Played Recently: Ghost Master

Reaching back a few years, this game combines a bit of puzzle and strategy with a bit of wanton mayhem. Decent, better in the early parts, but not recommended given the better games you could spend your time on. For a flash version without the puzzler parts, you could try .

You are haunting the house. You get a variety of settings with some movie allusions, including Ghostbusters, Evil Dead, and the Blair Witch Project. You empty a sorority house and uncover murder victims. Some of these are straightforward hauntings: scare some people, built up so that you can use bigger scares, and empty the buildings. Some toss in wrinkles like wards or exorcists. The puzzle parts come from the less straightforward levels and from unlocking new ghosts. In some levels, you lose for scaring people away before they do certain things, and you may not need/want to scare anyone away. In all levels, there are a few captive ghosts you can rescue by solving their personal puzzles.

Those puzzles are usually solid. They will have multiple solutions, so there are several ghost powers that will work for each situation. For example, if you need to light a campfire to unlock a fire spirit, you could cause a cold front in the area so that humans will light it, or you could lure a human over and use another spirit to cause the entire area to burst into flames. Some of them are less flexible, and some suffer from the usual computer game puzzle question of “what was this developer thinking?” Other times, you might be doing the right thing but not enough of it, or you might be doing everything right but the NPCs are being randomly uncooperative. If you have played Majesty, you know this last factor: “no, walk over THERE!” As with many puzzle games, what you want is not so much a hint or a guide but rather someone who has already done it who can say if you are on the right track. But there might be multiple tracks, so all they can say is how they did it. This aspect varies between trivial and ridiculous, with a limited number of satisfying puzzles in between. Few of the puzzles are absolute roadblocks; you can skip unlocking ghosts, and you will get the tools you need from free ones.

The haunting is briefly amusing. Scaring people and having neat tricks is fun. Some of the scares double as puzzle solutions, while some puzzle tools have no scare value. Hounding one particular person through a building, or just cutting loose with everything, can be entertaining. It palls fairly quickly, however, because you are just stocking the building with scares and waiting for people to leave.

A mix of interesting and annoying, the game includes problem-solving challenges, random guessing, and free-form mayhem. The first is good, the second is a little too common, the third is less visceral and satisfying than I had hoped.

: Zubon