Score: 8.4 / 10
ghostly and ghastly apparitions cast as characters in games is nothing
new. Usually though, the focus is on playing as the ghost buster, not
the ghost. But developer Sick Puppies throws that convention out the
haunted mansion window. Mixing up a little bit of the television series
ďDead Like Me,Ē a lot of The Sims, and some ďBeetlejuiceĒ for
humorous measure in its creative cauldron, Sick Puppies has come up with
an original and fun strategy title, Ghost Master.
are the Ghost Master, a spirited civil servant of the afterlife sent to
the haunted haven of Gravenville by the Haunter Committee. Your job is
to supervise and direct a horde of ghostly denizens to scare the bejesus
out of the mortals living, working, and generally existing in and around
is a role-playing game, playing and definitely looking eerily similar to
The Sims line of games, which just so happens to be the best-selling
line of PC games ever. But Ghost Master is no mere Sims imitation.
Though it might be easy to confuse Ghost Master at first glance for yet
another expansion pack in the long line of expansion packs for The Sims.
But it absolutely has its own graphical definition, especially concerning the ghosts. They are ghosts after all, so there is a need for the translucently aqua-green rendering that goes along with a floating effect and supporting animations needed to pull off the illusion of you handling a real batch of ghosts. The development team has created a great variety of ghosts in the game, each with a unique style and function as a haunted member of your scare
squad. There are ghosts and
spirits categorized as sprites, disturbances, elementals, vapors,
frighteners, and horrors to do your bidding. The most unique ghosts tend
to be the few that arenít initially part of your ghost team when you
enter a level. They are the doomed souls that met their fate in the
particular level you find them and must be freed by using a particular
haunter in order for them to join your terror department. They key is
trying to figure out which particular ghoul is needed and what exactly
needs to be done.
mortal realm of characters is a much different story. Itís hard to
sometimes differentiate between the Gravensvillers because on levels
where there is a whole lot of them to frighten, Sick Puppies
unfortunately includes many of the same-looking characters with slight
and many times hard to notice variations to tell them apart. Having a
different name doesnít really help telling some mortals apart. There
is plenty of different male and female (both adults and children) mortal
characters in the game, but repeating them with minute wrinkles in their
design can create confusion when targeting mortals to spook.
The gameplay is simple to explain, but difficult to master and does have its own seemingly gremlin-created issues that leads to frustrating moments.
Masterís camera can be problematic at times, getting inexplicably
caught up in the floor and ceiling, preventing you from seeing any
ghosts or mortals. The camera also rotates too quickly to focus on which
room or area on a level you want to focus your spirited energy on. But
switching to a first-person perspective for a particular ghost is a neat
camera touch that gets you up close and personal with an intended scare
victim. It will take a slight acclimation period to get the hang of the
unique-yet-somehow-familiar gameplay setup, but once you learn how to
play it, you wonít want to ever give up the ghost of fun Ghost Master
select a level to play, each with its own scare requirements to complete
the mission. Selecting a team of ghosts may seem easy, but each singular
ghost has a unique set of supernatural haunting powers, and each mission
does require specific haunting effects to complete, so you must have a
ghost that has that particular haunting power, such as producing bitter
cold in rooms, giving feelings of dread, possession of an unlucky
mortal, creating mischief, noise, strange behavior, footsteps, laughter,
and a ton of other powers all used by the spirit world under your
direction to scare Gravenville residents. To use a ghost in a room or
areas of a level, you must bind them to fetters. Some must be bound to
electrical devices, like a TV. Others can only be used indoors. Yet
others can only function in thoroughfares.
can have the game pick a recommended team, but even that doesnít
always help. If you donít have the right ghosts to haunt, then you
basically have no choice but to quit the mission and restart with
different ghosts. Some levels you play will take a few
quitting/restarting forays before finally finding the mix of ghouls you
mission is to take your ghost team and enter into one of the many levels
of Gravenville. They range from single-family dwellings to hospitals,
cruise ships, and police stations. Hereís where a lot of Ghost
Masterís dark humor comes in. Levels and characters have names that
will elicit chuckling like The Unusual Suspects, Poultrygeist,
Calamityville Horror, Phantom of the Operating Room, Deadfellas, and
Weird Sťance. Itís pretty easy to surmise by the names what type of
mortals and areas youíll be encountering. What are really humorous are
many of the reactions that the mortals have to your ghostly presence.
Youíll definitely be laughing at various points of your hauntings.
mortal has three levels that your scare tactics will affect: terror,
belief, and madness. Some mortals believe in ghosts, so you can scare
them easier. Getting a real good hair-raising scare will produce an
increase in an individualís terror. Once you max out their terror
level, and they are sufficiently terrified, they will flee and thatís
one less mortal and one step closer for you to completing your ghostly
task -- all in a Ghost Masterís dayís work. But beware, there are
mediums and ghostbusters on some levels that arenít easy to scare off
and are actually able to neutralize and capture your ghost squad.
scaring mortals, you earn gold plasm, which allows you to upgrade your
ghostís scaring powers in the Ghoul Room. The more gold plasm you
have, the more powers a ghost is able to afford, and the more effective
it will be at its job, and really, as a ghostly civil servant, having an
effective workforce is all you can ask for.
the game is completed rather quickly. Most players should be able to
finish off the entire game in 12-15 hours. By keeping a score for each
of your ghost missions, Sick Puppies is giving you a possible excuse to
replay levels, but honestly, once you play a mission, even if itís a
total ectoplasmic blast, you wonít find much incentive to revisit one
of your favorite haunts. And no online play buries any other opportunity
Ghost Master has at being enjoyed for a longer duration.
it doesnít have the replay value of The Sims, Ghost Master provides a
ghoulishly great gamine experience while it lasts. If you have had your
fill of The Sims and would like to play a similar PC title packed with
its share of the supernatural and containing more dark and twisted humor
than the recently-released Sims Makiní Magic expansion pack, the
surprisingly scary-good Ghost Master is your game.
(November 6, 2003)
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