Spooks and Summons (AKA "Halowoof") is an arena RPG with a few unique mechanics. It's a short game but took me about 3 hours to finish, not counting all the times I died on the last boss. The length is perfect and it definitely succeeds in what it sets out to do, given its minimalist scope. No feature creep here. Out of the 2016 games, S&S strikes me as the most balanced in regard to quality and completeness.
It's mostly an arena game so the narrative is all in the opening and ending. The story ties into the Vikings/Fenrirverse narrative. It's funny and expressive on its own, but visually...
The dialog portraits really make the game for me. The writing was good but having that extra expressiveness makes it great. For an arena game, the non-combat bits are impressive and polished. Great use of color everywhere. Hati's walk animation could be a little better but that's the only thing that stood out to me as off.
I think that an original soundtrack would have made a big difference. The music fit well enough but it got repetitive. Nothing else really stood out to me in the sound.
Most of the game takes place in one room, so there's more focus on the battles than the story. Most of my critique is of the actual combat balance and character progression. There's tons of equipment and the later fights need attention to your accessories. The last few fights had lots of hit all with status effect attacks and I didn't feel like protective gear was stopping that very often. The summoned spooks are a neat mechanic to build your party but getting them randomly seemed like a time sink. There's a lot to collect but a few seemed to have more than a couple overlapping abilities. I'd rather have a few that I choose and spawn at lv1 and grow as I play than a ton of extras that I never use.
I didn't realize until the end that you summon spooks at your level, most of the game I played with two black cats and a tentacle. I swapped the tentacle for a vampire and got through the boss fights, most of which were pretty well balanced. Cthulhu was hard but not unfair, accessory choice meant the difference between getting wiped or not. The final boss was impossible for my party. I tried swapping out one of my black cats for a few things and I used the doll guy for a while. He's like a vampire but weaker. I was mostly getting by with Hati casting Flare and everyone else just spamming revives and full heals to keep MP up. Eventually I realized that a Lich can cast holy elemental damage for 999 so I just took three of them and Hati became my healer. Still had to revive one or two per turn but that's how I got through it.
This might be outside the scope of the game, but it really feels like it's lacking a dungeon around the midpoint to break up the flow. You should have to go down to the basement to get a missing page or something. Make it a few levels deep with random encounters so you aren't running to the inn after every fight. Maybe all you find down there is underwear but it breaks up the game so you aren't stuck in the one room the whole time.
Lots of nice tricks here. Scripted cutscenes, big dialog illustrations, full screen animations, monster collecting, and a great looking credits sequence. I did notice a few stray tiles with layer order issues, the one I remember was on the front of the house when you exit after the final battle, you can walk behind it.
I had a lot of fun with this one and played it in short bursts over the course of a few nights. It's a great little game and I realize that it's not really serious, but it would really benefit from being able to buy your spooks of choice and see a description page for each one so you know who does what. Physical attacks and weapons seemed to need some attention too, I got through the game mostly by burning MP. I give it a very solid 4 out of 5.
Sharp focus, no feature creep.
Random summons feels weird when you have enough money to just keep buying them. Really needs its own composer for a consistent musical identity.