Jamie Wharton / Jul 29th, 2004 No Comments
So, does anyone remember the days of Bullfrog? Long since disbanded, but while they were around they churned out some pretty innovating titles such as Dungeon Keeper, Theme Park and one of the greatest games ever in my humble opinion, Syndicate – a game deserving another sequel if ever there was one. I mention them more for their humour-tinged strategy titles though, the Theme Hospitals of this world that don’t seem to be appearing anymore.
Ghost Master could have been crafted by that balding genius Mr.Molyneux and his cronies up at Bullfrog as it is a real refreshing experience. To finally pin down my comparative introduction I’d say that Ghost Master is Dungeon Keeper meets The Sims. I myself only really gain pleasure when playing The Sims from bricking up my little guys in a tiny room and watching them slowly die in their own filth. Anyone else with a similar distain for tending to the needs of little computer people will relish Ghost Master as the objective is indeed to terrorize people to their wits end.
The whole game is not very serious in approach though, as soon as you install the game you are greeted to a Scooby-Doo style presentation of eerie noises and the general contents of your local fairs ghost train. Everything is bright colours and lots of fun, this may be about supernatural fear but you won’t find small girls with arched backs scuttling down stairs, giant marshmallow men are more the feeling here.
Play is split up over a series of specific house scenarios, each with a specific goal you must achieve by using a team of ghosts hand picked from your roster. Goals can be very simple, a simple scare everyone out of the house task…initially quite disappointingly simple and easy, but as you progress, things get far more interesting.
The more detailed mission goals give you a real feeling of being an outside force operating within the real world; you cannot directly manipulate people’s actions and can only give them a nudge in the right direction by using your ghosts. My favourite mission so far is one of the earlier ones where you visit the house of a lonely old woman…a woman so lonely she has killed various people who come to her house so they can never leave. So hidden around her house are the bodies of a saleswoman, an electrician and a gasman, some of her family are round and you have to uncover the bodies and bring her to justice. Another one which raised a smile is one involving some teenagers in a cabin who have to be tricked into reading a cursed book in the basement…very Evil Dead in its approach.
So how do you actually achieve all this? Well you have a selection of ghosts to take into a level with you, ghosts with different powers that can only be used in specific situations. You get ghosts that can roam free or you can be more specific and bind a ghost to a child or to the TV or just about anything you can see, the use of ghosts can be extremely clever and there are multiple solutions to the games puzzles. Things are made slightly more complex though by the addition of a plasma limit. Plasma is produced by scaring people and you require plasma to deploy ghosts and for them to use their powers, so you have to juggle which ghosts and what powers you are using at any one time.
If you want to get a person to investigate a room, or even a specific object then it’s up to you to get their attention…so get a ghost to make a strange smell in their or rattle some chains! Individual people have certain fears and beliefs too that you can investigate to help you manipulate them to how you see fit.
One thing I did find tricky about the game was the ghost selection, if you are playing a mission for the first time there is no real way to assess the situation, you can’t observe the layout first and decide which ghost types you require. But this is covered up by the replayability of some of the levels as you can unlock extra ghosts by achieving hidden tasks and also build up gold plasma which you can use to buy your ghosts new powers.
On top of the brilliantly cheesy soundtrack and voiceovers are some pretty smooth graphics. The houses are detailed and full of things to see; the people wander around about their business and chat with each other in what is basically a highly detailed version of The Sims. If you want a few flashy graphical effects thrown in then the ghost powers do offer the occasional flash of light but they aren’t gonna knock your socks off, this is a game all about playability really.
On the downside though there isn’t much room for customization, a level editor, multiplayer option or even a ghost editor would have made this a real cracking title, as it is it’s a great experience that will ultimately get a bit repetitive. So, much like it’s predecessor Dungeon Keeper to the end then…Ghost Master is a highly playable title with a lot going for it, best played in short burst, a quick mission now and then, it’s sheer originality carries it through.
FINAL SCORE: 86%