It's an undeniable fact that the fourth quarter of the year is the busiest and most hectic time in the video game industry. So many games are released that a few, like The Haunted Mansion, simply fall by the wayside and receive very little, if any, attention at all. While it may never have had the chance to get the same fanfare that any one of the many hyped titles this year may have gotten, it's built on solid, fun gameplay that is easily accessible to novice gamers but still offers an ample amount of challenge to keep veterans interested.
Based on the Disneyland attraction--and not the upcoming film of the same name--The Haunted Mansion follows a timid character, by the name of Zeke, who finds a job at the spooky Southern estate where the game takes place. Upon entering the mansion, Zeke quickly learns that otherworldly forces are at every turn, and it's up to him to muster enough courage to free the mansion and the tortured souls that inhabit it from an evil spirit by the name of Atticus Thorn. To do so, you'll be armed with nothing more than a magical lantern, known as the Beacon of Souls, that's capable of shooting as well as capturing the souls of those trapped within the confines of the house.
The Haunted Mansion follows an easy formula. You enter a darkened room, filled with enemies, and make your way to a light switch to restore power to the room. You then capture any souls that may be hidden in a room. While it certainly gets a little repetitive, the game does a great job of throwing a wide array of puzzles at you to make turning the lights on a challenge. Ultimately, this is where the game succeeds at providing an enjoyable experience. Each room that you enter has puzzles based on a theme. For instance, the music conservatory tasks you with bringing silent instruments to life in order to turn the lights back on, while the game room finds Zeke shrunken down to the size of a billiard ball on a pool table. It's in these theme-based puzzles that the game does a great job of being creative, as every task requires some thinking before you can actually turn the lights back on and move to the next challenge.
In addition to the puzzles, The Haunted Mansion also offers a fair amount of shooting with the lantern. To make things as easily accessible as possible, the game employs a simple lock-on targeting system that allows you to clear an enemy-filled room in no time. While this system does have some problems with moving to the next available target--especially when you're completely surrounded by enemies--by and large, it works well. As you progress farther and farther into the depths of the mansion, you'll also encounter six different characters who possess gems that increase the power of your lantern. Once you turn the lights on in their rooms, they'll talk about how they were double-crossed by Atticus Thorn and will gladly give you the upgrade to your weapon. As mentioned before, your lantern also has the ability to capture lost souls. Once you've turned the lights back on in a room, you'll need to locate where the souls are hidden by walking around and interacting with various items, like chests and/or bookcases. Tapping a button on the controller releases the souls, which you can then collect to move on to the next room. Once you've gathered enough souls, you can open sealed doors that lead to the latter portions of the game. It's a simple premise, for sure, but it definitely makes for an enjoyable experience that is quite appealing to a wide variety of players.
As is the case with any title that carries the Disney name, you can expect gameplay that is very family-friendly. Of course, The Haunted Mansion is no exception. If you've ever been to The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, you'll find that the game fits very well with the classic attraction, even though it isn't directly based on it. The mansion may be dark and gloomy and covered in cobwebs, but it also retains the fanciful cartoon style associated with any Disney product. While The Haunted Mansion does a decent job of maintaining a spooky feel, the graphics are pretty plain--for the most part--and offer little variety in terms of the enemies you encounter. Some portions of the game feature smooth animation, while others seem a little hastily thrown-together and repetitive. There is, however, a fairly smooth frame rate throughout. In terms of sound, the mansion is filled with all of the standard creepy noises that you might hear on a Halloween sound effects album, which does a great job of maintaining the spooky feel required for this genre. Sadly missing from the game are the famous songs that are staples of the Disneyland canon. While The Haunted Mansion certainly won't win any awards for its graphics or sound, on the whole, the presentation works well.
If you're a fan of Disney games, or you're just looking for an experience that is perfect for a younger gamer but is also fun for just about anyone, The Haunted Mansion is a good choice. Between its overall solid presentation, and its gameplay that keeps you guessing, this is one game that's worth taking a look at.