The Haunted Mansion
What’s with the sudden retro love for Disney theme park rides? It’s not like they’ve been anywhere in the last decade, and yet here we are playing Haunted Mansion while Johnny Depp ponders a possible Oscar for Pirates Of The Caribbean. And while admittedly Pirates wasn’t a bad movie, critics are baying for Eddie Murphy’s blood after screenings of the current Haunted Mansion movie. It’s probably not a bad thing then that he has been omitted from the game, with High Voltage preferring to introduce Zeke, a feeble character in the vein of Disney’s own Ichabod Crane (from The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow) to navigate the game’s supernatural and puzzle-filled rooms.
Control is simple; blessed with a magic lantern, it is Zeke’s charge to progress from room to room, collecting the 999 spirits which haunt the property, while meeting characters pulled straight from the ride and overcoming a series of mental (puzzle) and physical (platforming/button-bashing) challenges. Emptying a room of ghosts allows access through the mystical portal guarding the next room, and so on. For the most part, it all works well enough, with the challenges varying enough to divert the gamer away from its overall linearity. There’s the room where walls move around you (basically acting as a three-foot draw distance, Silent Hill-style), the room with the enchanted pool table (which shrinks you for a ball-dodging challenge against a disembodied pool player), the room where you have to dodge a series of plates hurled by a screaming banshee… Clearly, a great deal of thought has gone into keeping the action fresh and ensuring that there are enough knowing references to the ride to keep fans smugly amused.
Thankfully, High Voltage has also avoided the trap of offering too many collection items. As well as the spirits there are tarot cards dotted throughout, but as these only count towards an extra life you never feel as though you are just collecting for the sake of it.
Readers who jump straight to the score might wonder why it looks a little low then. Well, tragically, Haunted Mansion is mercilessly short, and combined with a singular solution to each room ensures a frustrating experience, especially as it’s so linear. Additionally, the difficulty of the various puzzles is wildly erratic and fails to offer a steady challenge. Of course, it’s supposed to be one for the kids – but in the absence of a learning curve, those kids will tire very quickly.