Ghost Mania Review
Yet another title to add to the already sizable collection of WiiWare puzzle games, is a falling block game developed by . It's a slightly snazzier version of Spooky Spirits: Puzzle Drop!! for the iPhone, with updated sound and graphics as well as the addition of a multi-player mode.
You play as either Tim or Becky, a pair of professional Ghost Guardians who fell asleep on the job and let all the ghosts they were guarding escape. It's up to you to clean up their mess by finding and freeing the escaped ghosts, which have somehow gotten themselves trapped in different colored ghost blocks. Thankfully, this is as far as the story goes, and for a puzzle game it more than suffices.
Ghost Mania, which has players using either the classic controller or the Wiimote on its side, has three single-player modes. In both Arcade Mode and Endless Mode, players must match blocks with a correspondingly colored ghost block, making all connected blocks of that color disappear. As an added incentive to work quickly, players are only given a small amount of time to make a set of blocks drop before the game forces them to drop whichever two their cursor happens to be resting on.
Get ready for grumpy ghost bustin'.
While the game's main gameplay gimmick (the requirement of a ghost block to make the connected colors disappear) should theoretically add to the strategy of the game, Ghost Mania fails to take advantage of this mechanic. With a random block generator that feels somewhat faulty (often providing row after row of the same color of block without any corresponding ghost blocks), losing sometimes feels more like a string of bad luck than your own fault, as there is literally no way to clear a section of blocks until you get the corresponding ghost block. While it's not severe enough to call the game broken, it certainly takes away from the game's enjoyment level and keeps it from being as addictive as other games in the same genre.
Luckily for Ghost Mania, the other single player option is a little more successful, though it also suffers from some flawed execution. Puzzle Mode challenges players to clear all of the blocks on the playing field with only a certain number of drops, an interesting challenge that sometimes succeeds in providing some real head scratchers. The problem is that, while the harder challenges are quite fun to figure out, the transition from easy to difficult is poorly constructed. This proves frustrating as easy puzzles are mixed in with harder ones, which destroys the sense of progression and makes it feel almost pointless to try and complete all of the challenges.
To make matters worse, you aren't allowed to complete the puzzle in fewer than the allotted number of drops. While this could have presented a cool challenge, once again the game failed to use this mechanic in an interesting way. I often found myself clearing the level in too few drops and consequentially being forced to randomly drop a set of grey blocks (which you don't have to clear in order to pass the level) just to move forward. While it's not a huge deal, it does get annoying after a while and feels lazily planned out by the developers.
Play your way through six spooky stages.
Ghost Mania's multi-player, which has three modes, is standard fare. It's fun for a few rounds but ultimately suffers from the same problems as the main game, making it feel inconsequential how well either player is doing. This murders that all-too-important competitive spirit, an integral part to any successful multi-player mode.
It's a shame the gameplay isn't better executed, because the graphics and sound are actually quite nice for a WiiWare title. The colors are bright and crisp and the backgrounds, although not terribly memorable, do their job of providing an atmospheric backdrop for this ghost-themed puzzle game. The characters you play as are smoothly animated, though they could do with a few more expressions outside of just a discontented scowl. Seriously, I didn't appreciate them glaring at me the whole time I was playing, regardless of how well I was doing.
The sound is also well done, with groovy, Halloween-esque tunes that aren't distracting and provide good background noise for your puzzling endeavors. While it's nothing you'll be burning a copy of to listen to in the car, it's completely serviceable and surprisingly pleasant. The one big complaint I have with the sound is the annoying snoring the character does when you pause the game or complete a level, which sometimes feels like a mockery of the fact that the player is probably feeling bored themselves.