Publishers Legendo Entertainment are probably best known to regular WiiWare gamers for the rock-hard flight title Pearl Harbour Trilogy, yet the Swedes have returned to the platform with the altogether more accessible pursuit of freeing the spirits of spectres in Ghost Mania.
A WiiWare version of the US iPhone title Spooky Spirits: Puzzle!!, Ghost Mania immediately distances itself from the already overflowing collection of puzzlers on Nintendo’s console with one important factor – it initially proves almost completely counter-intuitive on your first play-through.
A quick first game of Ghost Mania appears self-explanatory. Whizzing past some excellently presented option screens, you choose between one of two characters (we picked a Wizard hat-wearing rascal) and are presented with a welcoming and seemingly familiar colourful puzzle grid. As we quickly swapped around the puzzle blocks before dropping them into the pile of blocks below, we were presented with the prospect of a row four diagonal yellow blocks. We dropped the fateful fourth block, let out a grin and… nothing happened.
That’s because the actual purpose of Ghost Mania is to match blocks with a correspondingly colored ghost block to make connected blocks of that colour disappear. You can build up a fine swarm of green blocks all you like but your hard work means nothing unless a green ghost block is on its way. To further possible slip-ups or hesitations players are only given a limited amount of time to drop the set of blocks before the game itself makes the decision for you.
With time of the essence throughout, one of the biggest flaws of Ghost Mania is its random block generator, which is downright broken at times, causing you to fail levels through no fault of your own as ghost blocks sometimes fail to appear. The key to any great puzzle title is of course the ‘oh alright then, one more go…’ factor, which often stems from human error and the desire to retest your skills. If your failures are down to an increasing string of bad luck that stems from the game’s inherent design – well, suffice to say it’s harder to garner the strength to face the challenge again.
Outside of the title’s aforementioned Arcade mode, Puzzle Mode tasks players to clear all of the blocks on their grid using just a certain number of drops, which is a fairly unique mode in puzzle sphere. Much like the famed ‘Six Clicks to Jesus’ mode from iPhone puzzler Wiki Hunt, stripping away player’s freedom actually leads to interesting, not to mention chin-stroking conundrums. Endless Mode is another delight, as players are free to rack up as high a score as possible. Interestingly, Ghost Mania’s gameplay is at its best when it’s either stripping back player’s movements entirely or freeing them up.
In short, it’s a shame that Ghost Mania’s Arcade Mode is being trumpeted as the core gameplay choice for the puzzle title as the replayability necessary for the genre is inhibited by an unfair block generator. Perhaps if the gameplay was as refined and polished as its presentation, we would be talking about a must-have puzzle title gracing the WiiWare. As it stands, Ghost Mania is a diverting but non-essential 500 point purchase.
Have you downloaded the latest issue from GamerZines yet? Check it out here!