The Haunted Mansion

Review

posted 2/4/2004 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: Xbox
Even though Eddie Murphy is one of the most popular comedy actors working in Hollywood, he’s yet to make that leap from the silver screen to the game screen. With classics like Beverly Hills Cop, the Golden Child, and 48 Hours under his belt and one of the most recognizable voices in all of California, you’d think he’d be a hot commodity in the game world, but all we get are a number of fundamentally flawed Shrek games.

The Haunted Mansion is not only one of the most popular rides at Disneyland, but was also a marginally successful live-action movie starring the one-time Saturday Night Live cast member. Considering that this game was released to coincide with the launch of the feature film, I was surprised to find out it is based on the ride and has very little to do with the theatrical movie. I was not disappointed, just surprised.

You play as Zeke; a twig of a man who looks suspiciously like Ichabod Crane from Disney’s classic cartoon the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Desperate for work, Zeke answers an ad for a janitorial position in a spooky old house on the outskirts of town, and in a turn of events that has always been cliché, he finds himself trapped in that large, unwelcoming mansion. A mansion that just happens to be haunted and in serious need of some ghost busting.

Armed with his magic lantern your job is to investigate each room, solve the puzzles, turn on the lights, and then collect all of the ghosts in the vicinity. Collect enough apparitions you’ll be able to move on to the next room in the mansion, complete with its own puzzle and ghosts to collect. With dozens of rooms over three different floors to explore, there are a lot of puzzles to solve and ghosts to collect, which by itself can certainly get a little tiring.

On one hand it’s nice that the puzzles generally don’t repeat and are usually challenging. They take the entire room, and range from pushing buttons in the correct order to navigating your way around a giant pool table trying not to get hit by the incoming balls. The game’s difficulty is pretty forgiving, but a number of the levels may require more than a few of your lives before you fully understand what you’re supposed to do. Once completed it’s on to searching for ghosts who hide in coffins, barrels, and other dark nooks and crannies. Once you’ve collected them all you can use the ghosts to unlock other rooms in the mansion, thus continuing your adventure.

From time to time you will be introduced to a new ghost or spook that tries to get in the way of you solving the puzzles. They look big and menacing at first, but most of the enemies in the Haunted Mansion are push-overs. The only problem you will have negotiating these ghouls will be when a gang of them traps you, a common and frustrating problem associated with this title.

Though there are a few cinemas, and a number of other characters, most of the Haunted Mansion lacks a clear story. The game pushes you along in a very mechanical way, and it sometimes feels like the various plot points are nothing more than a sly way of connecting the various puzzles. The story elements themselves are pretty generic, and it would not have hurt the presentation if they were completely cut from the game. The plot doesn’t take away from the game, but never seems to seem to move past redundant.
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