In the "spirit" of movies like Beetlejuice and games such as Haunting Starring Polterguy, Ghost Master has players in the role of an afterlife civil servant charged with the task of scaring away humans from their homes and workplaces. Ordered by the Haunter Committee to remove the townsfolk of Gravenville, players assemble a team of ghosts, ghouls, gremlins, and other beings from the netherworld to carry out the task. The game offers parodies of horror movies as players focus on channeling psychic energy throughout the 3D locales. The goal is to increase each dwelling's fear factor so the residents pack up and leave.
Only a few games have let you play the bad guy, and even fewer encourage it, Black & White and Dungeon Keeper I and II being the most notable. Some RPGs will let you perform evil actions, but generally, most reward good-aligned characters more than their wicked counterparts. So it's a refreshing change of pace to come upon Ghost Master, a title that puts in charge of a group of bad ghosts and has you use them to scare innocent civilians out of house and home. Developed by Sick Puppies, a division of Empire Interactive, Ghost Master asks only one thing of you: are you cleverer than a bunch of humans?
The missions in Ghost Master are interesting and take place in many locales, such as a police station, a cabin in the woods, a hospital and even a luxury yacht. Some use the same locale as a previous mission, but in such a way as to keep it from feeling as if you're just doing an identical mission. You'll even see some of the humans from one mission to the next. Most of your goals involve scaring all or specific humans from the area, but some require you to not scare them. This is more difficult than it sounds, because you often have to use your ghosts to cause the mortals to move in the direction you want and do so without completely terrifying them. Other missions might have psychic mediums or "ghostbreakers" who can banish your ghosts, making them unusable for the duration of that job. In case you're wondering, the ghostbreakers wear grayish-brown jumpsuits, carry contraptions to capture ghosts, and to the best of my knowledge, never crossed the streams.
To accomplish your goals, you'll eventually have dozens of ghosts at your disposal. When you start a mission, you can select the ghosts to take with you on the job, or you can click on the "recommended" button and the game will give you the ghosts it thinks are best suited to the task. For your first attempt, it's a good idea to take all or most of the ghosts the game recommends. Once you get a feel for the area and the goals, then if you restart, you can select the ghosts you think would work best.
Most missions also include ghosts you can attempt to free from their fetters to add to your entourage. How each ghost is freed differs, but one might need you to catch something on fire or make a loud noise to break the physical object to which the ghost is chained, while another needs a mortal to do something in the area. You can click on these fettered ghosts and they will explain their situation. This provides a clue to solve the puzzle, and you can click on them again for clarification. Most of them will never outright tell you what to do, but they will usually give you enough information to figure it out. Some are still exceptionally difficult, and if you're finding the primary goal of the mission to also be hard, you might just throw your hands up and quit trying to rescue the ghost. These ghostly rescues are optional, but their recovery does raise your final score and increases the amount of gold plasm you gain from a mission.
Gold plasm is used in the Ghoul Room, a resting place for ghosts between missions. Every ghost on your staff will be in the Ghoul Room when you click on the building. Each ghost has certain powers, but not all of the powers are available to the ghost. You can use the Ghoul Room to add new powers to your ghosts to make them more versatile and powerful. The game has only a certain number of powers, and many are duplicated between ghosts, so you'll probably find yourself using certain ghosts more frequently than others. This brings up one of the few flaws in Ghost Master. Descriptions of some the powers do little to actually explain how the power works and how it really benefits you to use it. Some of the weather effects are the most difficult to make out. Does "distant thunder" make mortals draw near out of curiosity, or does it frighten those with a fear of thunderstorms? Does it do both? Figuring out how a power works is part of the fun, but some of the descriptions are just a little too vague.
Other than this, the only somewhat serious defect to Ghost Master is the lack of in-mission saves. The game automatically saves when you complete a mission and when you upgrade your ghosts in the Ghoul Room. If you're struggling through an especially difficult mission and need to stop the game because of real-life concerns, you're stuck with restarting it from the beginning. When will developers realize gamers have lives that interfere with gaming and quit forcing us to replay sections of games for no other reason than we had to go to bed?
Despite this one flaw, it's hard to put Ghost Master down once you start playing it. You'll even be willing to endure the frustration of restarting the mission just because you want to try another ghost and see if it works better. And you'll probably find yourself redoing a completed mission so you can try to free that one fettered ghost you left behind. Besides, how many other games give you the option to create a human torch?
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Gangsters 2: Vendetta, Evil Genius, Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords, Giants: Citizen Kabuto, Gangsters: Organized Crime, Gary Grigsby's World At War, Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, Ground Control II: Operation Exodus
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