This was the last game I played in 2007,
and it was a satisfying way to finish the year. Ghost in the Sheet
is a first person horror adventure that has little in common with most
horror-themed games. I've never played a game quite like it.
Ghost in the Sheet (GITS) opens with a succession
of black and white graphic-novel-style drawings, narrated by the voice of
the ghost. Our unflappable protagonist ends up dead, then becomes a ghost,
and then is sheeted. His Boss, a long-tailed creature with a gruff manner,
sends the ghost into a factory called Omega. The ghost knows next to
nothing about his mission, and he has only one way to affect his
surroundings -- telekinesis. He explores the factory, trying to piece
together what happened there.
Welcome Aboard, Amigo
Omega is strange sort of place, located on a mountaintop with access
only by cable car. All the employees have had to sign contracts promising
that they will ask no questions about the top secret items the factory is
producing. A recent cataclysm has trapped the employees, along with
several other beings. This is a game where you find yourself in a dialog
with shadows, smoke and mirrors. The ghost gradually spreads his wings (so
to speak) as he acquires the skills that allow his astral body to move
things, push buttons, etc. He reads documents that tell him more about
Omega and he speaks to what's left of the factory employees.
Nothing Fancy, but We Call It Home
You play GITS from a first person perspective, using a
point-and-click interface without 360 degree panning. There is no
inventory, though once you've acquired a skill, you can try to use it
everywhere. The ghost can carry one item at a time and only for a short
distance. Interacting with the gaming environment is simple, but it's
sufficiently novel that the gamer may need an adjustment period. A short
tutorial at the game's beginning helps to get you started.
Movement through the factory is easy for the most part. The only
drawbacks -- a few of the directional hotspots are in unusual locations,
and sometimes movement from screen to screen leaves you turned in the
The factory environment is run-down, rusty, and (in places)
bloodstained. It's an industrial ruin with pipes, conveyor belts, and
random machinery. Different sources of light seek to enliven the darkness
-- light bulbs hanging from wires, emergency lights strung along metal
caging, shadows highlighted by what might be a bit of glowing ectoplasm.
It's a quirky, neglected, dysfunctional business environment -- "The
Office," post-catastrophe, haunted by preternatural oddities.
Ghost in the Sheet contains a variety of puzzles; some use the
factory environment in creative ways. The game provides mechanical
puzzles, sequencing puzzles, and dialog-based challenges. Sometimes items
and close-up hotspots are tough to find. The hotspots aren't tiny,
exactly, but they are located in unexpected places. You'll find a couple
of arcade-like challenges -- one where you have to click rapidly, and one
where you have to squash scampering rodents. Both are fairly difficult,
but can be bypassed (the bypass key is mentioned in the manual). There's a
board game-like challenge that was frustrating at first because I was
singularly obtuse about the final goal.
I had a great time with an ingenious sound puzzle. It doesn't require
musical ability, though you do have to be able to hear the sounds. My
nemesis was a puzzle that I thought had to be solved by trial and error
involving a lot of back-and-forthing. It includes a diagram that I
misinterpreted, causing me to experiment with different settings before I
actually had the correct information to input.
This is not the kind of game for which you should put out the lights,
put on headphones, and prepare to lose yourself in a labyrinth of terror.
Okay, put on the headphones, because the audio is unusually good. The game
menu features a mournful song performed on what sounds like an organ
grinder. Cello music plays yearningly as you read a love letter. A
whistling tune echoes through the shower stall in the locker room.
Ambient sounds are reminiscent of those in old-style horror flicks.
Dissonant tones play in the background, along with multi-voiced chanting
and moans. There's a funny "glug-glug" sound that accompanies your use of
telekinesis and a curious "plop" when you accidentally hit a box during
the rodent challenge.
What hooked me almost instantly was the voiceover talent of Klemens
Koehring. He voices the part of the ghost with just the right style of
slightly nasal nonchalance. His frequent comments reveal a mordant wit.
(You can click through the comments and dialogs if you want). The ghost's
verbal inventiveness prefigures his problem-solving abilities. As he gains
supernatural skills, he starts to draw conclusions about Omega and how it
relates to his own abrupt demise.
There is some salty language in GITS and enough black humor to
make the game unsuitable for young or sensitive children. Some unexpected
vocabulary choices make me think that the game was localized with the U.K.
in mind. (Note to self: find a use for the word "clever-clogs.")
Can You Laugh, Chew Gum, and Feel Fear at the Same Time?
As you may have gathered, this is not a game that's meant to terrify
the gamer. That doesn't mean that it won't scare you or startle you or
perhaps even make you squeamish. There's plenty of villainy to go around
-- maybe too much. There are evil individuals and two large groups of
evildoers who blithely abuse the most vulnerable of victims. All this, and
not one appearance by a lawyer! (Maybe the Boss is a lawyer in disguise.)
I was disappointed with the ending. Frankly, I thought it bordered on
the offensive, though the controversy involved does suit the mischievous
nature of the story. I also was mildly piqued by the absence of
information about the spring activated toy creatures. By that time, though
the game had wound its peculiar way into my heart. Let's face it -- it's
impossible to go away with negative feelings toward a game that does what
this one does to Cthulhu.
The story leaves enough minor ambiguities that hope springs eternal
that our hero may whisk his sheet into another adventure, and possibly
resolve these minor ambiguities along the way.
Quick List for Ghost in the Sheet
An innovative game that looks like a horror game, but plays more like a
wry commentary on Life and the Afterlife. A ghostly hero with brains and
panache, setting out on an unusual quest.
First person point-and-click, no 360 degree panning. Navigation can be
disorienting. Abandoned factory environment with plenty of wear and tear,
rust, pipes and weird machines. Occasional animations. Brief character
interaction with some of the oddest beings ever to populate a game.
An unconventional plot, some degree of nonlinearity. A surprise ending
awash in villainy with a strong dollop of cynicism. Excellent voice work
by the main character, other voiceovers are adequate to good. No dying
after the introduction, though there is a sequence in which failure brings
you back to the beginning of the sequence to try again.
Varied challenges, including mechanical, dialog, and sequencing. No
sliders, one clever auditory puzzle that doesn't require musical ability
but can't be completed without hearing the sounds. Two arcade-like puzzles
that can be bypassed. No color based puzzles or mazes. A particularly
difficult challenge -- a confusingly clued diagram and machinery puzzle
that can be solved either by calculation or by trial and error with a lot
of back-and-forth slogging. (I slogged interminably.)
A helpful opening tutorial. Unlimited save slots. Installation was
smooth. No crashes or glitches.
Ghost in the Sheet is aimed at gamers with a taste for the
comically macabre who want a game that is refreshingly different.
Final Grade: B
My Computer Specs:
Windows XP Professional
Pentium 2.80 GHz
2046 MB RAM
Direct X 9.0c
512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX
SB X-Fi Audio
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