Humorous Hauntings

Ghost Master is a simulation where you do your best to scare the heck out of unsuspecting mortals.

Those of you who have played Dungeon Keeper will feel right at home here. You have all the same type of irreverent humor, and you get to play on the flip side of where most games begin. Not that you are a bad guy as the leader of a ghost army, but you do have a different perspective on things.

The game is divided up by a series of missions. Each mission has a goal that must be achieved, and you can also earn points by scaring mortals along the way. A mission might be fairly generic, like scaring everyone out of a house, or specific, like luring the police to a long-forgotten corpse.

You don’t directly interact with the world as a ghost master, but place your minions in different places to do your bidding. You have an interesting bevy of ghosts to help you out, each with different powers. Depending on the type of ghost, you can bind them to specific focuses in the mortal world, which limits your choices. For example, a gremlin type ghost can only be bound to an electrical appliance, while a water elemental needs to be bound to a puddle outside or perhaps a shower stall inside.

The interface is a top-down look at the place you are haunting, and you can use the mouse to drift through various floors, or rotate the scene to get a better view. The graphics are pretty good, though we detected some problems with a few video cards in the form of mostly minor glitches.

Your various ghosts include sandmen like the Nightmare, who can gallop into an unsuspecting person’s dream if they are unfortunate enough to try and catch a nap during your haunting. You have a dead little organ grinder monkey who can be bound to appliances or computers for shocking results. Then you have the more powerful spirits like the Horrors, who can manifest their terrifying forms for some really spooky results.

You can choose to micro-manage your ghosts, telling them what powers they can and can’t use, or let them decide. Generally, the artificial intelligence is very good so I let my team do their own thing, though I do cap their powers so as not to drain me too much.

You see, you have a limited resource called Plasm in the game. As ghosts use their powers, this drains from the Plasm pool allotted to your for the haunting. However, with each terrified scream, feinting or otherwise scared energy coming from a mortal, the pool fills. If you use your ghosts to the best of their abilities, your pool will quickly fill, giving you access to greater and more expensive powers.

Studying each mortal is a good way to figure out how to scare them. Some ghosts have subtle powers, like uncovering the subconscious fears of people in a room. And once you know what makes them tick, you can make them unwind. Take someone who is afraid of fire and make their bedroom look like it is ablaze. If someone is squeamish, turn the water cooler they are drinking from into fresh blood. And a spider ghost inside a shower room full of sorority girls afraid of small critters will work wonders. Trust me on that one.

Depending on how well you do, you will also be given special Gold Plasm, which can be spent at school to train your team in the use of new powers, so they can be more effective next time. There are also ghosts trapped inside the places you are haunting. If you figure out a way to free them, you can add new members and watch your undead team grow.

Although you get to mess with people quite a lot, you never actually kill people. The game has a real humorous slant to it. Most of the other ghosts you meet have a good sense of humor, and other than watching people run around really, really scared, nobody gets hurt. That is why the game probably got a Teen rating by the ESRB. It’s not exactly suited for really young children, but won’t scare most kids aged 10 and up.

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