Can you survive An Unholy Return: The 31 Games of Halloween?
Ghost Manor Reviewed by Adam Wallace on . Rating: 78%
Ghost Manor
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  • Review Score:

  • B+
In the 1980s, beating a game was considered the ultimate bragging right. Most people associate that with the Nintendo Entertainment System as the games, while short in terms of overall length, were designed to be too hard to beat in a rental period. However, during the second gen, beating a game was a milestone simply because very few games had definitive ends. Most were designed with the arcade mentality, keeping going and getting harder until the player loses all of his/her lives. Only a handful of games on the Atari 2600 could be "beaten," and Ghost Manor was one of those few. It's also the very first game I ever finished, and returning to it over thirty years later brought back plenty of enjoyment.

The goal in the game is very simple. Your significant other (you could choose which with the "Color/B&W" switch) is held prisoner in Dracula's castle, and you have to mount the rescue. There are five areas in the game with different objectives from shooting foes with arrows to searching coffins for the crosses needed to trap Dracula. This variety is one of the best parts of the game, and all the stages work well. The catch is that, once you know what you're doing, the game can be beaten in five minutes. However, that's countered by the lack of extra lives. Die once, and it's a restart.

Ghost Manor (Atari 2600)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The game looks and sounds quite good by Atari 2600 standards. The characters and enemies are well-drawn and animated, especially the axe murderer outside the manor. The game makes great use of flicker to simulate the lamp and the lightning effects. The sound design is also better than average for the system. Very few Atari 2600 games have music, and this one has some decent tunes to set the atmosphere, though the tune in the coffin rooms sounds a bit blaring and scratchy.

There are only a few minor quibbles that keep the game from getting to an A. Like I said, the game can be beaten very quickly once you know what you're doing. There are multiple difficulty settings that reduce the number of arrows you have or remove the lamp, but that still doesn't change the fact that the game is extremely short. The game demands a lot of precision. There is no margin of error for shooting foes, and you can only search coffins in very specific spots which can be aggravating when a wall is closing in on you. I have even gotten stuck on corners in the coffin rooms more than a few times. On top of these, the time limit can be unforgiving. I actually ran out the timer once when my partner was almost out.

Ghost Manor is one of the stronger titles the Atari 2600 had. It had great atmosphere for the time, decent variety, and good gameplay. It's a shame that Xonox didn't survive the Video Game Crash; their titles were actually rather good. If you don't mind an old and VERY brief game, check it out this Halloween.
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