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Ghost Master: The Gravenville Chronicles

Ghosts are great. If it wasn't for the deliciously trashy Most Haunted, the lovely Yvette Fielding would probably be working in her local Tesco, wallowing in a pool of self-regret. And now we've firmly crossed over to the other side with Ghost Master and its ethereal army, intent on scaring mere mortals out of their wits.

You know the deal. Troublesome teenagers foolishly meddle with a Ouija board and awaken all manner of nasty ghouls and ghosties. Vincent Price obviously couldn't do the narration but his vocal doppelgänger provides an entertaining and wickedly camp commentary, perfectly encapsulating the real sense of fun that menacingly hovers around. Double entendres abound, mainly concerning scantily clad Frat girls.

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Players must solve simple puzzles and challenges by using strange powers to scare and manipulate mortals. The game uses a fantastic and intuitive control method, where the L and R triggers access the Ghost and Human menus, and simple commands issued via the D-pad make the complex task of controlling several ghosts at any one time a piece of cake. Your ghouls aren't the most attractive things in the world but have great poltergeist powers to scare the human inhabitants of the manor.

Chase ghosts will frighten mortals away from a room (thus shepherding them into others), Tamper ghosts affect physical objects, Attract ghosts entice unsuspecting humans into certain areas, and Resist ghosts lower mortals' spectral tolerance to being scared witless - a massive help when Mediums, Witches and Priests are thrown into the mix. Give us Grotbags over these sultry she-devils, as big black moles and shocking green hair are infinitely better than their spirit-scuppering spells.

Although you can't technically die (you're already dead), each ghost does have an energy bar that's depleted by attacks from these evil enchanters. This can be replenished by momentarily placing your spectres back into the spirit world, though neglect to do this and your ghost will be sent straight to Limbo with no dinner or TV, leaving you one (or more) ghost down for the duration of the battle. And battle it is, because you'll only get a short window of opportunity after they've launched an attack to exert your powers on the wicked witches. This turn-based combat adds a neat touch of strategy to the game, with players forced to combine the various attributes of different ghosts to defeat enemies.

The great camera allows unfettered 360˚ access to each environment, and although the action does get somewhat confusing with several characters often crammed into a small space, once again the intuitive controls make light work of navigating and keeping on top of your spiritual shenanigans. The enemy AI isn't all that, but then given the rudimentary nature of the puzzles on offer, it still provides a suitable challenge.

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Ghost Master is a bit of an odd one. Taking a bit of everything from several genres, we're pleased to say the user-friendly result is more Casper than ectoplasmic glob. Spookily satisfying.

The verdict

An innovative and addictive title that melds several genres together, and comes up wailing like a happy banshee.

7
Format
Xbox
Developer
Unknown
Publisher
Empire Interactive
Genre
Sim / Strategy, Puzzle

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