Friday, 20 October 2017

The Best Halloween Saturn Game Of All...

My love for the Saturn is split into three phases; the first stage was my initial love in about 1996... the stage when the Saturn was my current console. I'd just bought it and I was blown away by the graphical wonders and futuristic gameplay of Virtua Fighter, Sega Rally, Panzer Dragoon and Clockwork Knight. The next stage, was about ten years ago, when I decided to founder the Saturn Junkyard, primarily because I was so blown away by the wonder that is the Dreamcast Junkyard, and wanted  a piece of the retro-gaming blogging action. At that time, I bought the bulk of my current PAL collection, when there was nothing on offer for the Dreamcast at Gamestation, as a source for reviews and articles on the SJY. The third phase is my current obsession, which has seen me neglecting all my other consoles and game library, to play the Saturn exclusively, buying up Japanese imports and padding out my software library with rips, as if I'm discovering it again for the first time.


But lets go back to phase 1: It's 1996/7 and as well as the games mentioned above, you can add a very small handful of games, that made up up the entirety of my Saturn software collection. One was Virtua Cop, one was Christmas NiGHTs and the other was the title I want to discuss today.

The game in question was 'Casper', a title I'm going to nominate for my ultimate Halloween Saturn game. It's a title that has everything you might want from a spooky Halloween experience-- A haunted mansion, darkened passageways, moonlit graveyards, creaking doors, moving objects, ghostly laughter and sandwiches, lots and lots of sandwiches!

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Okay, I'm sure you've realised that I'm being slightly tongue in cheek here; if you're looking for gut-churning Halloween scares, then Casper is not for you... I have to report that by the end of your play-through of the game, your undergarments will be in as pristine condition  as they were when you put them on. There'll be no need for that embarrassing 'boil-wash' after experiencing an hour or two in "Whipstaff Manor", where the action takes place-- we're not talking The Walking Dead, more Scooby Doo...


Casper is a multi-platform movie 'tie-in', for the 1995 movie of the same name: an attempt to update the 'Casper the Friendly Ghost', an animation that had been a Saturday morning TV staple for American children in the 1960s and 1970s (and had existed as a syndicated comic strip in many newspapers prior to that.) The movie was a mixture of CGI effects and live action, involving real actors. (Re-vamping old ideas, rather than thinking of new ones, was almost as popular in the 1990s as it is today.) Casper was in the company of the Addams Family, The Brady Bunch, My Favourite Martian and The Munsters. But we're not here to critique the film, we're here to talk about the game!

The  game we focus on today, was one of a number of movie tie-in games created for the  film, released for just about all of the existing systems of the time. The game we got on the Saturn was also released for  PlayStation, 3DO and Gameboy Colour. The best version, is widely believed to be the one released for the Saturn. Okay, it's widely believed by me to be the best!


Produced by Interplay, the game is best described as a 'top down' adventure/puzzle-quest. Despite the movie being aimed at families with younger children, and due to it's syrup-sweet type presentation, you might think the game would be something you could breeze through in a couple of hours--something that would not give you the serious gaming challenge you deserved--But you'd be wrong! Casper is a bastard of a game... Don't be fooled by it's child-like presentation!

The plot is fairly straight forward, if not a little bizarre--but hey! we want a little 'bizarre' around Halloween right?,-- The titular character, Casper is a 'cute' and friendly ghost, but his Uncles (Fatso, Stinky and Stretch) are most certainly, not. When new tenants, ghost-hunter Dr. Harvey and his young daughter Kat move in to Whipstaff Manor, Casper wants to make friends... He can also seize the opportunity to be brought back to life, by the strange machinations of a contraption known as the Lazarus Machine! All Casper needs to do is befriend Kat, collect various quest objects, including parts of the Lazarus machine to present to Doctor Harvey who will cobble them all together and... Hey Presto! He's a real boy again! If only his pesky uncles would stop trying to sabotage his efforts!


The game sees you as Casper, exploring the many hidden halls, rooms, passageways, cellars, chimneystacks etc, looking for your quest objects. Beware dear player! Whipstaff Manor is HUGE!!! It opens up in a way most reminiscent of the Spencer Mansion in Resident Evil, extending upstairs, downstairs, out into the garden and into the attic... There is no map feature, so you've got to remember where everything is in relation to where you are... and there is a ton of backtracking , and re-exploring as more and more rooms appear. And this is why it represents a true challenge to someone like me, who has the memory of a gold fish and the attention span of a gnat!

As you progress through your quest, you will pick up a variety of special powers such as being able to travel between rooms through chimneys as a whiff of smoke, or bouncing over obstacles a s a rubber ball, or cutting through objects as a buzz saw, which will allow you to progress to and explore areas previously blocked to you. All well and good, but just as you think you're getting somewhere a whole new vista will open up. Believe me... I have sunk hours into this game without ever finishing it!


Visually, the game has stood up very well over time, as it's pre-rendered graphics have a bright and colourful cartoon-like feel... Realism is not sought or required in Whipstaff Manor. I'd say it has a lovely retro feel, without looking horrendously dated. Casper moves throughout the hallways, controlled by the D-Pad, in a most satisfying 'floaty' way (I realise that is horrendously poor description, but I'm suffering from a paucity of verbosity, for which I can only humbly beg your generous indulgence.)

So, if you've got a few days to spare, if you can tolerate sugary sweet characters and basic movie plots and fancy a brain taxing sojourn through the world of the undead this Halloween, you could do far worse than giving Casper a whirl. Be warned though, the beautiful orchestral score is pure ear-worm material. An hour's play and the music will be stuck in your head FOREVER... And perhaps that's the biggest Halloween scare of all...


6 comments:

jon lee said...

Spook-tacular review dear Father K and of that rarest of beasts, the "playable movie tie-in" The lighting is lovely and the game has an authentic cartoon look to it.

Anonymous said...

Can't you guys do anything about that flash swf that gets downloaded in google chrome every time I open the website?

fatherkrishna said...

If you can identify what it is, we'll attempt to fix it, but i dont know what it is, that is causing the issue. Is it a video in the side bar? An advert? Banner?

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure it's that dailymotion namie amuro embedded video in the sidebar

fatherkrishna said...

I'll take it out later.

fatherkrishna said...

We've now removed the Naime Amuro video from the sidebar. hope this resolves any flash swf issues!