Halloween Forever is a 2016 platforming shooter developed by Imaginary Monsters, and published by Poppy Works. The game is (shockingly) a Halloween themed game with an 8-bit flare centering a cast of characters resurrected by an evil wizard. You fight through several spooky worlds seeking the dark lord who has brought you back to life, so you can return to being a pumpkin, or something else not sapient. While a cheaper game at $10USD, it offers plenty of fun, especially for those who enjoy finding secrets, and doing completionist runs or perfect runs.
Let’s start by talking about the most important part of most games, the gameplay. While there isn’t anything special or complicated to how the game controls, it does what it does well. Halloween Forever has a very Mega Man feel to it, with a double jump, and shoot being all you have except for the four-angled movement. Don’t go into it expecting anything but the basics, but expect basics that are mostly very competent and fun. My largest gripe control-wise is how some characters can shoot downwards while in the air, which is at best finicky and at worst unusable. Thankfully this isn’t crucial to your playing experience, as the rest of the game operates wonderfully.
Aesthetically, Halloween Forever is simple, and it’s good for it. The 8-bit style with its chunky pixels and blocky appearance would feel right at home on an NES. With decent animations and lo-fi music that manages to capture the spirit of the spooky season, the art team at Imaginary Monsters has a well made package of 80’s inspired Halloween fun!
As for levels and enemies, the game has 5 overall worlds, with many enemies, bosses, and secrets to unravel. There are basic enemies met at every level, like the chainsaw men and bats, that you learn to deal with quickly by level 1. However, even at level 1, the game offers a nice variety and makes it so you have to learn the paths in order to secure victory. As the levels continue, you find more monsters joining the fray, as well as level exclusive enemies like frogs. Yes, frogs are an enemy in this game, and I feel great pain every time I have to kill them.
Bosses I would say are the main source of difficulty, and fun, in Halloween Forever. With 2 unique bosses in each level, the variety of the game is arguably its strongest here. Having to learn the patterns, strengths and weaknesses of each boss is a joy, especially when playing over with new characters to see how your strategy may have to change.
Once you finish your first playthrough or two however, it changes completely into a completionist’s kind of video game. With 10 characters to collect (originally 6, which I will discuss in a moment), 6 runes, and 38 achievements on Steam and the PS4 & PS Vita. The achievements I would argue are crucial to the experience, which is the sole reason why I would recommend getting it on Steam over Itch.io if you are getting it on PC. I also highly recommend the PS Vita version for the same reason. A lot of the entertainment in this game comes not from your first completion of the game, but in beating it over and over, getting that much better at it until you’ve mastered it. There’s even a 1HP mode for those who want to prove they are the best pumpkin in the patch!
Now, for the characters. Before the 2020 update, there were 6 characters you could collect outside of the starting Pumpkin Man and Pumpkin Santa. All of these characters have unique shooting abilities ensuring that every single one feels different in some way compared to the rest. From a witch throwing cats to a demon flying over all the enemies, the game has plenty for you to find, should you attempt to discover them!
In October of 2020, the developers released a free DLC that added 4 new characters into the game. This selection, while interesting, is kind of lacking compared to the others on the roster. All 4 can be found in the same secret area, only with 4 doors forcing you to choose which hero to unlock in that run. This makes the “finding” of the new roster members quite a dull experience after you find the 4 doors.
2 of these new characters are what I would consider quite overpowered and dull in mechanics, while the other two are essentially reskins of two other characters. In fact, the reskin characters, while they have different names, state the original characters names when describing their unique moves in what’s clearly an oversight while patching them into the game. Am I disappointed? No, the game is still a solid time and it is lovely to see the devs still put work into this game. It’s just a shame it wasn’t anything more substantial or interesting than a couple rehashed characters and two gun toting people.
Plain and simple, if you’re looking for a retro way to keep a little bit of Halloween in your life no matter the season, I recommend Halloween Forever wholeheartedly regardless of my criticisms of it. It will not consume countless hours of your life, but for a solid little romp that reminds you of the spookiest holiday of the year, it will be worth the $10 if you enjoy this style of game. I would argue that Halloween Forever is absolutely a game to grab for retro fans looking to keep the spirit of the day alive, or you’re just looking for a small game to finish to completion.