IGN Review of Mortimer Beckett & the Secrets of Spooky Manor
The gamer community is overflowing with controversy when it comes to Nintendo's Wii console. Some love it, some hate it, you say waggle, and I say innovation. Regardless of which side of the Big N fence you camp on, it's safe to say that the Wii remote is a great pointing device. And point you shall in the "seek and find" adventure, Mortimer Beckett and the Secrets of Spooky Manor.
As the wordy title alludes to you play as Mortimer Beckett, a young man summoned by letter to his eccentric uncle's mansion. The letter states that your uncle has been imprisoned within the mansion by the ghosts who haunt it. To save your uncle you must find pieces to his Ghost Machine and activate it. To find these pieces you have to solve puzzles throughout the house which in turn yield clues to the whereabouts of Ghost Machine parts and your uncle.
Spooky Manor's story is told through a comic strip format. The strips take up the whole screen, and clicking on a panel will enlarge it for easier reading. There is no voice over whatsoever in Spooky Manor, and this style of exhibition may serve as a turn off for explosion-centric gamers. Luckily, the introduction ala comic is very short, and you'll jump into the game in no time.
The gameplay of Spooky Manor is simple but fun. Each room gives you a list of items to find. Point your Wii remote at the screen, and you will see a cursor. Navigate the cursor around the room and press A when you think you see a piece you are looking for. Pressing the B button will allow you to zoom in slightly, but finding objects in the cluttered rooms is still challenging.
To keep players from just clicking wildly in hopes of randomly finding objects, ghosts will pop out and obscure your vision if you get too trigger happy. The more erratically you click on things, the more ghosts appear. The more ghosts on screen, the more difficult it is to find item pieces. Sometimes the ghosts will even latch on to your cursor and you have to waggle them off.
The story mode starts you off at the bottom floor of the mansion. From here you have access to a few rooms on the floor. To progress further, you have to solve puzzles within these rooms. As mentioned, each room comes with a list of items that can be found within. The rooms are all very junky and cluttered, so finding something like a small key can be very difficult. To make matters worse, a small key may be broken into three pieces, all of which need to be found for the key to be used.
Objects to be found will be placed in one of two categories; misplaced items and puzzle items. Once you have put together a misplaced item, you will need to find where it belongs. For example, if you find all the pieces to a statue head, try placing it on a headless statue. Returning misplaced items to their rightful spots will often result in an award or clue to help you on your quest.
Puzzle items are items that interact with the house's environment. If you find all the pieces to a knife, you can try cutting open a pillow to see if anything's inside. The game does allow you to go all stab happy with the knife though, as objects that can be interacted with will become highlighted as your cursor passes over them. Puzzle items are key to accessing new rooms in the manor.
As Spooky Manor progresses, you will rely more and more on solving puzzles in one room to find an item needed for another puzzle. Granted, this is a simple premise, but soon you'll be greasing a grinding to stone to sharpen sheers you assembled, which in turn will allow you to trim rose bushes and find another clue. It's whimsical fun, but that's the atmosphere the game strives for and it pays off.
You don't have to complete the story by yourself either. From the start, four people can play at once and this is actually the preferred way to play. By yourself, Spooky Manor is a fun time passer, but with a group it becomes a global effort. Spooky Manor won't replace Rock Band as the universal group gathering game, but it's a fun diversion nonetheless.
Other than story mode, Spooky Manor also sports a Scavenger and Ghost World mode. Scavenger mode is a competitive multi-player version of story mode. Basically, whoever finds the most pieces wins. In Ghost World, players are each designated an object and the first person to find all the pieces to their respective item wins.
Spooky Manor is a simple game, with simple a simple presentation, and simple graphics. The environments in which you search for items are well drawn, but look a little compressed. A little more gloss on the different rooms would add a little pizzazz to Beckett Manor. The ghosts are more or less 2-D stills that float about the screen. Even a little animation would make the ghosts more efficient at their jobs. The added movement on screen would help distract players even more from completing stages.
The soundtrack of Spooky Manor is fairly straightforward as well. A handful of tracks repeat throughout the mansion's stages. The music is a mixture of generic haunted house string and reed instruments, with a dash of Looney Tunes flare thrown in. While the music has a slight goofy tinge, it resonates well (like the gameplay) with the game's overall atmosphere.
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