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Budget Fun with Ghost Master
Ghost Master is a terrific wee game which deserved to do better than it did on release in 2003. It was let down by poor marketing and one of the worst covers ever, which is sad because it is a lot of fun. This comically irreverent take on the horror genre charges the player with scaring people by deploying various types of ghost. It’s not a massive game but it makes for an addictive blast of fun. Considering it can now be found in bargain bins and on Steam for just $4.99 it is well worth picking up.
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Unique Game Play
The game-play is quite unique forming a blend of strategy, puzzle, adventure and resource management. You play on a series of maps and each gives a nod to a classic horror film setting. There are fifteen in all including such classics as the sorority house, the mental asylum, the police station and of course the haunted mansion.
As the ghost master you take charge of a range of ghosts, 47 in all and they are broken down into categories so there are the elementals, the disturbances, the frighteners, the sprites, the vapors and the horrors. You choose your line up for each challenge and then deploy them around the map. Each ghost has to be tethered to an object when brought into play. Each ghost also has unique abilities, and once in play you can spend your plasm by commanding the ghosts to perform different scary actions. As the inhabitants inside get frightened your plasm recharges. The ultimate aim of each level is to build up and layer your scares to the point where the poor people in the map can take it no longer and flee in horror.
There are a number of puzzles to overcome as you progress and several characters can only be unlocked through completing additional tasks within each environment. The difficulty curve ramps up nicely as you play through the game so it continues to provide an interesting and engaging challenge all the way through to the grand finale.
The ghosts in the game are a varied bunch and the fact that different types can only be tethered to specific areas is a genius piece of design, for example some ghosts can only appear near crime scenes, some are attached to electrical devices and some to mirrors. Often their ability is linked to their tether so for example gremlins will make the television burst into life randomly and spark. The trick is to place them in the right place and then scare people over and over as they run from room to room until they lose it completely.
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Graphics and Sound
Graphically the game offers an isometric view of each map allowing the player to zoom in and out and spin the action round for the best angle. The art style is reminiscent of the Sims. The basic player models are fairly bland but the art team went to town on the creepy characters. There are some terrific models and animations at work and a number of decent visual effects accompany the action. The environments are also well modelled and fun to explore. There is a good level of detail and it all hangs together well.
The music and sound effects are also beautifully integrated and provide further tongue in cheek references to genre classics. The creepy music cues, wailing ghostly sound effects and screaming victims help bring the premise to life. The overall level of polish in terms of art and sound is excellent. The only weak spot is the cover which makes Ghost Master look like some kind of lightweight Sims rip-off when in fact it is a clever and innovative game.
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There are loads of nice touches and references in the game. It conjures memories of films such as Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror and Sleepy Hollow. My favourite was the inclusion of a team of Ghostbusters who turn up and try to capture your ghosts. The fact that the AI characters can fight back to an extent really keeps you on your toes.
There are a few flaws with this, the lack of a save feature option mid-level is sometimes frustrating, some of the puzzles might have you googling for a walkthrough and it doesn’t have a great deal of depth. It is also worth mentioning that the game is purely single player. Having said all that I still think this is a terrific, funny and extremely entertaining game with a great original premise which allows you to be the bad guy for a change. It will provide you with several hours of game-play and it more than justifies the now budget price tag. For horror fans or people seeking something a bit different this is highly recommended.