frights quickly becomes tedious. Speaking of tedious, many of your ticket pieces are found by aimlessly wandering all over various sections of the park with a young girl in tow, waiting for her to tell you that a piece of your ticket is nearby. It's not fun.
It's too bad that the game fails so tremendously in a few very important areas, given that it does make HorrorLand seem like an interesting place, full of the kind of goofy, good-natured scares that young Goosebumps fans would love. The graphics certainly aren't technically impressive, but the five themed areas do have a certain style to them, from the B-movie sci-fi aesthetic of Mad Labs to the mummy-infested Egyptian horror of Terror Tombs. The music is suitably spooky, and the voice acting is decent throughout, with especially spirited introductions for each event and great delivery of the pun-filled humor that you'll find at every corner of HorrorLand. (What's a vampire's favorite holiday? Fangsgiving! Mwa-ha-ha!)
In addition to the single-player story mode, you can play any minigame you've previously played in the game's Arcade mode. Furthermore, a dozen of the games can be played by two players, allowing you to compete with a friend for a high score, which does make the shooting galleries a bit more interesting. There are also 25 monster cards to collect by meeting various conditions, though it's difficult to imagine anyone enjoying this game enough to find lasting value in this opportunity. Even the most devoted of Goosebumps fans will find a frightful amount of frustration waiting for them in HorrorLand.