Name: Ghost Master
Format: PC (reviewed) PS2/Xbox
Genre: Real Time Strategy (RTS)
Region Reviewed: N/A
Year of Release: 2003
Halloween is here again and people are trying to scare other folks or to find something that scares them shi-… well, you know, that gives them a very good spook (without checking the News, that is). In the gaming world there is a wide variety of titles that will allow players to fight demons, hunt ghosts, slay vampires and escape the most terrifying haunted towns and dark mansions, however, in this article I am going to show you a different type of terror, so turn off the light and check your six lest some entity is stalking you. Done? Ok, so…
Enter Ghost Master, an ultimately underrated game developed by the short lived Sick Puppies that will put you in control of an army of ghosts of different types, most of them based on urban legends and local folklore with some clear pop culture references like some types of ghosts who look eerily like Casper and Slimmer from the Ghostbuster movies. Terrorizing mortals is the name of the game here, and you will be able to perform such endearing chore by selecting several kinds of spooks, the likes of: elementals, ghouls, poltergeists, insectoids, etc. Each one of those ghosts is limited by their fetter that establishes where the spirit can be summoned, inside a building or outside, while other ghosts can only be attached to specific items. Most of the RTS games out there limit your production of units by adding a cost to them, whereas that is wood, iron, gold or plain money depends on the genre itself, but in the case of ghosts… well, they just don’t care too much for the materials of the mortal world and in order to produce higher spirits and stronger ghosts the player will require “plasm”. This element is needed to summon ghosts and to make use of their abilities. To obtain plasm the only thing the player will have to do is scare the hell out of the mortals in each of the stages. A gold plasm is rewarded at the end of each level that can be used to teach the team of ghost new haunting abilities in a Ghoul Room.
When discussing gameplay, Ghost Master boasts a sizable number of levels divided in three acts where different buildings are the only scenario, though the goals the player must accomplish are mostly the typical horror movies clichés, watching how your selected team of ghosts scares the humans provides endless hours of sheer fun. Before accessing a level, the player must pick a team of ghosts and that will determine the success rate of the mission. If you don't happen to know who to choose, there's a button that will pick a good combination for you. After the team is ready, the haunting begins.
The mortals are not easy to scare, though. The difficulty of the game continues to climb after the first level where the player's team of ghost is charged with scaring the life out of some pretty pixelated cheerleaders, a task that is done quite simply, but as the game progresses and you face, say, a Ghostbreaker team, you will find out that a galloping horse with a headless rider doesn’t produce the same effect. The catch is to know exactly which phobia affects the mortals you are haunting (which is only possible by sending some specific ghost that can poke around people's minds) and fill the “Terror” bar that is displayed when you click on the mortals portrait. Sometimes terror is not just it and you can drive them stark raving mad by filling the “Belief” and “Madness” bars which are just below the Terror indicator. It is important to add that the game, like Siths, only deals in absolutes, and levels tend to be easy or hard, with no medium equilibrium, a perspective that might scare some people away (pun intended).
Some levels have a trapped ghost that you can unlock by making the mortals do something specific. This adds a lot to the strategic element of the game and to the puzzle-solving aspect but since you control only the ghosts (and rather indirectly), manipulating the human actions can be a bit tiresome at times, specifically when you need to wait for a human to be in a certain location performing an action, especially when you combine that factor with the curious AI of the mortals.
Graphically the game is extremely good considering its release date. With a cartoony style, Ghost Master not only reminds me of The Sims 2 (like it or not the graphics were very good) but the different perspectives of the cameras and the zooming will allow the player to maximize the strategic placements of the ghosts and visualize the havoc created by the spooks roaming around the scenario. The menu is also easy to get used to with a dark green bar at the top of the display that represents the total plasm and a lighter green bar which shows the current consumption of it. There are other cameras where one can access the mortal point of view and a cinematic sequence that is enabled automatically when something important happens.
The sound will not let the player down in any aspect either. The tunes are a good match for the spooky -yet funny- ambience of the various levels and the sounds are quite well reproduced; a radio broadcasting something, the screams of the mortals chased by unreal creatures and even the different changes of the weather produced by some of the spooks the player controls are clearly executed, which is something to look up to considering how original the game is.
Verdict:- The last game of Sick Puppies studio is such an original concept (maybe explored only by “The Haunting” in the 16 bit era) that deserves much more than what was given.
The idea of this title offered such a breath of fresh air to the RTS enthusiasts that just for that deserves to be played and praised. Besides it is a treat to the eyes, the ears and the brain of its daunting players. Play it, or you might get tricked.
Second Opinion:- Back in the days of the Sega Mega Drive (that console that came out and refused to give me my rightful sequel - jus sayin') there was a game called 'Haunting' that blew my robot circuits with its fresh gameplay ideas and strategy style gameplay. For a time I honestly thought I would never see another game like this so when this PC game came out I was very pleased. I even sat in a chair and stroked a white cat!
Later released under a slightly different name on both the Playstation 2 and Xbox console I fell in love with it and although it absolutely needs more of me in the game it's a superb amount of fun and feels right at home on both PC and games console.
Transbot Scores:- 8 out of 10