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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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When I first navigated to the ActionSoft website to download their recent release Midnight Mansion and saw the moderately bubbly text at the top and cartoony banner, I didn't think I was going to like this game. When I first booted up the game after downloading it and died every time I turned around, I must admit that my thoughts were anything but positive.

But then I played the game a bit more, tried some different mansions and difficulty settings and realized something surprising: I really like this game.

Midnight Mansion is the first release of ActionSoft, a company that professes to be dedicated above all else to fun games, hearkening back to the days in which how good a game was wasn't measured in polygon counts and textures, but in solid gameplay and just straight-up fun factor. While many shareware companies proclaim such lofty ideals, Midnight Mansion actually follows through.

Midnight Mansion's hero is an intrepid adventurer named Jack Malone who has realized that the true path to getting stinking rich is not through wealthy relatives or blind luck on the stock market: it's by exploring trap- and ghost-ridden old mansions. However, Jack isn't exactly your typical video game adventurer. He's a little portly, gets winded sometimes from all the running about, and instead of carrying any firepower he has his trusty yo-yo, which he whips out during times of boredom.

This isn't to say that the game is non-violent, just that Jack isn't the person dishing out the pain. Instead of brute force, he relies on his wits and your quick fingers to avoid certain death at the hands of the twisted denizens of the eight different mansions that are included with the game. In point of fact, for all its superficial appeal to the younger crowd, Midnight Mansion can get downright macabre thanks to the option to turn on blood in the preferences. Just turn the blood on and go get snagged by the largest spider you can find; you'll see what I mean.

However, by default the game has blood turned off, and with its colorful, cartoony graphics and humorous use of haunted mansion stereotypes the game should appeal quite a bit to younger folks. Additionally the game has a very simple control sequence (arrows for movement, space for jump, enter for using levers, signs, etc.) so picking it up is a snap. That's not to say there isn't a learning curve, of course; in particular, it take a bit of time to get accustomed to jumping. Thankfully, besides the tutorial there is an option to make jumping on the easy difficulty even easier, so it is very simple to customize the game's difficulty to your skill or to allow the less developed young, who have not yet acquired the expert, caffeine enhanced eye-hand coordination of the teenaged and older Quake veteran, to play the game without too much frustration.

It bears mentioning directly before moving on to the details of the game that Midnight Mansion is solidly shooting for people who like "family-friendly" games. When "Multiple user accounts for everyone in the family to easily keep track of his [sic] own progress" is listed as a feature of the game, there isn't much doubt about it, really. As I mentioned above, there certainly is a macabre element to Midnight Mansion, but this game certainly is not going to give you the mature themes fix that Postal 2 would. If you don't play games unless they have a teen rating or above, you probably are not going to be all that interested in Midnight Mansion.

Of course, if you enjoyed Prince of Persia, Dark Castle, or any number of similar games and are looking for an involving and fun way to spend some gaming time, then the Midnight Mansion demo is definitely worth a download.


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