Spooky Spirits (PC) review
"I feel a little cheap not saying more about Spooky Spirits, but there isn't a whole lot more to say. And that's good; it adheres to the basics of its genre and provides challenging, logical puzzles and intuitive controls to solve them with, with nothing frilly or gimickey that tries to add depth."
Here's something that probably won't surprise anybody: I've always had a soft spot for puzzle games. Sure, I enjoy blowing things up or bouts of gunslinging as much as the next gamer, but the simplistic yet challenging puzzle game has always held a certain charm, and I admit to enjoying a few rounds of Meltdown or Minesweeper after lunch.
The only thing spooky about Spooky Spirits, I confess, is the cartoonish cuteness the two star characters exude from every pore on their quest to do with two what the Ghostbusters did with a team of four (and a car). But like Tim and Becky, the "plot" of a puzzle game is a convention of the genre; the skeletal story is simply a device that changes the wonderful backdrops every now and then.
Your main focus will be on the coloured blocks at the center of the screen. Make not the mistake I did when I first booted this up; it's not as simple as a Tetris clone. While colour-matching and space-filling are critical elements in solving each screen, it's not just as simple as dropping blocks from above until you get to the next stage; to actually clear a coloured mass it must be connected up with a spirit-haunted block of the same colour. The game offers three modes of play depending on your mood, each with slightly different rules.
Puzzle mode, you begin play with a limited number of drops to make, a fixed configuration of blocks at the top of the board, and a different puzzle-shape for each level. Thinking ahead is the order of the day for these levels, and only by dropping blocks in the correct order will you be able to clear your screen of colours and advance to the next stage.
Panic mode, by comparison, is more like Tetris; with a few seconds between drops, you must quickly pick from a row at the top of the board, rearranging to get the two blocks you want in the positions you want them. As before, joining coloured masses with a haunted block clears them, only this time you earn points based on how large the mass was. After a certain goal is reached, victory is yours and it's on to the next stage.
Eternity mode is much like the above, but the goal here is simply to rack up points that you can gloat about in the Hall of Fame. Pacing gradually increases as you progress, and just like Tetris, if your multicoloured mass reaches the top of the board it's game-over.
I feel a little cheap not saying more about Spooky Spirits, but there isn't a whole lot more to say. And that's good; it adheres to the basics of its genre and provides challenging, logical puzzles and intuitive controls to solve them with, with nothing frilly or gimickey that tries to add depth. Spooky Spirits sticks to its guns, and it's that remember-your-fundamentals design philosophy that makes this a genuinely fun puzzle game.
Freelance review by Will Roy (October 31, 2008)
Will is grumpy, sarcastic and Canadian. He occasionally crawls out of his igloo to cover sci-fi and strategy games. Has a love-hate relationship with cats. And the colour purple.
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