“Fun House is an overhead-view, screen-scrolling action-puzzler in which the goal to progress through dozens of levels that gradually increase in complexity and difficulty until, ultimately, beating the entire game.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.
I go into plenty of other details in the actual full review, but for this blog bit, I want to focus on one descriptor for this title: Linear.
Many games go by in a level-by-level format. Heck, most platformers follow that sequential formula. Capcom at least had the decency of offering route choices, like in Mega Man bosses or even the overworld in Rescue Rangers games. Super Mario Bros 3 had quite a multitude of level after level; but not only did they have warps and overworld navigation, but the worlds very widely varied in the style of their stages. For an example of a video game on the NES with relatively few areas but a remarkable level of diversity in their environments, see The Flintstones: The Rescue Of Dino & Hoppy.
Various mechanics can allow for exciting variety in gameplay between differing levels. But in some cases, like Fun House, all they do is change the background color scheme every few stages as the player advances to a different “floor.” Even the final level is, sadly, just a retake on an earlier stage, using the same basic theme with only a slightly different arrangement.
When it comes to games like this, the repetitiveness is just too much for me. And that is saying something, since I am the sort of guy who can play Rollerball for hours on end, or just the fact that I have stuck with 8-bit cartridges for so long. I feel like Fun House is not only an example of “linear,” but even a sample case for when developers program themselves into a corner and are stuck with a limited concept, forced to repeat it stage after stage, shrugging it off and hoping the consumer is enough of a sucker to go for it.
NES Gameplay Tips For Fun House: This is not quite a “twitch” game, but an enhanced sense for dexterity and reaction time will prove to be a boon. Unfortunately, the game is a tad unfair in some of the set-ups, where it is almost impossible to blindly guess where the ordered goals will be laid out, thus just making a trial-and-error, memorization sort of gameplay necessary. That, in my opinion, is actually what prevents this from being a better game. The engine is great, it purrs along real nice and smooth, but your only hope for success in the long run is squeezing out those few crucial turns and long tosses and lucky shots and serendipitous navigations in the mazes.
Read The Full Review For: Actually, really, a fairly definitive, standard example of my full reviews. This one sticks to the formula, has writing of a decent-though-not-amazing quality, deviates into a few informal quips, and adequately covers the game, in my opinion.