Halloween: Trick or Treat 2 (the sequel to the abysmal Halloween: Trick or Treat on DSiware) is a collection of games that mostly revolve around hidden-object searches, with a continuous focus on spooky settings and creepy themes; it features pre-rendered, quasi-blurry images loaded with junk, where you must locate a list of random items hidden in each. The presentation is mostly functional, but it’s largely ugly and muddy; and we don’t mean that in a repulsively fun way in relation to Halloween. It’s usually pretty displeasing to look at. But how does it play?
If you’ve downloaded any of Virtual Playground's Mystery Murders titles, you should instantly notice that the interface here is identical. Enter your name, choose between Casual or Challenging difficulty settings, then it’s off to find lots of items hiding in densely populated images. The top screen of the 3DS will showcase the list of items to find, timer, points, and options, while the bottom features the image you need to search through. To do so, the analogue stick will be used to alter the viewpoint, and the left and right bumper can be administered to zoom in and out for those ultra-tiny, deviously-placed, easy-to-miss objects. When you’ve finally unearthed your target, just give it a tap with the stylus and points will be awarded, subsequently scratching the item from the list.
It’s an entirely simple concept, and it functions decently, but that’s not to say it isn’t without its share of ghosts haunting the framework. For one, the area of detection around items of interest can sometimes be spotty. Not a big deal in casual mode considering it takes five or so wrongful taps of the touch-screen before momentarily locking up as a punishment, but things are far less forgiving when on challenging difficulty. Making victories more complicated is how arbitrarily hidden some of the objects are. For instance, you may need to find a jigsaw piece, but it’s not a pure puzzle piece you're looking for, instead it’s a faded outline buried in the texture of the area it’s placed. It doesn’t feel cleverly positioned, it just feels cheap and unfair.
To make matters worse, there is the occasional item hiding behind a door or some other panel you’d normally not know to tap on. It could have been a decent inclusion to the formula had it been implemented better, but as it stands, you have to be dragging the stylus along the screen to be aware of these interactive points. If you've decided to start a file with the challenging setting, you may not even know that these panels exist, as there are no tutorials. We'll admit that we had to rely on hints a couple times to figure out that it was even part of the formula.
Besides that, the hidden-object searching is exactly as you’d expect compared to other games of this nature, but those aren’t the only types of activities on offer. Find the differences, a variation of jigsaw puzzles, and other poorly developed diversions irregularly pop up throughout a playthrough. There's one game that provides you with an overheard, structural view of a building with bats scattered throughout the rooms. You must click on one bat at a time, which highlights the direction each bat is heading, until you’ve connected a string of them that leads out of the building. It’s a confusing, trial-and-error exercise that’s simply not any fun to play.
And that’s a fairly accurate summary of the whole package; it’s more of the same, it’s sloppy, and there's little fun to be had because of it. Although, we’d be remiss if we didn’t admit we expect that some younger gamers may find a few hours of spooky fun here merely based on the accessibility and the correlation to Halloween. So if your kids are begging you for a download, and you’re okay with our concerns in this review, don’t feel too bad about transplanting this one to your 3DS home screen. Any boys and ghouls previously exposed to the tired tricks of the hidden-object genre — or those old enough to have a developed a taste for games — are the consumers we expect to find this the most repugnant.
Upon first glance, the most apparent shortcoming of Halloween: Trick or Treat 2 is that it’s the same old hidden-object game you’ve played (or haven’t) a million times before. Peer a little further into its soul and you’ll find even less to like about it in the sloppy way it functions and tricks the player into a challenge. Most importantly, it’s dreadfully repetitive and just isn’t much fun to play. While it may be an improvement over its predecessor, that isn't saying much, and you should probably just let it sink into the darkest corner of the 3DS eShop.