In the interest of full disclosure, let me start out by saying I love Neil Gaiman. The creator of American Gods, Coraline, and the The Sandman series; he easily makes my list of greatest living authors. So imagine my excitement and surprise that one of my heroes was collaborating on a video game. Wow, jeez, shucks! And it’s a ghost/haunted house puzzler? And the art direction/creative flourish looks like the Coraline film adaptation had a baby with a Tim Burton flick? Sign me up! Are you as excited as young, naive, several-weeks-ago me? Are you waiting eagerly for my opinion, clutching your loved ones close; perhaps too tightly?
Surprise! It’s pretty bad…
No, this is not the hero we were looking for. This isn’t a Coraline/Tim Burton baby… this is some Frankenstein’s monster gone terribly wrong; gurgling, wide-eyed, pleading for the sweet release of a merciful death. Then your gun jams. Where to begin? It looks bad. Like Psychonauts: not only in style – which is good – but in the year it was released: 2006 – which is bad. Jagged, ugly, archaic-looking. The characters are stylized and interesting looking; but good God almighty are they ugly. The environments are ugly, the furniture and clutter filling each room is ugly, the traps are ugly. When you complete a level the items that occupy it spin and swirl about – but they clip right through the level, which is not only hideous, but also an unfortunate oversight.
“But what about the puzzles,” you’re likely crying out, tears streaming down your bewildered, makeup-smudged face. “Surely they aren’t also hot ****?” Get a hold of yourself, first of all. You are covered in snot and it is unbecoming! Anyway, the puzzles? The puzzles are simple and amount to clicking a bust or coat hanger, causing your haunting target to wander over curiously. Then you drop a bottle on their head or open a window and cause a breeze to blow a convenient barrel of dynamite towards them (I miss old-timey America. What happened to my old-timey America that never existed?). Rinse and repeat until you have enough green skulls. Then you click on a giant, green skull, the furniture clips through the level, and your target bolts out the area door. Now you’re on to the next level.
“But what about the story? This is Neil Gaiman we’re talking about!” Damn it, I know. Believe me, I do. This is simply not Gaiman quality. A sentient mansion seeks the aid of a recently-freed ghost to clear the current, living, jerksome occupants out. To its detriment, the story takes a backseat to the setting.
Neil also does some excellent, albeit brief, narration.
That’s it, that’s all I’ve got for you.
Wait! One last thing. I might be wrong, but at the moment I can’t get past Chapter Three, Part Two. The game refuses to let me progress. There have been a few times I’ve had to quit – for whatever reason when I complete a level the game doesn’t recognize this, and no matter how much I click on the skull to progress it floats there until I quit out and retry. I’ve retried Chapter Three, Part Two about five times now. Seems like that’s my stop.
This is not good. This is bad. Simple, repetitive puzzles? Check. Ugly? Check. Decidedly not fun to play? Big checkaroo. Possibly broken? Checkz. I can’t recommend this despite my love of all things Neil. Got ten, 15 bucks burning a hole in your pocket? Buy one of his books. They’re pretty amazing. This, though? This is a heaping, generous bowl of cat food. Is it edible? Sure. Do you want to eat it? Are you a ****in’ prawn or something?