I remember back in 1994 at this computer/game shop in Toronto my boss told me how Mansion of Hidden Souls was his favorite game. I believed him enough and asked my brother to purchase Mansion of Hidden Souls for his Sega CD. What do we have here? Oh yeah, a short, but entertaining, Myst-style full-motion video game.
The Mansion of Hidden Souls is much like watching a cheesy show such as "Are You Afraid of the Dark?," only you are part of the action. The game is very immersive since it takes place entirely in a first-person perspective. Unfortunately, the picture is grainy like all Sega CD full-motion video games. Once you enter the Mansion you take control of the protagonist, Johnathan. As John you must find your sister who wandered off into an ethereal mansion that appeared out of thin air. The Mansion is littered with the lost souls of previous entrants, some of the souls are helpful where others are bitter that they are no longer human and provide little or no guidance.
The game is played much like Myst, where you examine "still life" inanimate objects in order to find keys, items, and clues. Finding out what to do next comes from simply finding an item or solving a complex puzzle. (Thankfully the souls provide some very good clues.) There is no fighting, which makes sense because everyone is dead. You must be aware of imminent dangers from time to time, thus putting John on the defensive. As a result the suspense and horror aspect of the game is exemplified.
One of the game's best parts is the dialogue, which reveals more and more of the story as you go along. Unfortunately the speech is often muffled, which ultimately makes it extremely frustrating when trying to interpret what the ghosts are trying to say. The music is pretty much non-existent, which is okay because some of the sound effects are quite creepy which well suits the atmosphere.
Vic Tokai doesn't help the game's short length by introducing a time limit half way through the game. This forces the player to solve puzzles much faster or consult an internet walkthrough. I did not like this aspect of the game because I'd rather take my time than constantly restarting at my last save point.
The game is very short and can be won in a single sitting if you were to consult a FAQ walkthrough, and if you don't cheat you can expect a couple of head scratching puzzles that could take quite some time to figure out. Also the game has poor replay value since once the puzzles are solved you could win the game on a second play through in an hour or so. Despite the relatively short experience, I liked Mansion of the Hidden Souls but I wouldn't pay more than 10 bucks for it. I feel the game is more fun for people who enjoy ghost stories than the typical gamer. If you are a fan of ghosts and FMV games then try borrowing someone else's copy or try to find it cheap off of eBay. If you're into this kind of thing you can fun over a short weekend, but don't expect much more than that.