Picked this up at the weekend and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Some nice 'possession/controlling' ideas brought to the FPS table. If I had to give it a jazzy one liner I'd say it was a cross between Half Life and Project Zero with some Ghost Master thrown in for good measure. It's got a solid story line, if it is a little clichéd with the setting ripped from Half Life. It gently presents the key skill of possession to you in a very palatable way. First you get to taste the action as the run of the mill scientist/hero, then you experience the story just after you've been shot. In your ethereal ghostly form, you are placed in a dream like fantasy world (a scarey Tellytubbies style place) and then are tutored on taking over living creatures. So you get to run around and jump about as a rabbit. Your then convincingly ripped apart and brought back into your life trapped in the mad scientist laboratory complex, only this time you're a true spook, complete with ghostly girl child mentor for the first few tasks at hand. All very well done, all suitably mood setting for the game.
A bestial takeover
The real sparkle this game has to offer though is the way it presents puzzle solving situations to you and you have to use your skills to possess inanimate objects (such as litter bins, doggie bowls, paint cans, pressure valves, explosive cases, spotlights and even shower heads) and use them to scare people or creatures into a state ready so that you can take over their body and skill. As a spirit you’re trapped by doors and such like, so each room can present an escape puzzle to you, so that you have to figure out who and how to scare someone so you can use them to move on. You can take on the form of anyone you can scare enough to make their aura turn a red colour. Some of the nicest touches are when you can take on the form of a dog, mouse or bat for instance and you get a world eye view from that animals perspectives. Very convincing, when you scuttle down a mouse hole squeaking your way along. Dogs can scare other creatures just by barking, mice are good at those tiny hole situations (although they have trouble getting up past a small step), bats are good at flying high and far, as well as having the scare factor when flapping about someone’s head. These different modes of FPS really add to the uniqueness of the game.
You also get to satiate your gun lust because you can possess some fairly beefy guards and start a killing spree. Some sections require it. You also come across boss sections, which require a bit of trial and error to take them down. One of the bosses, for example, wields a decent bullet-proof shield and will toss nasty grenades at you (as a gun toting guard). You'll quickly work out that just laying into him with your SMG isn't going to get you very far. Then suddenly a stray shot, makes him drop the grenade, its not been set. A quick dispossess and your wraith form (which zips about speedily in a slowmo/bullet-time style world) can possess the grenade, roll it near the boss and then detonate it, taking a nice chunk of health off him. A quick ethereal flit back to the guards scared body and bingo you’re back in the action guns blazing.
Another nice feature is that when you possess key people, you get to experience black and white flashbacks from their perspective, which helps unfold the story to you. Extremely well done, multi-perspective "Rashomon style". All in all, the game makes an effort to take you a step away from the norm of the FPS game and use the possessing skill as an important part of the progression. Something inherently more satisfying about possessing a ceiling mounted gun turret and shredding the defensively placed troops, rather than running the usual gauntlet with a single guard "rambo style". I dunno, perhaps its killing with a little more finesse? Nice blend of action and problem solving, with a little more than just key collecting. There are forced paths through the game that utilise the wraiths ability to slip through highlighted cracks in pipes and walls - I'd welcome these if they didn't just take you to a generic blank white loading screen as a transition. With all the camera blur and distortion effects used in the animal forms to emphasis the change of perspective, I wish they'd done a proper slip transition when being squeezed down a pipe etc. Another forced path mechanism that is employed is where the subject who you've possessed was so frightened by something/someone that they cannot approach that source of anxiety at all, even when under your control. The poses see has a panic attack!
Geist is a game that has some unique character/animal possession mechanics woven into the FPS gameplay, although I've only given it but a few hours I think I have more than a ghost of a chance of seeing it through to the end.
8 / 10