Monday, December 14, 2009

Ghost Manor

ICOM Simulations / TTI

I've always found it oddly amusing that the Duo got a tag team of veritable yahoos in this game and its goofball brother, Night Creatures. Sidescrolling quest games were never all that plentiful, let alone goofy horror-themed ones, yet we lucky Turbo fans were visited by the silly terror twins. But these kindred spirits differ from each other in some significant ways. As much as I love Night Creatures, I realize that, gameplay-wise, it's a calamitous botch-job. Ghost Manor, on the other hand, plays wonderfully, one of a number of reasons I consider it a fantastic adventure game.

Some of the other reasons are things that people often mention in complaints. I hear folks whine about not knowing where to go or what to do, as if the game's lack of blatant arrow signs were a devastating flaw. It's as though these players were being asked to comb some endless astral plane or something. Give me a break. GM is a quest game, not a straight-up action game, and it's not going to hold your hand through each of its hallways. Exploring every nook and cranny of the manor grounds and interior is a huge part of the fun, so if you're just looking to barrel ahead and shoot things, seek your thrills elsewhere. For the patient, there's lots of enjoyment to be had in roaming the corridors, never quite knowing what kinds of monsters, traps, and hazards await you and what sorts of secrets can be found. And man, there are plenty of secrets. You can have your character examine practically every inch of his surroundings, and you will often be rewarded for your efforts with important goodies like ammo restorers.

And that brings us to the folks who complain about the cap on ammunition. For me, said cap just adds an extra element of strategy to the adventure. You can't simply blast away; you need to figure out when it's better to use your noggin to circumvent a tricky spot than to use fire. And it's not like you're granted a small number of shots to use; you'll find yourself packing plenty of firepower (provided that you efficiently utilize the ammunition you acquire). There are lots of restorers that can be found if you do a little looking around, and you won't be a sitting duck if you happen to run out of ammo: the stage structures usually allow you ways to make progress even if you can't fire a single shot.

But then there are those who can't make progress anyway because of the "faulty controls." I'm writing this complaint off immediately because it's ridiculous. The controls are fine. I think what people really have a problem with is what they're required by the level designs to do with those controls. Platforming here can be quite tricky (and quite fun): there are plenty of slides, trampolines, ghost heads that pop up and propel you upwards, and other such things that take GM's hop-and-run gameplay beyond the usual jump-stand-jump bullshit. If you want dull platforms that slowly drift left and right, look elsewhere.

Combine all of that good stuff with some really cool (if at times repetitive) music, an interestingly animated (if bizarre) main character, and an exciting "flying skull craft vs. massive head" final confrontation, and you've got a great adventure game that the patient and the non-whiny should have plenty of fun with.

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