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The Haunted Mansion

Review By:  Greg Lynch

Developer:  High Voltage Software
Publisher:  TDK Mediactive
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Action Adventure
ESRB:  Teen
Online Play:  No
Accessories:  In-game Dolby Digital
Date Posted: 

12-13-04

We all know the old adage that games based on movie licenses are rarely worth the shiny disc theyíre printed on, and itís widely considered a rule of thumb for wise gamers to avoid them at all costs. However, even the worst game will sell when the target audience is a bunch of kids who donít know any better and their beloved franchises are tossed into the fray. Take for example a game based on recognizable Disney characters. Despite the fact that a majority of those titles are terrible, kids eat them up while parents happily buy the software for them knowing that theyíll be harmless entertainment for their children.

And I use ďentertainmentĒ in the loosest of terms.

Worse still are the decent games buried under a pile of all the horrible ones, especially when that game is based on horrible source material to begin with. Take for example the Disney game, The Haunted Mansion. This is a title based on a poorly received movie that was based on a theme park ride. Letís face it, the game already starts off with two strikes against it. Yet somehow, despite everything, it still manages to deliver a fun, albeit short, time.

Donít let the cover fool you, the only thing this game has in common with the less-than-stellar movie is the park ride itself. In fact, thatís one of the gameís main saving graces. Instead of following the storyline from the film, the game snags every single cool moment from the ride right down to the main character Zeke, the scared caretaker from the graveyard scene, and pays homage to one of the worldís most popular rides. Nearly every room will be in some way familiar to those who have visited the attraction, and one canít help but smile every time they recognize something. Nearly every major ghost and scene from the ride is portrayed in the game at some point, and to some that alone will be worth the price of admission.

Of course, the most important thing is how much fun it is to play, and The Haunted Mansion succeeds to a degree. Gameplay consists of running through the mansionís various haunted rooms looking for its 999 ghosts to capture in the main characterís mystical lantern while trying to stop a ploy by the leader of a secret organization. (Itís a clichťd bit of work, but it manages to provide some entertainment). To accomplish your mission, you will need to work through a slew of wildly differing puzzles while fighting your way through hordes of ghosts by shooting them with the power contained in your lantern. The puzzles vary from very easy to mildly difficult, but each one is varied and entertaining and makes surprisingly great use of the source material from the ride. Once each puzzle is completed, youíll have access a light switch that sends the spooks hiding in various areas throughout the room. Itís then your job to click on each individual item until you find one from which several ghosts jump out and you chase them down to collect them in your lantern.

Where the game falls short is that, despite having some fun puzzles to play through, itís mostly an action title and as such itís fairly uninspired. Thereís a target system for shooting the ghosts that takes away any skill (unless you count its occasional inability to target the closest ghost, something that forces you to use some skill), and they attack randomly for the most part, which makes their existence more tedious to deal with than fun. Finding the ghosts hidden throughout the room doesnít provide a challenge either, and feels more like game-extending fluff than a legitimate part of the gameplay. Making different scary ghosts jump out at you screaming, or offering different scripted events wouldíve gone a long way to keep things feeling fresh and interesting.

Graphically, the game is crisp and colorful, with a great attention to detail when it comes to mirroring the rooms found in the ride. It wonít do anything to push your Xboxís limits, but there are some decent effects, lighting and otherwise, that keep it from being just average.

The sound is a sort of mixed bag, offering fantastic music that follows the rideís style perfectly (remember the singing busts?) and sound effects that are merely adequate. The voiceover work is also passable, with overly exaggerated foreign accents that are given a relatively decent delivery. On a whole, itís nothing to write home about, but itís nothing offensive either.  

Highs:

  • Excellent use of source material
  • Fun, widely varied puzzles
  • Colorful graphics that stay true to the ride

Lows:

  • Very short game, with little reason to go through a second time
  • Sometimes fussy targeting, with ho-hum action sequences

Final Verdict: 

With maybe five hours of gameplay depending on the chosen skill level, I would never recommend the game to someone for the original asking price of fifty dollars. However, following the quickly implemented price drop the game becomes far more appealing, especially to fans of the Disney ride who will be the most likely to appreciate it. Unfortunately, the puzzles are too hard for the little ones but the gameplay is too easy for older gamers, which leaves a very small niche of people who will genuinely enjoy the game. And those people will likely be too busy pining for other higher profile games. In short, if youíre a fan and are looking for a fun diversion there are far worse Disney games out there that you could be playing. Just donít expect too much, and youíll likely find a good time.

Overall Score: 7.1

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