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In Haunted Mansion, you play as Zeke, a timid fellow who is looking for a job as housekeeper at the mansion. Much to his surprise, the house is haunted. He is quickly approached by a group of friendly ghosts who ask him to rid the house of the bad ghosts and so Haunted Mansion begins. Equipped with only a special lantern, it is up to Zeke to solve puzzles and turn on the lights in each room to rid the house of the bad ghosts so that the friendly ghosts can finally rest in peace.
The gameplay in Haunted Mansion is deceptively simple, but a lot of fun as well. The mansion is broken up into dozens of rooms and you have to turn the lights on in each room and then suck up the wandering spirits into your lantern. Before you turn the lights on, however, the ghosts will try to attack you so you have to shoot them with balls of energy from your lantern. Most of the rooms have a puzzle that you have to solve before you can reach the light switch. The puzzles fit the theme of each room, so in the music room, for example, you have to activate musical instruments which then causes books to move around and form a staircase up to the light switch. Other puzzles are more like minigames and will see Zeke doing things like running around on a pool table trying to help ghosts sink their shots. Each room has a different puzzle and most of them require a little bit of thinking in order to solve.
Once you get the lights turned on, the gameplay changes completely. You have to search paintings and furniture which causes harmless spirits to come out so you can suck them up with your lantern. The way the game features a lot of different types of gameplay within each room, and the fact that each room is a new and unique puzzle to solve, means that the game never feels repetitive. You have to shoot ghosts and solve puzzles, but once you have the lights turned on you then have to explore and capture the wandering spirits. This is fun, plain and simple.
Unlike Microsoft with Grabbed by the Ghoulies, TDK Mediactive has no problem in admitting that Haunted Mansion is a kid's game. None of the puzzles are too difficult for a little kid to solve, but the puzzles and gameplay still manage to be entertaining enough that adults will enjoy the game as well. The haunted house theme is executed very well and the atmosphere is definitely spooky, but there isn't anything in the game that is too scary for the youngsters. I would say that this is a kids game done right. It is simple enough that the ten and under set can enjoy it, but it isn't so simple that adults won't have fun with it as well.
Haunted Mansion does have a couple of problems, however. The game won't take very long to complete, and once you beat it there isn't really any reason to play through it again because you won't see anything new or different. Another annoyance lies in the fact that you can't go back through previous rooms to play the minigames. Once you save your game, there is no going back. Some of the puzzles are fun enough that you'll want to play them more than once, but it isn't worth playing through the game multiple times just to reach the four or five rooms that you really liked.
Graphically, The Haunted Mansion looks very good and does a great job of capturing the look and feel of the Disneyland ride. Pictures and room layouts, as well as the characters themselves, are all ripped straight out of the ride. The mansion is suitably spooky with spider webs all over the place, and there is a lot of detail in everything. The character models for Zeke and the ghosts he is hunting are also nicely detailed. The sound is also very well done. Some of the music was taken from the ride, but there are new tracks as well that do an excellent job of maintaining the haunted house feel. The sound effects for the ghosts and everything else fit in with the theme perfectly and do a good job of immersing you into the game.
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