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Genre: Arcade
Min OS X: 10.1.5    RAM: 20 MB    Graphics: 640x480 @ 32-bit


Midnight Mansion
October 12, 2005 | Ian Beck
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Gameplay: jump, jump, jump!
The gameplay of Midnight Mansion takes many of the tried and true methods of past games and uses them to great effect. Each mansion is composed of some ridiculous number of rooms (over 750 rooms total among all eight mansion combined), and you travel from room to room a la Prince of Persia. Colored key-operated doors, gray lever-operated doors, moving platforms, a range of enemy critters, temporary bricks, and other standard mechanics make for a huge amount of variability among rooms and sections of the mansions. The mansions are well designed, and the obstacles extremely varied if limited in theme (find key, open door; figure out what levers to press when; innumerable jumping puzzles; etc.).

As I mentioned before, Jack is a non-violent sort of character even if the denizens of the mansion aren't, but he can gain limited protection. Lying scattered about the mansions are shields which he can carry in his five (or seven with the backpack upgrade) piece inventory. If he has a shield and runs into a baddie, the enemy will pop itself out of existence (along with the shield), allowing Jack to continue on.

He also has number of lives, and hitting an enemy will both destroy the enemy and take one of Jack's lives. You can gain him more lives by picking up the coins and bags of gold lying scattered around the rooms, thus increasing your score.

By and large Midnight Mansion has a very different feel from the many similar platformers thanks to Jack's pacifistic nature, and I really appreciate it. The game is much more focused on skill and problem solving, and the necessity of avoiding all enemies at all costs makes the gameplay interesting and often extremely tense. There is also a good variation between puzzles which require quick thinking, and ones that require patience. Additionally, if you come across a quick-thinking puzzle and are a little slow on the uptake, most rooms will reset if you leave them (although enemies dispatched by suicide or shields never return), so you can usually get as many chances as you need.

Each mansion has save points in case you fall into the lava one too many times, although they are generally fairly few and far between (perhaps three saves to a mansion on average) and are only usable once. Fortunately, there is also the option to "suspend" your game at any point, allowing you to quit and come back exactly where you left off. These systems compliment each other nicely, and I was only marginally frustrated by not being able to save. The nice side effect, of course, is that you become a lot more invested in taking each room carefully one at a time.

One of the big selling points of Midnight Mansion is the huge amount of content included; the mansions often have a staggering number of rooms, and especially on normal and hard difficulty settings are no easy task to beat. These sprawling behemoths would be almost impossible to navigate through, however, if it weren't for the amazingly useful and well-executed map feature.

Midnight Mansion's map is extremely useful. Hitting the map hotkey ("m" by default) pauses the game and pulls up the map, which shows a zoomed out view of all rooms you have entered (plus a few you haven't, if you've picked up a map item). This is obviously handy ("How do I get to that door again?") but what makes it so cool is that besides the ability to scroll it around to see far parts of the mansion, you can also zoom out so far that you can't make out the difference between a brick and a door, or in so close that only a single room fits on screen at a time (the standard size you see during normal gameplay). This makes the map very easy to use, and a very useful tool, particularly for people like me whose memory is less than stellar.

Overall, the gameplay is a lot of fun, and despite its reliance on old themes brings its own twist to the platformer genre by combining tried and true mechanics with its own je ne sais quois.



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