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Just a Peek - Scare Your Way to a Haunting with Ghost Master

by

- October 31st, 2005

I have a tradition, well, I suppose it might rightfully be termed an eccentricity since I'm the only one that I know of who does it. You see, every year, around Halloween, I watch Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video; the best video Mr. Jackson made before he started getting scary-looking. 

Whatever else he may or may not be, Michael Jackson, along with John Landis of American Werewolf in London fame, created a music video masterpiece when they put together "Thriller." The affects of that video is still appearing today; anyone who has seen the movie 'Hitch' will snicker at the 'Slow Thriller' dance step demonstrated by Kevin James. (Still cracks me up.)

Along with Thriller, I tend to watch a lot of horror movies as well (no, not Jackson's 'Scream' video, though that can be nightmarish for small children. But we won't go there). I seem to be overly fascinated by death and dying, and by creepy, oozy things that go bump in the night during this time of year. I get an extra kick out of zombie and ghost movies, and I have a great time laughing at the silly antics of the on-screen soon-to-be-deceased; they never do what they should, and everyone but the hero gets sliced and diced in so many imaginative ways. (Hmmm. That can't be healthy thinking, but don't worry, I don't own a machete or a hockey mask.)

Be that as it may, the nice folks at Feral Interactive sent over a copy of Ghost Master; I suppose they figured it would be an appropriate time of year to take a peek at a game that features ghosts and silly people who run around witlessly frightened. They figured right.


Pick your location to start your hauntation

Commander In Deceased

Ghost Master has a unique concept for a game: You command a stable of ghosts, and your job is to frighten the daylights out of mortals; the more frightened the mortals become the more plasm (spiritual go-juice) you get and the more haunting you can do. The object is to scare all the mortals out of a location. Sounds like fun, huh? But wait...there's more!

Some mortals scare easily, while some are card carrying skeptics and are harder to  say "Boo!" to, but by smartly instructing your ghostly team, you can usually clear out a house easy enough, and that's the fun of it; watching how your intended victims go from boredom to hands-in-the-air horrified.

Along the way you'll find other spooky spirits who will join your team if you first help them out by listening to their mournful tale and figuring out a way to release them from whatever is binding them to a particular area. Freeing these poor souls can be a challenge as it often takes a combination of actions by other entities to break the binds.

Once the new spook has joined your ghastly team you can command it the same way you do the other incorporeals in your stable.

As you become more proficient in exorcising the living you'll find that the tasks facing you at each haunt to be more difficult. Freeing trapped spirits, for instance, will take more than just the right spook in the right spot, and getting mortals to cringe will take the combined efforts of you ghostly team.

Picking the right team is essential to clearing out a building and freeing the poor trapped souls within.

Phantom Power

Each spirit has a unique set of scare tactics at its command, from simple chain rattling and delivering unearthly wails, to levitating objects and causing poltergeist-like disturbances. Each power cost a certain amount of plasm to use and causes a certain level of fright in the poor victims. So, a concern is the manage your plasm while getting the most frightening affect.

You can teach your ghost new tricks too.  Each new trick will, of course, cost you more plasm to use so it behooves you to spread the learning around to all of your spirits, and understand tactic is the most effective on which type of mortal.

Getting plasm is not hard, but you can run out, and running out is not a good thing: No plasm ends your game, after all. You can't go with no ghost go juice. So, be mindful of your plasm level and bench spooks as needed to keep up your scare tactics.

Mortal Madness

The feature I liked best in Ghost Master is the ability to change the point of view: You can watch your haunting from a variety of perspectives. You can have your view follow a spirit or mortal, or close in on a particular location, which is cool, it's like having a webcam positioned in some unsuspecting place in a neighbor's house. But watching the antics of the mortals by having the camera follow one is one of the more enjoyable aspects; it's like watching a bit of the life of one of the characters you've created in the Electronic Arts game, The Sims. The camera isn't shy either;  watch mortals perform some the necessities of mortal life like eating, sleeping, bathing, and using the toilet. If you are a closet voyeur, this is your game.


"Hmmm, no low-fat, low-carb, caffeine-free, sugar-free, caramel colored sweetened water! Oh pooh!"

Mortals talk too, they use a language that almost sounds intelligible, and can be funny at times. Again, this is similar to The Sims, where the characters converse using an odd language that include idea bubbles. There are no idea bubbles in Ghost Master, but, from time to time, mortal will have emotion icons associated with them, which gives you clues as to their emotional state. Not as much fun as idea bubbles, but they get the job done.

The view I got the most kick from is that from inside one of the mortals: It's kind of like possessing a person, but you have no control over the person you've possessed. If you have ever watched the movie, 'Being John Malkovich' then you get the idea. It can be very funny watching a mortal get scared and run around franticly, then run, screaming, from the house.

Speaking of scaring mortals; not all mortals are frightened sheep, however, and some can hinder your progress, and even banish your ghosts, sending them into oblivion. It's best to identify these people and work on them first to get them out of the way. 

The Good, The Bad, And the Ghostly

There's a certain repetitiveness that I did not like about Ghost Master. You pick your team, scare the mortals, and free trapped spirits; the only difference is the locations, and the set of mortals and trapped spirits within. Finding the right combination of spooks to perform the tasks is the real trick here, but after I went through a few hauntings I found my that attention started to wander.  


One down, and another on the verge: Good haunting!

Luckily, the antics of the mortals, and the extended animated interludes that seem prevalent in most, if not all games from Ferral Interactive are enough to keep the game from becoming a true bore, and puzzlers will likely enjoy figuring out what it takes to free the trapped spirits in a reasonable amount of time.

The graphics are not top shelf, but they are more than adequate to make the game enjoyable, and are great for the price you'll pay for the game.

The controls take a bit of getting use to, especially manipulating the camera with your mouse, and it becomes frustrating if you have a slow Mac. I found that I overshot my intended view too easily, adjusting the mouse sensitivity helps, but I finally wound up using the keyboard.

On the subject of slow Macs, I ran Ghost Master on my 800 MHz G4 iMac (512MB RAM and 32MB VRAM), which is just below the listed recommended requirements of an 867mhz Mac with 256MB of RAM, and a graphics card with 32MB of VRAM. Ghost Master ran nicely enough, but I did run into some jerkiness during game play, and menu manipulation seemed to pause for no reason. It could likely be that I had something running in the background, so be mindful to quit unused apps before playing.

In all, I found Ghost Master to be an interesting, if short-lived diversion. Fans of The Sims will enjoy watching the mortals get scared witless, and that may be enough in itself to justify the meager $30 (or much less) for the game.

I would also recommend this game to puzzlers, since it contains a large puzzle element in freeing trapped spirits. For others looking for something unique, give Ghost Master a spin, it may provide the spooky good time you are searching for.

If not, you can always join me in watching Thriller; it is that time of year again.  

Review Item Ghost Master
Manufacturer Feral Interactive
Price

Street Price

US$30

US$19 (Amazon.com)

Minimum

Requirements

  • Mac OS 9.1 / Mac OS 10.1.3
  • PowerPC G3/G4 700 MHz
  • 256 MB RAM (with virtual memory set to at least 320 MB)
  • Hardware accelerated 3D Graphics Card with 16 MB VRAM
  • 750 MB free hard disk space
  • Mouse and Keyboard

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

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