When I sat down to think about spoopy stuff in games, Banjo-Kazooie immediately jumped to mind. Rare games all have that curious quality of being 100% percent cartoony but still maintaining the potential for actual scares. Those scares are almost never intentional though; the only one I can think of is the Kong Temple in Angry Aztec level in DK64. Mad Monster Mansion on the other hand is basically all spoop and no spook, which is probably why it was so much fun to play as a kid.
Honestly, I’m not sure if Mad Monster Mansion was actually supposed to be scary. There aren’t all that many enemies, no suspenseful situations, and lots of visual gags. Heck, for all we know “Spoopy” was exactly what Rare was going for, and they definitely succeeded if that’s the case. There are so many memorable moments/interactions in this level, and all of them land on the funny side of spooky. Living toilets, a ghostly crystal tumbler, and an organ-playing disembodied hand are all highlights which, while using spooky ideas, wind up being rather endearing.
My absolute favorite out of all of it though is the set of flower pots hanging out around the church. They, like so many other things in Banjo-Kazooie, are inexplicably alive and so just sit there with their unblinking eyes. Honestly, I found them a touch unsettling the first time I saw them. They seem like decoration at first, but their coloring and nature as containers begs for some experimentation. Sure enough, Kazooie can interact with them by bouncing an egg into each. Immediately upon getting an egg, each pot (turns out that they’re flower pots) sprouts some pretty blue flowers (not exactly scary) and groans out “thaaank youuuuu…” It’s so out of nowhere that I can’t help but chuckle at the thought. Seriously, this might just be the best “what?!” moment in any Rare game.
Outside of the gags and creepy décor, Mad Monster Mansion just has a wonderful ambiance to it. It’s not scary, but kind of peaceful instead. It’s the same kind of feel one might remember from their nights trick or treating as a kid. It’s dark, there are spooky decorations and such all over the place, and some houses may even be rather creepy. You’re not scared though; you’re happy. It’s a relaxed atmosphere of good cheer and warmth rather than cold and frightening, and that’s exactly the feel I get from Mad Monster Mansion. It’s the spoopy Halloween spirit expressed as a game level, and it’s absolutely wonderfully done! Way to go Rare!
What’s your favorite spoopy level? Why not tell us below and then stay tuned for more Spooptober fun in the coming days!
Image by the Duck of Indeed