Horror Franchise Haunted House Resurrected Today On PC -- Interview

Q&A: Atari releases Haunted House: Cryptic Graves on Steam; see some screenshots and read our interview for more.

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Haunted House is back. The latest game in the series, which originated with 1982's Atari 2600 game, is called Haunted House: Cryptic Graves, and it's available today on PC through Steam for $20.

The Unreal-powered Cryptic Graves was inspired by the 1982 classic, which some consider to be the video game industry's first survival-horror game. In the 1982 game, you played a pair of eyes, but Cryptic Graves is a far deeper adventure-horror game, putting you in the shoes of Anya Graves.

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Graves has supernatural powers, which she'll use to hunt down monsters and spirits that haunt a creepy mansion in which the game is set. Your goal is to to vanquish the monsters and solve mysteries to help a ghost avenge his murder so his spirit can be released from the house.

In Cryptic Graves, Anya Graves is able to speak with the dead using her special abilities; and she can also touch objects to learn more information about them. Also in the game, you'll explore catacombs, a garden maze, and some spooky laboratories. Graves can also craft potions to unlock more abilities.

In an effort to bolster the story, Atari worked with Killzone writer Gordon Rennie on Cryptic Graves (read more about the partnership below). The game itself was developed by Anna studio Dreampainters.

To learn more on Cryptic Graves, we caught up with Atari COO Todd Shallbetter. You can read our full interview below and see some screenshots in the gallery.

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Why is 2014 the right time to bring Haunted House back?

Shallbetter: Part of Atari's go-forward strategic plan is reimagining classic Atari IPs for today's audience. The original Haunted House game was one of the first horror-adventure games, so what better way to return to the horror genre than re-launching a brand new version of the classic IP with a fresh story and new gameplay, while staying true to our roots?

Why did you target PC instead of consoles?

The PC game is built on the Unreal 4 Engine and we felt it was the best platform for the game. We are big fans of the PC platform, along with millions of other gamers--just ask Steam.

The original Haunted House came out in 1982, which means a lot of gamers today may have never even heard of it. What are you doing to accommodate new players?

While our new game shares the same name as the original, the storyline, gameplay experience and design is completely different. You don't have to know or have played the original game to enjoy Cryptic Graves. This new game is a first person, adventure horror experience filled with cryptic puzzles, supernatural entities, and paranormal activity. We hope it will appeal to both fans of the original game and new fans alike. It’s dark, and leverages Unreal--the technology in the game should satisfy the most critical next-gen gamers.

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At the same time, are there going to be nods or Easter eggs for veteran fans of the series?

Yes! There are some clear references to the original game: you'll have the urn, as an example, and the introduction is peppered with nods to the original. As well, be on the lookout for the haunted house's original proprietor, Zachary Graves.

Some designers say it's getting harder and harder to scare gamers today; how is Cryptic Graves going about scaring players?

Players take on the role of Anya, a young paranormal investigator, and will explore a dark and mysterious mansion filled with paranormal spirits. Having to solve environmental puzzles and navigate throughout the mansion, while at the same time running for your life, adds a serious level of tension to the gameplay. Plus, there are plenty of classic haunted house scares and creepy psychological horror built into the game.

What is the story for Cryptic Graves?

"Having to solve environmental puzzles and navigate throughout the mansion, while at the same time running for your life, adds a serious level of tension to the gameplay" -- Shallbetter

The protagonist of the game is Anya. Initially we know very little about her, but soon we learn she has the ability to 'see through the veil' and communicate with the land of the dead--but this is not something she's particularly proud of. She recently received the astonishing news that the abandoned and enormous 'Abaddon Grange' manor is bequeathed to her, under the condition that she can spend a whole night inside--a feat no one has been able to do since the estate's original tenants tried.

This all seems like an amazing coincidence, since she and her mentor, Stan Galecki, have been attempting, unsuccessfully, to access the estate for years. When she finally enters the grounds, it's clear the house reacts uniquely to her parapsychic abilities. From there on, events unfold that reveal the truth about the accursed Abaddon Grange.

What kind of enemies will players square off against?

The game features a host of horrid ghosts and enemies, including the Silent Stalkers, Jack the Ripper, Witches, and more.

What would you say the spirit or essence of Haunted House is? And how is this embodied in Cryptic Graves?

Haunted House, at its heart, is a terrifying, first-person, adventure horror game based on a classic IP. We hope to capture a feeling of dread, excitement, and eerie wonder as you progress through the haunted mansion and various locations around the estate, using Anya's latent paranormal abilities to solve enigmatic puzzles and craft spells.

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What do you think about virtual reality for Haunted House? Will Cryptic Graves support Oculus?

We continue to be impressed with the technological advancements of VR and think it enhances gameplay and takes it to the next level. We don't have any current plans to support Oculus in this release, but stay tuned.

The horror genre is making a mini-comeback lately with The Evil Within, Alien: Isolation, P.T., and others are a few examples. Why do you think this might be? And what sets Cryptic Graves apart?

The horror genre is very hot right now. You see it in all forms of entertainment--movies, TV, books and games. People like to be scared in a fun way, and the interactivity of this medium allows players a level of immersion that is hard to find anywhere else. Cryptic Graves is an original game that builds off its classic pedigree, and that sets it apart.

Killzone writer Gordon Rennie wrote for this game, if I understand correctly. What do you think he adds?

"The horror genre is very hot right now" -- Shallbetter

Gordon has helped us put together a fantastic back-story, one that keeps the feel of the original game while mixing in modern, solid horror narration--similar to what you could find from a TV series like American Horror Story.

About how many hours of gameplay should we expect from Cryptic Graves?

The first play through should take around 6-8 hours or so.

Anything else you think people should know about the game?

We are really excited to have people start playing the game that we worked hard on. Our developer, DreamPainters, is the seasoned team behind the critically acclaimed survivor horror game, Anna, so expect to get your fair share of chills and thrills while exploring the Haunted House.

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