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Ghost Manor (Xonox)


DoctorSpuds

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Xonox was truly an oddball publisher, being the only other company besides Playaround to release double ended cartridges. Much like Telesys Xonox' game rarity varies wildly as well due to the fact they also released some 'single ender' cartridges, which are pretty self explanatory. For example, the Spikes Peak/ Ghost Manor double ender, which is the one I used in this review is only a four out of ten on the Atariage rarity scale, while the Spike's Peak single ender is a nine out of ten. Xonox only released eight games on the 2600, but there are sixteen different cartridge variations, that seems rather excessive. Unfortunately many of these games are considered sub-par to bad, but almost all of them have one redeeming feature, the graphics! These are some good looking games, I feel that Ghost Manor really shines in the graphical department, let me tell you all about it!

 

This game looks fantastic! I feel that this could be one of the only Atari 2600 games has 'atmosphere'. The opening screen is a graveyard, with an excellent evil haunted castle in the background, you control either a boy or a girl (switch between them with the b/w switch), both are large and have several different colors indicating clothing and hair and shoes and stuff, you- you can see in the pictures. The second screen is probably the greatest thing my 2600 will ever display... A giant screen-sized castle crawling with enemies. There is a notable decrease in sprite quality, due to the zoomed out perspective, but that evil axe wielding mummy, that's some cool stuff! The third and fourth screens are inside the castle, these rooms are fairly plain looking but the coffins that are dotted around everywhere are a nice touch. the fifth screen is on top of the castle where your friend is hidden away, and while the sprite for Dracula is all black, bonus points for that dapper top hat. Needles to say this game looks amazing, I feel that the only games that can rival these graphics are some red box Atari games and Xonox' other titles, and of course some homebrews. But are the sounds as good as the graphics?

 

Yes, this is probably some of the best utilization of sound I've ever heard on the Atari. A spooky tune plays when the game begins, in the graveyard the sounds are sparse, just the sounds of you walking, and a beeping noise indicating the collection of spears (I know that sounds random). The second screen is where things amp up, unfortunately due to the 2600's limited hardware, it could only output two channels of audio, which leads to many sounds stepping over each other. In the second screen you can hear the chopping sounds of the mummy as it closes in on you, you can hear the thunder booming in the sky, the chirping of the flying enemies is a nice touch, and the mummy's scream is actually rather spooky and made me jump the first time I heard it. Inside the castle you can hear the booming of the thunder as the rainstorm outside pummels mercilessly upon the antiquated architecture, the whooshing of the moving wall of death, it puts you in the zone. The screen atop the castle shares many of the same sounds as inside the castle but Dracula's scream as you put him away for good is oh so satisfying. The game rounds of with a nice cheery tune indicating your victory, very nice. It seems I've had nothing but praise for this game so far, but could that change?

 

The gameplay is incredibly varied, you star by running around playing tag in a graveyard with a ghost (or skeleton), every time you tag the ghost you get a spear, each difficulty level has you gather a different amount of spears, the higher the difficulty the fewer the spears. Once you collect enough spears it's on to the next screen. The next screen is the castle gate, where you have to shoot down all the small enemies, while evading Choppy the mummy, once all his cronies are down it's time to cut down Choppy with a spear to the face. In the next two screens your goal is to collect points and an extra crucifix from the scattered coffins while avoiding the moving walls. Beware though, the stationary walls are electric and may stun you if you touch them (sounds like an excuse for bad collision detection but that's just me). On the final screen it's time for your showdown with the one and only Dracula! I won't tell you how to defeat him though, since you probably already know. Once Dracula is sealed away you lead your dazed companion to the stairs and bang! you win. The game is very fun to play... the first few times, but I've played and beaten this game around seven times for this review, if you get really good, you can beat it in less than a minute. It's starts out very strong, but it simply doesn't have replayability. You can give the higher difficulty levels a go if you want to bring the freshness back into it though, so it's not a total loss.

 

This is a great looking game and a great sounding game, but when it comes to replayability it falls rather flat. It's still worth putting in every now and again just to see how fast I can get at it, but no more than five minutes per play. This seems to be a trend with Xonox games, the looks and sounds draw you in with promises of great entertainment value, but in the end you're just left rather dissapointed. Luckily the Spike's Peak/ Ghost Manor double enders are fairly cheap, so I can at least recommend you pick one up, just don't play Spike's Peak... That game is awful.

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