Writing reviews for game genres that you have little interest in is really hard. I do it because I hope to find something new that will broaden my overall view of gaming, I hope to find something that will entertain me, something that will turn me into a genre fan. So, what will turn-based strategy Horror Squad do for me?
First impressions are important in gaming. I know that graphics should be second in importance to gameplay but sometimes you need good visuals to properly portray a game world and sadly Horror Squad is a little lacking in this respect. The main game is powered by a slightly cumbersome 3D isometric tile engine that works in a similar fashion to the old X-Com games (the last time I really enjoyed a game in this genre!). Respect is due to developer Spectre Software for creating the game in this way, not an easy challenge, but the end result is a very slow, visually unappealing game.
This game does however offer some graphical highlights in the form of cut scenes (well, pictures really) between turns. Oddly the images on display here are inspired and quite creepy, certainly worthy of a game called Horror Squad. If the same visual quality was available throughout the game, we'd be on a real winner.
With visuals falling short of impressive, it is up to the gameplay to keep the player interested and fortunately, for the more hardcore player at least, Horror Squad gets this right. Things aren't entirely perfect, poor presentation and a steep learning curve for beginners will turn a lot of people away for example, but everything you'd expect from a turn-based strategy game is in place.
The game revolves around your squad hunting evil monsters such as Wolfmen, Frankenstein and the Mummy. Each turn has you using each squad member to move around the map hunting down the enemy and, hopefully, killing them. Once you've used up all your resource points for each squad member, you end your turn and either the computer takes his go, or if you play multiplayer, you hot-seat with another player to let them take their turn.
Turn-based games like this are a long-standing genre and in some cases can be very enjoyable but Horror Squad feels very slow and rarely feels like fun. Hunting down the evil monsters is frustrating, fighting them is a chore and the poor character control would be considered broken if this game played out in real-time.
Perhaps my memories have clouded a little over the years but I don't remember such issues when playing UFO and X-Com way back in the days of my trusty Amiga. I remember the tense battles that lasted hours - I personally found it difficult to spend an hour playing Horror Squad and the only tension I felt was the pain in my wrist from fighting to move my characters around.
I continued to look for redeeming features during further play sessions but didn't find them in the audio department. I've grown accustomed to poor sound effects and music in indie games but secretly hoped that I'd get some cool monster effects and eerie music - I should stop hoping for such things and turn the radio on in future.
Where does that leave Horror Squad as a potential purchase? To be honest, the only way I can see you enjoying the game is if you are a really committed fan of this style of game. If you are, then you probably don't see many new games in the genre as they don't tend to be made by bigger developers and are usually too difficult for indies to attempt - with that in mind, you should try the demo to see if you can look past its failings and enjoy the game for what it is.
Anyone who isn't a genre fan already though will find little here to entice them in and anyone looking to come back for hours-long turn-based fun will likely find their rose-tinted glasses smashed, as I did. It is a real shame that the obvious effort that went into making the game hasn't lived up to its potential.
Keywords: horror squad review, spectre software reviews, spectre software games, horror squad scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.