by Daniel Roche
As kids, many people had their own ghosts. Maybe the monster in the closet, or under the bed, and I can't forget all those ghost stories some of us told. Looking back, I am sure that many of those things seem silly. But have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a ghost, or at least to control one? What about being able to scare someone silly? That is exactly what you get to do in Ghost Master, and believe me, that is the least of it.
When I first took a look at Ghost Master, I was skeptical about how good the game would be. I was pleasantly surprised when I started playing it. You play the role of a young Ghost Master called upon to rekindle people's belief in ghosts. Before you even begin to play, you choose which ghosts (haunters) are best for your current mission (a.k.a. Haunting.)
However, there is more to it than just picking random ghosts and accomplishing missions. Each ghost has a fetter, a specific type of object or place to which the ghost has to be bound. Some can only be put outside, others can only be attached to objects that are electrical or have emotions connected with them. Then of course, you cannot have all your ghosts out at once and at full power. Each ghost has special abilities they use to scare people or help with your mission. Each power requires a certain amount of plasma, which is generated through the fears of whoever is occupying your haunting. The more terrified you make them, the more plasma you gain and the more powers/ghosts you can use. It gets even more complicated with room placement and the range of your haunters.
As for the missions, you don't just scare people away. You also have to complete certain goals as well as rescue ghosts who are attached to fetters. To free one, you use a specific ghost with a specific power or ability. As if this game was not complicated enough, sometimes you have to sort out and then start a chain of events to complete a mission or free a ghost. The problem is that sometimes things don't go as planned and you have to try again, or worse, start over. The further along you get, the harder puzzles become, the more you have to think and plan ahead, and the more frustrating the game becomes. All that on top of trying to scare ten or more people out of one large area with limited resources is quite a challenge in itself.
Here are two things that do bug me about the game. First, the camera takes a fair amount time to figure out and parts of the system become rather pointless later on. Then there is the fact that Ghost Master is fairly graphics intensive. There was definitely some thought put into the camera system, given the amount of options you have (moving from floors, ghost point of view, etc.) and I have to give them credit for that, but some of the options are completely useless and trying to learn the system front to back will take a fair amount of time. Not to mention that later on, rotating the camera becomes completely useless, since all you have to do is zoom the camera in and out a little. If you have a computer that barely meets, or is a little better than the minimum system requirements, you will have problems with things skipping around. This occurs when you move your camera to an overhead view of the haunting grounds, or simply when you are moving the camera from story to story in houses and the like.
This type of game requires a lot of patience. It's very complicated, even at the beginning. I spent a considerable amount of time just trying to figure out how not to mess up on the first level and to navigate the camera. I would have to agree with the age recommendation of seven and up, seeing as the most violence that I have seen would be a few people having their souls sucked out of them and that the game has a fairly high fun factor. Overall, Ghost Master is a fairly good game, not a must buy but definitely something to consider, especially if you like the puzzler/ challenge combo.
Minimum System Requirements Power Mac G3 700MHz