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Geist (GameCube) artwork

Geist (GameCube) review

"It's a shame Geist isn't very good, because I would like to be able to jam pack this review with lame, obvious puns. "It will possess you!" "

It's a shame Geist isn't very good, because I would like to be able to jam pack this review with lame, obvious puns. "It will possess you!"

Instead, Geist is another one of those games – I could name a million of ‘em – that gives us high hopes with a cool idea, and then only disappoints us when it can't follow through. It's a great concept that probably could have amounted to a memorable game had a better developer handled it. But instead, we got n-Space, and Geist is nothing more than a vaguely intriguing what-if. But it is a great concept.

Wrap your noggin around this setup. You're John Raimi, a soldier who's been caught up in some twisted experiment involving separating spirits from their hosts for military purposes. An early sequence renders you as nothing but a ghost, and from there, you have to explore the site of the incident to retrieve your body and possibly uncover a conspiracy or two. The only way to do this, however, is to use your ghostly powers to possess various human and animal hosts to progress through Geist's environment. BUT. BUT. Before you can possess anyone, you've gotta scare ‘em, and that calls for some creative use of your surroundings.

It's a decent premise, I'm sure you'll agree, and n-Space seems to be on track before the game's shortcomings sink in. In order to scare a potential host, you need to possess a wide assortment of inanimate objects. This leads to some fairly novel moments, such as when you need to possess a vending machine and fire soda cans at an innocent bystander, and then follow him into the bathroom and make blood come out of the sink.

Freaking out Geist's NPCs makes for a lot of satisfying scenarios until you realize how linear the whole thing is. You'd think from my above description that n-Space would take advantage of its idea and create game environments that are open to exploration and critical thinking, when in fact Geist has such a specific idea of what it wants you to do that I never really felt fully in control. If you're able to possess an object, chances are it's because you need to possess it. Your hosts are essentially predetermined, and once you figure out that scaring them is usually just a matter of possessing the right objects in the right order, Geist becomes little more than a series of simplistic key-and-switch puzzles of sorts.

For instance, at one point early on, you'll have to scare and inhabit a guard. To do so, you need to make a ladder fall on him, and then unleash a fire extinguisher on him, and then open a steam valve in his face. But you've got to possess those objects, in that order. The “puzzles” are usually just a matter or figuring out what object you're supposed to use, and that's never difficult because they're usually the only ones that can be possessed. Why can I possess one TV, but not another?

My point is that Geist has a very specific path it wants you to take and never gives you any freedom. There are a few instances that may have you scratching your head, such as when you're tasked with possessing a chef who's wearing headphones (you’ve got to get his attention first). But for the most part, Geist is straightforward and obvious.

And then, once you've actually found a host, the game turns into just another generic FPS, and not even a very good generic FPS. The weapon set consists almost entirely of assault rifles, the aiming controls are slow and awkward, and the enemy soldiers seem content to simply stand out in the open like turrets. As with the ghost segments, there are a few good action-based sequences, such as when you've got to clear the way for one of your fleeing colleagues by taking control of various gun turrets and explosive crates. But it's backed by a lot of dull moments, especially late in the game when n-Space throws the ghost elements out the window and Geist becomes a shooting extravaganza. Most of the bosses are annoying, too, and there are plenty of ‘em.

And it's all topped with a stale, forgettable story and some pretty low production values: The graphics are Dreamcast territory (though I appreciate widescreen support), the game environment is another one of those “futuristic facilities” that was started with Half-Life and has been imitated countless times since, and while the music is pretty good, the soundtrack only has, like, four tracks. The developers do get a few points, though, for coming up with some decent multiplayer modes, including an innovative humans-versus-ghosts setup. A decent effort, but meaningless if you think about it.

“Hey! Let's go to my house and play Geist!”

Not gonna happen.

I'll say this about Geist: The game certainly had my attention from beginning to end, though that may be more due to the fact that it's a short game. Had it run any longer, the novelty of its premise would have worn thin, and its appeal would have been tarnished completely. Instead, Geist serves as a mildly diverting effort that functions better for a matter of personal interest than for satisfying our desire for good games. I'll put it this way: I found a new copy of Geist for ten bucks, and I don't feel as if I've wasted my money. (Had I paid full price, I reckon I would have disliked this title far more.) If you see an opportunity to buy Geist without spending a lot, I say go for it, if only to imagine what could have been.

Suskie's avatar
Community review by Suskie (July 07, 2007)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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