Ghost Master Hands-On Impressions

We scare ourselves silly getting hands-on with a preview version of Ghost Master for the PS2.

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We recently received a preview version of Ghost Master for the PlayStation 2 from Empire Interactive. Originally scheduled for release back in 2002, the PS2 version is based on the PC puzzle/strategy game of the same name that was released last year, although it does appear to lack a number of the original game's features. If you're unfamiliar with the game, imagine that you're watching somebody else playing a dumbed-down version of The Sims. Now imagine that you have the power to send ghosts into the game to scare them. There's actually a lot more to the game than this, but you get the idea behind Ghost Master.

It's your job to scare a bunch of hapless humans in Ghost Master.
It's your job to scare a bunch of hapless humans in Ghost Master.

Before getting into the Ghost Master missions proper, you're required to play through a couple of simple training exercises that familiarize you with the uncomplicated, though unconventional, controls. The developer has actually done a good job of making the game's controls accessible via a Dual Shock 2 controller, so while you're controlling the camera and movement with the two analog sticks, switching between different ghosts or non-player characters is achieved through simple menus that are called up using the shoulder buttons. The system definitely takes a little getting used to, but after 30 minutes or so, you'll be commanding multiple ghosts without even having to think about it.

The supernaturals in Ghost Master come in a number of different shapes and sizes, and they can be divided into categories--such as "attract," "chase," "mind," and "resist" ghosts--all of which can affect the non-player characters you're mandated to scare in different ways. Each ghost basically has two unique abilities, and, as the ghost master, it'll be your job to use these abilities to scarify mortals and basically have them unwittingly solve puzzles for you. Not all of the mortals are easy to scare, though. In the game's first mission, for example, the sorority girls you attempt to scare from their house are accompanied by a witch. The witch is immune to attacks from ghosts at all times, except for the few seconds following her counterattack when her powers are temporarily weakened. Features like this are pretty common in the game, so in addition to thinking your way around its often fiendish puzzles, you'll also have to be pretty handy with your controller if you're going to get the job done before time runs out.

The time limits imposed on you can actually be a little annoying, because they'll often force you to play through the early stages of any given mission on multiple occasions just so that you can attempt the latter parts again. Perhaps because the PS2 version only boasts seven levels (at least our preview version does) compared to the PC game's 16 or so, the time limits are designed to increase the game's longevity, which they will--provided you don't get so frustrated with them that you just give up.

This is essentially the same Ghost Master you know and love from the PC.
This is essentially the same Ghost Master you know and love from the PC.

It has to be said that, at least as far as the graphics are concerned, the PS2 version of Ghost Master is already looking dated. Maybe this is because its original release date was supposed to be two years ago. The game's sound effects (which include lots of screaming) and spooky soundtrack are also unimpressive. As a result, we really can't begin to tell you how pleased we were to find the option to turn the soundtrack down. At the end of the day, Ghost Master definitely isn't a game that's likely to appeal to everyone, but its unique premise and unusual gameplay are sure to win it a few friends when it arrives in stores later this year. We look forward to bringing you more coverage on the game as soon as we get our hands on a more complete version.

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