How to Play
To be the first person to reach the tower.
- Rewind the cassette tape so it is at the beginning of one of the sides.
- Each player takes a playing piece and the key with the same face/color. All of the playing pieces are placed on the starting space.
- Place each number key in a room with the matching number.
- Plug the game speaker into a cassette tape player’s headphone jack. Insert the host key into the speaker with the picture facing the same direction as the stickers on the speaker (the side without the speaker). Turn on the tape and listen to the introduction/instructions. When the instructions finish, take the host key out of the speaker but keep the tape running.
- The youngest player gets to go first.
A Player’s Turn
On a player’s turn they roll the dice and move their piece towards the tower by counting each black circle as a space. Players can choose any path that they want through the mansion. When you land on a spot with a black cat you stop even if you had spaces remaining on your roll.
Take your player key and the key from the room with the black cat you landed on and place them into the speaker. The number and sticker on the player key should face towards the stickers on the speaker with the player key in front of the number key. When you insert the keys listen to see if the speaker plays anything. If the speaker doesn’t play anything, your turn is over and you are safe. If the speaker plays something keep listening until the host tells you which room you should move to. Your playing piece moves to this space. On your next turn you can move from this room without having to try the speaker for that room. No matter the outcome the room key is returned to the location you took it from and you take back your player key.
If the speaker plays something when you enter the keys into the speaker, this room is haunted for your character. In future turns you should avoid this room since it will continue to be haunted. Just because a room is haunted for one player doesn’t mean that it is haunted for other players.
Winning the Game
The first player to reach the tower wins the game. You do not have to reach the tower by exact count.
If the tape should reach the end before a player wins the game, the tape is supposed to be rewound about 1/4 of the way back and resumed.
A weird fad in board games in the 1980’s were board games prominently featuring VHS and cassette tapes. Most of these board games used the VHS or cassette tape to direct movement around the game board in addition to the dice rolling mechanics. This fad seemed to die out pretty quickly though. Due to the cheesiness of a lot of these games they have developed somewhat of a cult following.
One genre that seemed to love these type of mechanics was the “horror” genre. The Atmosfear and Nightmare franchises in particular are well known for being some of the cheesiest VHS board games of all time. Today I am looking at a cassette “horror” game from 1988 called Shrieks and Creaks. While the game is kind of cheesy and the artwork is pretty good, the game play is horrifically bad.
Which Door Should I Open?
The entirety of Shrieks & Creaks relies on two mechanics.
First is a very generic roll and move mechanic. You roll the dice and move your playing piece the number of spaces that you rolled. Like all roll and move games, whoever is lucky and rolls the best has a big advantage over the other players. Unless you have a dice rolling system that helps you roll dice well, you have no impact on this aspect of the game.
The other mechanic in the game involves the cassette where you need to guess which room to enter next. Unless you can figure out how the speaker works (it’s not as obvious as it first appears), you have absolutely no information that can help you with your decision. All you can do is randomly guess which room you think is safe for your character. Since there is no information to help you with your decision, there is no skill in this mechanic either.
The problem with guessing the correct room is that if you guess wrong it could ruin your chances at winning the game. If you get near the end of the game board and pick the wrong room you could be sent back to one of the first rooms on the game board. At that point you won’t be able to catch up.
The only skill required in the entire game is remembering which rooms in the mansion are safe for your character and which aren’t. This isn’t very hard since each floor has one safe and two unsafe rooms. Once you find the safe room in each floor you just need to remember that room which should not be an issue except for maybe really young children.
One thing that kind of made the game I played anti-climatic was that my brother somehow randomly guessed correctly in every single floor and was never sent back. This defied the 1-81 odds of that happening. Since 2/3rds of all key combinations turn on the speaker that is really defying the odds. This shows how much the game relies on randomly guessing the correct room on each floor.
Shrieks & Creaks is close to being a broken game. The mechanics rely entirely on luck which makes the game kind of dull. The game becomes an exercise of who is luckiest. All you do is roll the die and hope you pick the right rooms. It doesn’t help that the game is so short that if you get unlucky you have little chance of catching up.
A Better Prop Than Game
While Shrieks & Creaks is a terrible game, it does have a couple redeeming features that keep it from being the worst game I have ever played.
The artwork is pretty nice if you like classic looking Halloween board games. Collectors of vintage Halloween and horror items would probably appreciate the artwork in their collection. The box looks really nice and the game board looks pretty good for its’ age.
While the cassette tape is pretty pointless for the game play, if you like cheesy horror you can get some enjoyment out of it. The tape is filled with bad puns and groan worthy jokes. If this is up your alley you can actually get quite a bit of enjoyment out of the tape itself.
Other Quick Thoughts
I give the game credit for making it harder than I expected to cheat. When I first started playing the game I thought I figured out what activated the speaker. I thought the speaker would turn on if every spot along the bottom was filled in between the two keys. Thankfully this is not the case because it would have been really easy to cheat. After experimenting with the speaker for a while I am not exactly sure what activates it. I am guessing the speaker turns on when a certain sets of pegs are pushed by the keys being added to the speaker. There doesn’t appear to be an easy to recognize pattern that can tell you which key combinations will activate the speaker though.
I can’t understand why the game has a recommended age of 8+. Unless the developers thought the cassette was too “scary” for younger children I don’t know why children around the age of six couldn’t play the game. I actually think that would have been a much better recommendation since I think children would tire of the game around age 10-12 since it is so simplistic.
Sir Simon Shriek (the host/narrator) is kind of stupid at times. At least twice in the game that I played he told a player to go to a room that they were already in. It is kind of funny hearing the announcer tell you to go to the bedroom when you are already in the bedroom.
Shrieks & Creaks was an interesting idea for a board game. Unfortunately that idea doesn’t work. Other than some decent artwork and the cheesiness of the cassette tape, Shrieks and Creaks is not a good game. The game is just a basic roll and move game with a cassette that adds even more luck into the game. There is no absolutely no skill in the game and it just comes down to who guesses best.
Unless you have really small children or care more about the art and cheesy cassette than the actual gameplay, I don’t see any reason to pick up Shrieks and Creaks. Add in the fact that the game appears to be pretty expensive and I really can’t recommend the game to anyone other than people with really fond memories of the game and people looking at the game as more of a collectible than an actual board game.