In the history of gaming there have not been many genuinely creepy games. Sure, there are plenty of games that have managed to create a feeling of dread and panic through the cheap implementation of sudden loud noises, but being surprised by a loud noise doesn’t quite match up to the alarming sense of discomfort created by real fear.
One game that manages to come very close to creating a genuine sense of discomfort is Ghostscape, which has recently been released on Windows Phone. Originally a flash based game that has now been ported to Windows Phone with added puzzles, you take the role of a paranormal investigator that ventures up to a creepy derelict mansion that is rumoured to be haunted. Through the use of some fairly conventional creepy graphical design and a fantastic soundtrack, Ghostscape is a rare thing in gaming; a genuinely uncomfortable experience.
It takes the form of a basic point and click game, in which you are trapped in a spooky mansion and must gather evidence of paranormal activities. You can equip various items to help you get through the mansion’s dozen or so rooms ranging from a crowbar to a ladder. You tap the touch screen to interact with the environment, clicking on green arrows by doors to travel through them.
Almost every other room has a locked door that you will need to get through in order to progress. Keys tend to be locked inside of chests, and the only way to open chests is solve tricky puzzles. There are dozens of collectables and paranormal objects to photograph, such as floating chairs, paintings, and even the odd ghost.
There are also a number of hidden rooms, each with a unique puzzle that takes advantage of the phone’s touch screen and accelerometer. One puzzle requires you to tilt the phone in order to move a fragile ball through a maze. Every time the ball hits the wall damage is dealt, until it takes too much damage and breaks. Another early puzzle requires you to spot the difference between two pictures.
While the gameplay is fairly basic, and at times the touch controls are not quite as responsive as you would like, the game is gloriously tense. Even though are never any real threats to your wellbeing, the soundtrack is evocative of the work of John Carpenter, director of movies such as Halloween and The Thing, who wrote the music for many of his films. The game’s music has that simple yet sinister quality to it that is genuinely quite unnerving.
Graphics: 3/5 – Featuring some basic computer generated backgrounds, Ghostscape looks good, but the visual design is a little derivative.
Sound: 4/5 – The sound effects are fairly basic (although there is something a little unnerving about hearing footsteps echoing off in the darkness somewhere) the game’s real strength is the soundtrack, which is evocative of classic horror movies by John Carpenter.
Gameplay: 3/5 – As far as point and click adventures go the gameplay is a little simplistic. Your main aim is to solve the puzzles in order to obtain more keys. You can also take photographs of spooky objects, such as paintings, floating objects, and ghosts.
Longevity: 2.5/5 – Perhaps the game’s weakest point is the fact that it can be completed in under 20 minutes. However, as the gameplay is fairly basic, it is probably for the best that it is fairly short so that it never outstays its welcome.
Overall 3.5 out of 5
Ghostscape is genuinely tense at times and a worthwhile purchase for fans of horror, especially when you consider that it is currently available to download on the Windows Phone Marketplace for £2.29.
- Luke Mears