Like Scooby Doo, but without the pesky kids
As if being dead wasn’t bad enough, life – or rather the afterlife – for rock star Marshall Staxx is also proving to be somewhat trying. The ex-rock god is being hassled by Baublebelly, a greedy green ghoul (obviously inspired by Slimer from the Ghostbusters movies), who’s gobbling up Staxx’s belongings. To help rid him of the irksome imp, Staxx has employed the services of Cecil Sparks, Phantom PI, a paranormal investigator who specializes in curing the deceased of their problems.
The action in this point ‘n’ tap adventure takes place across Staxx’s vast, but rundown and curiously labyrinthine mansion. Cecil has to negotiate the various rooms, moving via doors, stairs, and elevators, in order to make his way to the exit. This involves solving minor puzzles en route, such as collecting keys to open doors, using buckets of water to douse fires, wielding a tire iron to remove barricades, and so on. Cecil eventually confronts the pudgy phantom just as he disappears into a swirling purple vortex, which carries us to the next part of the mansion.
Cecil also encounters other spirits, which he can trap with his ghost-capturing pistol. You simply tap on the apparition and, like the Ghostbuster’s proton packs, the weapon fires a beam and snares it. You then guide it around the screen, collecting gems (for some unknown reason) before reeling it in. On later levels there are evil sprites that get in the way of your gem-gathering, and will destroy your booty if touched.
There are over a hundred notes, postcards, paper cuttings and music tapes to collect along the way. These are stored in your scrapbook and will help you piece together the events that led to Staxx’s violent on-stage demise, and the mystery of the haunted mansion. Completing each area leads you to the next, but they do remain open so you can go back and retry them if you didn’t get all the ghosts or collectibles.
Moving around is a simple case of tapping and holding the screen where you want Cecil to move to, and the only issue we encountered is that whenever you pass through a door or climb a ladder, tapping near Cecil can send him back where he came from. It’s a minor issue, but can prove irritating until you train your brain out of the habit.
However, a far bigger problem is the lack of challenge. The game is difficulty- and peril-free; it’s merely a matter of exploring, collecting the right keys and clues, and navigating your way out. This might be fine for kids or casual players, but hardened iOS gamers will eventually find it a rather tedious, procedural activity. Also, the fetch-and-carry gameplay isn’t exactly cutting edge (games like Maniac Mansion were doing it better 30 years ago), and we’re not sure if the 20 levels is enough to keep you occupied – or if you’ll simply tire of the same old gameplay before you even reach the last one.
There are some great ideas here, but not much to get your teeth into – if the developers could match the presentation with smarter puzzles and a bit more depth, they’d be onto a real winner.
Price: $1.99 / £1.49
Size: 270 MB
Platform: iOS Universal
Developer: Rocket 5 Studios Inc