Ghost in the Sheet

Developer:  Cardboard Box Entertainment
Publisher:  Tri Synergy, Inc.
Year Released:  2007

Review by Steve Ramsey (June, 2008)
Ghost in the Sheet screenshotAn errand in a factory populated by buckets, ladybugs and a head on a post is probably not most people's idea of a good time, but having been hit by a truck, any outing is likely to be a good one. So it is that the said ghost in the sheet heads off at the behest of the Boss to find out why the souls of the dead are not getting to where they are supposed to.

Being a sheet, the ability to do a whole lot is limited. So the Boss gives you telekinesis so you can move things around. Soon after you acquire the ability to push things, removing the need to pressgang pencils into action, and by the end you can electrically zap things, blow mighty winds, and cast light upon the darkness, as well as a few other things.

Having obtained all those powers, you will have lured a fiend to a crunchy and tasty death, ended the torment of the aforementioned head on a post, become enamoured of a shadowy female silhouette in the shower, and serenaded a small octopussy looking thing on a bone flute. All in a days work really.

You can probably glean from the above that Ghost in the Sheet is a little bit different. Its also a little silly, a little bit messy, a little bit funny, a little ambitious, and a little bit tricky. Put all those little bits together, and whilst you don't get a great big plus, you do get a product that tries hard to rise above your average run of the mill game and doesn't do a bad job at all.

Ghost in the Sheet screenshotIt isn't as chaotic as I may have made it sound. The powers I referred to are utilised in a familiar point and click environment - point to them and click where you want to use them, and you may or may not get a reaction. You don't collect things in an inventory, and you don't carry things with you, but telekineses allows you to move certain objects to achieve results, and the other powers enable you to impact on your environment in useful ways as well. Need to open a door? Use the pushing power. Want to power up a machine? Try an electric jolt.

The game world is almost an exclusively still one. Little animations will occur when you move things with telekineses, and the limited number of non-playing characters have some minimal motion, but apart from two little activity sequences, that's pretty much it. Cutscenes are also still, presented in a black and white comic book style. Sequences unfold through images, like pages in a comic book. I thought they were well done, and suited to the mood of the piece.

It isn't a big game world either, consisting primarily of about 7 or 8 rooms and their connecting halls. Being a factory, it's a fairly drab place, but the palette and the detail are perfectly acceptable, if a little minimalist.

I thought the puzzles and conundrums were rather good. I could have done without trekking back to switch the power back and forth to where I needed it, but that was part and parcel of a faulty and limited power source. Pushing and poking will serve you well as you try to get several machines started, and your brain will likely get a mathematical workout on the last puzzle.

Ghost in the Sheet screenshotThere are two in-game activity sequences, both of which require some timely clicking, one more hurriedly than the other. However you can bypass them with a press of the space bar should you wish to do so, a design mechanism that more games should include. I don't mind these types of interludes, but many players detest them, and even for fans it can at times become irritating if that last click eludes you. So kudos on that one.

There is also a sound puzzle, which it seems by the game boards has produced a few palpitations. I found that it wasn't so much the sounds that was the challenge, but working out what the heck the objective was and how the puzzle worked. Once that was sorted, it was fairly plain sailing. The trick for me was not being distracted by the sounds and the octopus thing I mentioned, but simply thinking of it as just another mechanical puzzle, where discerning the action and reaction are the key.

Others though were clearly reduced to palpitations, and again the makers came through. You can download a solve, which is introduced into the game in quite a nifty way. Just put it in your game directory, and banging the right bucket solves the problem. You don't need to start a new game or anything complicated. I tried it afterwards and it worked a treat, so again the makers need congratulating.

I had more difficulty with the dialogue and other game triggers in Ghost in the Sheet, and whilst failing to find a key document is usually my fault and not a game issue, I did think some of the dialogue could have operated in a more straightforward way. For instance, you seemingly have to ask the same character the same things a few times to trigger a way forward, and another character wouldn't respond appropriately unless I was standing in front of him, rather than behind him, despite him answering me from both places.

Ghost in the Sheet screenshotA plus though is that triggers on at least a couple of occasions (and probably more; I may simply have not recognised the relationships) are multi-faceted, which allows you to play further into the game before hitting a snag. If every game progression requires a single trigger, you can be very stop-start till you find that trigger. Here, there were times when four or five trigger points were necessary in order to progress the game past a key point, which meant much more gameplay was available before you reached that key point.

There is humour in Ghost in the Sheet, much of it black. The "no bleeding" comment was a particular favourite. I did think however that much of the humour was forced, but as always, it's a personal thing. It certainly tried to maintain a tongue in cheek style throughout, and didn't miss the mark by much.

Voice acting is fine, especially when you consider some of the creatures involved, and whilst the music score is somewhat loopy and occasionally cheesy, it also has some fine moments. Despite some plot holes, I thought the resolution was quite strong, and left the game prepared to come back if the hinted return sees the light of day.

What else? Hotspots can be elusive at times, but that could have been my impatience as much as anything else. Saves are apparently unlimited and a tutorial at the start will assist the most novice of game players and alleviate any need for a manual. Squeamish players might squirm here and there, but I would have preferred the horror feel to have been ramped up a bit; the balance for me wasn't quite right.

In the end, my experience with Ghost in the Sheet was one of lots of little things just taking the edge off a very promising product. Still fun though, and not at all like other things, which in itself makes it worthy of support. rating:  

Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2008. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Windows 98SE/2000/XP/Vista, 1.4Ghz CPU, 512MB RAM, CD-ROM Drive, 300MB hard disk space, DirectX 8.0+ compatible graphics and sound cards, keyboard, mouse