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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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Graphics: bring on the sprites
Midnight Mansion's graphics are nothing to write home about, but they are definitely colorful, interesting, and overall well done. The sprites are interesting and fun, and the little details included (skeletons shifting, paintings whose subjects sometimes wander off, wavering candles) really add a lot to the ambience. Animations and graphics all tie together nicely, and although again most things follow certain themes, there is enough variation to keep the game graphically interesting.

Most importantly, the graphics all work really well together, and there are few (if any) rough edges. Truthfully, after playing it for thirty minutes or so the cartoony look really worked for me, and I think that Midnight Mansion's graphics are just exactly what this game needs. At face value they are fairly simplistic, but the attention to detail is actually quite deep and they create Jack Malone's world with style and flair.

The only real issue that I had with the graphics of Midnight Mansion was the spotty use of different levels on the screen. For instance, some areas would have columns extending from floor to ceiling that Jack and other moving sprites would move behind. However, if the sprite or Jack moved vertically past the top of the column they would often be in front of the bricks above, making a very odd disconnect. Similar layer-based issues existed elsewhere, as well, but I don't really see much reason to list them. I'm sure that it would be somewhat tricky to eradicate these oddities (and, truth be told, the layering system for the most part works really well).

Sound: music to my ears
Normally in reviews I find that I mention sound almost as an afterthought. This is not at all true when it comes to Midnight Mansion, because this is one of those games that does the sound absolutely right.

The first thing I noticed was that I didn't turn the music off. Normally in games (particularly shareware games) I listen to the music for my first gaming session, and then turn it off immediately and forevermore either because it is incredibly repetitive and annoying or because it just isn't as good as my iTunes playlist. But for Midnight Mansion, I left the music on. There isn't a huge selection of songs, of course, but what's there is extremely well done, and it changes up within the mansions enough to keep it from getting old. The website boasts "pro-quality music" and it's no joke; Midnight Mansion's musical score is one of the best in a game (particularly a platformer action game) that I've heard in a while. The sound effects are also uniformly excellent and compliment the gameplay and graphics superbly.

However, what really grabbed my attention was the level of detail given to the sound. I first noticed after playing for quite a while when I was walking down a room that had two torches, one at either end. As Jack passed from one side of the room to the other, I suddenly stopped in complete incredulity. "No way," I thought. "Did the sound of those torches just pan?" I immediately grabbed my headphones, and spent a good minute walking carefully from one side of the room to the other before I believed what I was hearing: as I approached a torch from the left, its crackling sound effect grew gradually louder in the right speaker, centered at its loudest when Jack was right under the torch, and then faded away out of the left speaker as I passed by it to the right.

This level of detail in a shareware game is absolutely amazing to me, and what makes it really wonderful in Midnight Mansion is that it applies to just about everything: the clicking of a skull spider's legs, the bubbling of lava, the flapping of a bird's wings, and more. It is incredibly gratifying to play a shareware game that actually treats sound as something as important as the graphics instead of an afterthought as it seems in so many shareware games.


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