Octurbo: Ghost Manor

Man Week finally draws to a close as we take a look at ICOM Simulations' Ghost Manor, which kind of has the word "Man" in it, kind of. ICOM's best known for their MacVenture series of early point and clicks: Deja Vu, Shadowgate and Uninvited. So this should be a fairly cerebral, fairly story-based, fairly unfair adventure game based on the developer's history, right? It's probably not an abjectly awful and completely inscrutable Castlevania knockoff. Surely.

Holy Shit I'm Finally Acknowledging That It's Halloween Month

Welcome to Ghost Manor! I can already tell this is a thoughtful adventure game because there's a high score feature.
I can barely read this with the drippy font. Anoraff? Like anorak? Wait, is that me? Why am I some mulleted douche in an "A" t-shirt and jeans? Isn't this medieval times?
I... think that says Orb Gamut? What's an Orb Gamut? Sounds like a load of balls so far.
Steadfastly refusing to take the perilous quest that the presumably less freakish villagers has foisted upon him, Arthur (because that's original) decides to go back and is punched for his insolence. I guess we're on our own.
So this is a goofy platformer of some sort. Arthur has a range of abilities which range from walking, crawling and shooting purple shit at ghosts.
Ghosts like this guy. There's a definite variety with the enemies, but they all look kind of like Halloween decorations. Maybe this is some huge prank everyone's pulling on this poor hydrocephalic?
Deciding to get a little more (Yahoo) Serious, I scour the stage to find anything I can use to proceed. This key looks like it might fit somewhere. I mean, I can only assume.
Thanks for the ride, Chauncey! For some reason, the yellow-tinged ghosts want to help us out. I don't know if I'd trust this guy to look at him, but fortune favors jumping into the arms of horrific wraiths.
Heading through the locked door, I'm now in this waterfall area. I'm going to hazard a guess that I need to head upwards.
Of course, they don't make it easy with all these slopes and tiny footholds. The respawning Red-Arremer-But-Not enemies and giant yeti monsters from Big Trouble in Little China aren't helping either.
While attempting to deal with all the bat wiener in my face, I find this fellow in a nearby barrel. I'm sure you can already tell from the jagged teeth and the fact it's an yellow skull that looks evil as fuck, that he's a friendly guy who will spring you back up the cliffside if you jump on his head.
Also these creepy hand elevators. I feel like a character from Golden Axe.
The Arthur ghost actually waves goodbye to you as it floats off, as if I'm supposed to feel anything that this weird little asshole is dead.
Dammit I hate jumping from slopes! You slide down platforms at 45 degree angles such as these for as long as you stand on them, so trying to climb up them can be damn near Sisyphean.
I once again remember that the TG-16 has more than three buttons, and discover that I can explore suspicious background objects by waving my arms at it like a spaz. Great, so I'm expected to search every nook and cranny for answers now too.
While waiting for the hand elevator to rematerialize, Arthur goes through all his ridiculous idle animations. I don't even know what this expression is. Whistling? There's no noise or anything. I hate Arthur.
Yes! The top of the damn waterfall! I'm so close! I've been here for so long, waiting for giant monster hands and slowly inching up angled platforms. Let me have this. Please.
I'm here! So is every bat in the county, but I don't care. I made it to the top. I won.
I couldn't find anywhere to go though, so back down I drop to look for the real exit... is what I'd say if I wasn't quitting this thing right now.

I don't much care for Ghost Manor. It evokes for me a great number of LJN games where the low quality wasn't simply reserved for its graphical and sound presentation, or even its inaccurate and awkward combat and platforming, but rather the complete lack of any purpose, sense or context for what's going on. I know I'm meant to be heading to the eponymous building via a "back way" through the forest, but beyond that there's no clear indication of what I'm meant to do or where to go. My singular weapon can actually run out (and quite easily), enemies either punch you off platforms or are revealed to be helpful spirits despite looking as nefarious as anything else and exits have to be specially sought out by checking every area of darkness to see if it's actually a doorway to a new area. Actually, I'd say the game Ghost Manor reminds me the most of is Young Merlin, because that game had all of the above problems with inscrutability and poor design as well as another unlikeable hero with an awful mullet.

Anyway, Ghost Manor is one of those games where you can instantly recognize the poor craftsmanship and that sort of puts a damper on trying to figure out what the hell it wants from you. You realize intuitively that whatever prize awaits those willing to puzzle out its bizarre mechanics is probably not going to be worth it. This may end up gripping horror fans like our own Patrick Klepek with the same grim fascination that they might reserve for the NES Friday the 13th game, yet somehow I doubt it'll inspire the same level of self-destructive dedication.

On a final note, ICOM would also go on to create a very badly received psuedo-sequel to Shadowgate named Beyond Shadowgate for the Turbo-CD. Might have to pencil that one in for next year, while I still hold some affection for that series which can then be summarily squandered away.

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