Ever feel disappointed after watching a horror movie that fell flat? Or, after going through the Haunted House ride at Disneyworld, ever had a hankering to throw together your own possee of ghosts and scare the bejeesus out of some poor unsuspecting humans? Well, thanks to the efforts of game developers Sick Puppies and London-based publishing powerhouse Feral Interactive, now you can.
Ghost Master, coming soon to the Mac courtesy of UK porting house Zonic, is a simulation/real time strategy hybrid whose primary purpose is to turn a town full of innocent bystanders into believers of the ethereal, drive them into a pack of raving lunatics, and chase them out of their houses and into the hills. Designed as a cross between Sim Theme Park, The Sims, and strategy games like Dungeon Keeper (and skilfully tilted with an comedic evil twist), the game puts players in charge of a gang of hand-picked ethereal spirits who specialise in spooking, haunting, and otherwise scaring the crap out of people. Ranging from gremlins to banshees, each ghost is categorised according to type – sprites, disturbances, elementals, vapours, frighteners, and horrors – and boasts unique qualities and spells. At the start of each of the game’s eleven missions, players pick eight spirits out of the total cast of twenty-three, according to the type of spooking required. Place the spirits throughout the level, and watch the nightmare begin.
The ghosts featured in this game cover the gamut of your standard Hollywood and popular fiction-style spirits, with a number of quirks thrown in. Gremlins pick apart appliances and modify them to fulfil their evil biddings. Casper-inspired spirits initiate poltergeists, levitating objects and spinning them around the room. Paranormal spiders spin giant webs, filling up entire ceilings, and spawning dozens of tarantulas that go scurrying off in every direction. There’s even a Sleepy Hollow-inspired headless horseman, roaming the streets of Gravenville, chasing unsuspecting townsfolk in any direction you please.
Scaring unsuspecting folks around the house is only half the fun, however. The real challenge to the game lies in its objective-based levels, in which players direct the spirits to manipulate unsuspecting townsfolk into achieving a series of goals required to complete the mission. Each of the eleven missions boast completely different challenges, from simple haunting and causing general nuisance in three-storey mansions to complex, multi-branching objectives, replete with puzzles and traditional gaming challenges, in which scaring the inhabitants of a house may not be the best solution.
The ghosts boast an impressive range of over one hundred spells and skills, and not all of them are based of terror. Some of the behaviours can be as simple as making a sound, knocking over an object, or lowering the temperature of a room. The good folks of Gravenville, being a curious bunch, will investigate the strange occurrences and act accordingly. It is through this interaction that players will manipulate the wide cast of humans – over a hundred characters in all – into accomplishing the variety of goals required to complete each mission.
The tutorial mission, as an example, requires players to simply spook the frat house’s inhabitants out of the building and onto the street. More complex mission objectives include solving puzzles and the unlocking of mysteries, such as guiding the owners of a home to open up a secret room, discovering a skeleton that was walled up inside, and setting its spirit free. Other missions require players to assist students with occult rituals, convince a mafiosa boss of the existence of ghosts, and frighten jailed criminals into escaping a police station, just to name a few.