Well, you’re dead. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that instead of enjoying your eternal repose you have to get up and deal with a bunch of demons that your crazy family summoned for some reason.
You play as a little cloud of ghostly light; the renowned paranormal experts on Ghost Adventures would probably call it an “orb.” The main thing your ghost orb can do is possess objects and then fly around and use them to interact with stuff.
This design feature is more clever than it sounds, actually. I think they were trying to avoid the usual point-and-click scenario where you have an inventory full of items and sooner or later you resort to randomly combining them until something happens. If that was their plan, it worked, except the downside is that you have to do a lot of backtracking at times.
Between the backtracking, learning a handful of abilities to help you progress and systematically unlocking new zones it might sound like a Metroid-type game, but mostly it’s about solving point-and-click puzzles. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.
I ought to be flattered, I guess. They obviously put great faith in my ability to understand their obscure hints, a faith that was horribly misplaced. At the risk of making excuses for myself, though, I’m going to give them some of the blame for this one.
There’s a real art to hitting the puzzle sweet spot, pushing you to think without being so hard that it snaps the connection between you and the game and leaves you hopelessly adrift. About 75% of the time they get it right and things move along just fine; but the other 25% or so ranges from unfair to flat-out ridiculous. Yeah, I made up those numbers, but you get the drift. Let me give you an example:
At one point you have to use a poem to figure out the sequence for a set of switches. Basing it on an existing poem was a nice way to set up a puzzle, and it’s pretty clear what you generally need to do. Problem is, the exact sequence is open to interpretation, to say the least; and if you interpret it wrong, well then what? Since there’s no feedback to tell you you’re getting any closer, either you sit there and blindly try combination after combination or you end up stuck, second-guessing your whole plan. There’s another place where you have to assemble a pass phrase from cryptic clues. Same deal. They also do the backwards Ouija board thing that I described previously, which makes no sense.
And that wasn’t even the worst of them. Let’s just say that if you’re not a trained musician, you’re going be in some trouble.
Maybe that’s part of the challenge in working with a small team. When you’ve been immersed in your own game for so long it’s probably tough to take a step back and see things from an outside perspective. Hard puzzles are one thing, but you can’t expect players to be mind readers. A few more sets of eyes might have been able to point out communication issues like this before they made it into the final version.
It’s a shame, because in a lot of ways this game is really well done. There’s a generous amount of content for something that cost three bucks on sale. The different zones, each of which corresponds to a different family member, all manage to have a distinct feel even though the atmosphere is uniformly gloomy. With a couple of extra coats of polish and a reality check on some of the worst puzzles they would have had a real winner.
I wish I could be a little more enthusiastic, but some of those puzzles really crossed the line.
Of course after ten hours of staring at demonic sigils now I’m probably cursed, too; so I guess they get the last laugh.