Gast Download (2002 Adventure Game)

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The game opens with a cutscene in which a narrator intones, "Far far away, an old amusement park awaits you ..." Gast is the caretaker of the magical clock tower that keeps the place happy, and the evil clown Beleseblob ruins the clock and unleashes his evil henchmen on the park, turning it into a dark mockery of its former self.

After the introduction, you are deposited just inside the gate of the creepy park and must make your way around the maze-like grounds. Signposts are sparsely scattered around the various crossroads to aid you, and there is a sorry excuse for a map of the park grounds in the game's manual. Also, your clock tower is atop a rise in the center of the park and once you get inside its accompanying mansion you are faced with another labyrinth - for this one you're on your own.

As you journey around, you will encounter various creatures. Most will ask you to satisfy some need of theirs to make them go away; occasionally one will be enticed to follow you around and you can lead it to its doom. Other times, you must find a particular inventory item and use it correctly to get rid of a henchthing.

You move Gast around the screen by holding down the mouse button and guiding Gast in the direction of the onscreen arrow. My hand kept going to sleep as a result of this; I wish movement had been of the click-on-the-spot-you-want-the-character-to-go-and-wait-for-him-to-get-there variety instead.

Inventory is limited to six items, and you can only have one henchcreature following you around at any one time. You can deposit items or creatures at will to make room for others; the trick lies in remembering where you left them so you can find them again when you need them.

Every time you eliminate a henchbeast, you collect a "soul star." You can get soul star bonuses in a couple of other ways, too, just by some savvy use of inventory items or practical puzzle-solving. It is extremely important to your endgame success to collect as many of these stars as you can.

Once you think you have disposed of enough henchmonsters and have enough soul stars, you can go take the "final ride." The final ride costs three soul stars to board, then you must ride a roller coaster and dodge obstacles for a minute or so. If you hit an obstacle, you lose a star. The "regular" obstacles are just unmoving little white balls and are easy to avoid, but any henchcritters you left behind will be added to the obstacle mix, and they are difficult to escape since they bounce around all over the place.

Back to the regular adventure gameplay part for a moment: Every time Gast gets scared or hit by something, he gets a "scarepoint." According to the game's manual, the fewer scarepoints Gast has, the longer the final ride. However, there is no telling how many scarepoints you are stuck with; you can tell only whether there are some or none by the state of the Gast face icon at the top right of the gameplay screen. If the Gast icon is frowning he has scarepoints; you can get rid of them by catching dewdrops (these are few and far between; I found it best to wait until I was ready for the final ride and then go looking for them) or eating slime. At the time I took the final ride, I had a happy Gast icon, which I assume means zero scarepoints and the longest possible final ride. I can't say this for certain, but my strong suspicion is that one faces the same number of obstacles on any length of final ride but in the longer ride the distances between the obstacles are greater and thus the obstacles are easier to dodge.

I'm not sure if these next parts constitute a spoiler or not; all of the above final ride info is listed in the game docs but what happened after that was a surprise. But forewarned is forearmed, I always say, especially when it comes to arcade sequences.

After you get to the end of the final ride, you get two bonus soul stars. You then enter a room where all of the henchbaddies you didn't eradicate in the adventure part of the game will come at you and you fling your remaining stars at them. If you hit them they go away for good; if you miss they hit you and take away another star and then reappear as targets for another round. Thus, it pays to get rid of as many of these henchdudes as you can before you take the final ride.

And then, after that little lovely, you get to face Beleseblob himself and chuck some more stars at him in a shooting gallery-type sequence. You have to get three hits to finish him off, so you'd better either be a good shot or have plenty of stars left by the time you get to this point.

In the adventure part of the game where you are wandering around the park and doing in henchentities, it is possible to hit dead ends with one or more, and then you're stuck with them in the arcade part.

I played through Gast twice; the first time I had 27 stars and had left behind seven henchcreepies. I could not beat the second part of the final sequence, throwing stars at the remaining ones, even after several attempts. I had dead-ended with all seven of the remaining henchites so there was nothing I could do to go back and remove them; in two cases, the henchfiends just up and disappeared on me due to some kind of weird clipping error in the game, and then two others needed these "gone" ones in order to finish them off, which of course I could not do. The other three were genuine dead-ends - I had used their required items elsewhere and was unable to find alternate solutions.

The second time through, I knew where most of the inventory items would best be used and how to get rid of most of the henchnaughties, and I was able to arrive at the final ride with 30 stars and only two unfinished-off henchminions. At that level I was able to complete the entire endgame arcade sequence in one go, with maybe two stars to spare.

One final gameplay note: In the finest adding-insult-to-injury fashion, you cannot save once you begin the arcade portion of the game.

Okay, on to the regular review blabbing about presentation and suchlike.

Graphics are pleasingly creepy in the gameplay portion, dark and gray. Camera angles are artistically cinematic, but as usual when different views are employed on each screen navigation can be confusing - not a good thing when the game is already one gigantic maze. Cutscenes are interlaced, in a throwback to the mid-90s, but the various henchizens were creatively drawn and animated in a Little Shop of Horrors kind of way.

Music is nothing special, but it's unobtrusive. There is very little voice acting but what's there is halfway decent, although sometimes it's drowned out by other characters or by the music. There is no option for subtitles, and this game could've really used them.

Gast certainly is one of a kind - its uniqueness is what saves it from the ol' dung heap - but it sure wasn't very fun to play. And having to start the game all over again just to bulk up for the final arcade sequence was really not to my liking. I would recommend Gast only to someone whose sole criterion for a gaming good time is replayability; I'm thinking there must be some way to play through the entire game and have no henchghouls left over at the end. But it won't be me that goes looking for it.


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