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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Strategy / Simulation

 

Publisher

Empire Interactive / Vivendi Universal Games

 

Developer

Sick Puppies

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Release Date

Q3 2003  

 

- Great alternative for Sims gamers

- Imaginative levels with a hauntingly humorous touch

- Easy to use control interface, once you get acclimated to it

 

 

- May have to start missions over and over until you discover a good mix of necessary ghosts to free bound spirits and complete mission

- Camera inexplicably gets stuck in ceilings/floors and block view

- Unlike Sims, no real replay value after youíve completed missions

 

 

Review: The Sims (PC)

Review: Tropico 2 - Pirate Cove (PC)

Review: Luigi's Mansion (GC)

 

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Ghost Master

Score: 8.4 / 10

 

Having 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.  

 

ghost-master-1.jpg (31267 bytes)          ghost-master-2.jpg (38473 bytes)

 

You 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 the town.

 

This 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.

 

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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 

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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.

 

The 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.  

 

ghost-master-3.jpg (32954 bytes)           ghost-master-4.jpg (31774 bytes)

 

The gameplay is simple to explain, but difficult to master and does have its own seemingly gremlin-created issues that leads to frustrating moments.

 

Ghost 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 becomes.

 

You 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.

 

You 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 need.

 

Your 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.

 

Each 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.

 

By 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.

 

Alas, 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.

 

Although 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.

 

- Lee Cieniawa

lcieniawa@armchairepire.com

(November 6, 2003)

 

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