Well I'm sure by now most of you will be aware of the Disney Theme Park attraction of the same name. The game itself doesn't really have much in common with the film version. It's got more to do with the ride than anything else. I'm also sure that there's going to be quite a few people out there disappointed to discover that Eddie Murphy's character Jim Evers isn't in the game. The hero of this adventure however, is an out of work, scrawny and funny looking little man who goes by the name of Zeke Halloway...
The Haunted Mansion ride At Disney Land - Which has been entertaining people young and old for ages - has finally made it to a console near you. It has quite a few of the sights you'd get if you went to see the actual Disney ride. You'll notice things like morphing portraits from the gallery, Madame Leota (played by Jennifer Tilly in the Film Version), the elevator gargoyle, and even the busts who's eyes follow your every move.
Set in the 1870's, the story starts with our hero Zeke searching for work as an assistant caretaker. As it turns out, that's not exactly the full job description. You discover he's actually been employed by a group of good ghosts lead by Madame Leota, a fortune teller who just happens to be trapped inside her own crystal ball. It is explained to Zeke that the mansion used to be full of good, happy ghosts. But an evil wizard took over the mansion, messing with their minds and turning them to evil. Apart from the ones Zeke met mind you... He's also told that in order not to remain trapped in the mansion permanently, he must capture all the evil spirits on the loose through out the house. The developers High voltage Software, I feel have successfully managed to blend together a good balance between the light-hearted entertainment and scary aspect you'd expect to find with the Disney name on in.
In this game you only actually have one weapon for the whole game. It's not what you'd expect a weapon for ghost hunting to look like either. It's actually a magic lantern called The Beacon Of Souls. With this lantern, you can shoot evil spirits. After turning the lights on you can later capture them in their shrivelled form, trapping them in the Lantern, which in turn changes them from evil back to their good former selves. When you've collected a specific amount of souls. Say 15 for example. That number of spirits acts like a key, unlocking a magically sealed door with that number on it. Completing a room gives you a part of a death certificate belonging to one of the friendly ghosts. Collect all the pieces, take it to the relevant spirit and you get given 1 of a number of Soul Gems. These are part of The Beacon Of Light, which in turn enables you to fire more powerful shots - making your job easier. It's never as simple as walking in a room and just flicking the lights switch mind you. Usually the light switch is in an inaccessible place with some kind of puzzle to solve to get it. There are puzzles to solve like being shrunk and put on a snooker table, or getting from one end a huge chess board to the other without the revolving pieces looking at you. There are hidden room, levers and doors as well as a number of different monsters to fight.
The control method is fairly straightforward. It's as easy as left analogue: Moving, right analogue: camera angle. X Button: Jump, Square Button: Activate/Search, O Button: Soul Collector, L1 Button: Lock-On, R1 Button: Fire/Charge. The only real complaint I have with the control system is the Lock-On (L1). It seems to work well until you're facing multiple targets. It doesn't seem to change focus quick enough. If it's a selection of large and small enemies you're pretty guaranteed that most of the smaller ones will get past your defences and get a few hits in. This game can be entertaining and good fun for all ages, but I suppose it is aimed more for a younger market. I have to admit I like the thought that has gone into creating the puzzles, it's clear that the team put a lot of effort into creating them, with a lot of attention to detail taken into consideration.
Graphically, I don't think this game is designed to be realistic or cutting edge. Don't get me wrong it definitely has a lot of appeal and is nice to look at. When I see it, I automatically think of Nintendo. It seems to have that soft edged, blurriness about it. It even seems to look a little like Luigi's Mansion. Effective, moody and pretty dark... The graphics in all its foreboding glory help give it a sense of eeriness.
Tieing the sound in with the graphics really does help with the overall effect. You get everything you could ask for in a haunted Mansion. Squeaking doors, creaking floorboards... As you walk around the mansion, grandfather clocks go tick-tock, the wind howls, Zeke Gasps! You even get spirits calling him by name. The over all effect is pretty good and nits together to make an entertaining game.
This game is pretty entertaining. But alas, it's not all good news I'm afraid. It does turn out to be a bit of an anticlimax. If you're an adult and want any kind of real challenge, I'd go straight in for the hardest difficulty. Easy mode is just too easy! If you're anything like my friends, and me you'll have completed it in a day on easy mode no problems. Unfortunately the final boss was a major let down. He was no real challenge at all. Plus I didn't get the boss I was expecting. It was a classic case of misdirection. Build you up to one boss (by making you fight him throughout the game) and then give you a totally different one. There might also be a few frowns to discover that Eddie Murphy isn't in it, but this game is after all, based on the attraction and not the film.
There's some fun for adults to be had here, but if you're of the younger ages then this game is perfect for you. If I looked at it from a child's or young teenager's perspective, I wouldn't have any complaints.