Geist Reader Review
Geist is a game with a huge identity crisis. This is something you can't help but feel after playing through N-Space's adventure, a game haunted by damaging flaws to gameplay. This is ultimately a massive shame because beneath the muddle of genres and general lack of polish, there are some original ideas that could have amounted to something special.
The unique selling point of Geist is the much touted ability to possess people, animals and inanimate objects in order to further your progress. The game opens with the player in the shoes of John Raimi, a member of a counter-terrorism group investigating a French laboratory suspected of manufacturing a biological/chemical threat. Naturally, the mission goes wrong and you're captured by the lab's owners (the Volks Corporation) who decide that Raimi is a perfect subject for their dark experiments. Strapped into their machine, you are soon ripped from your body and left to exist as a spirit. All is not lost however and you escape which is where the real game begins.
This is where possession comes into play. After a short tutorial section in possessing objects, you begin to explore the Volks facility with the intentions of recovering your body and finding out just what they are up to. However, it seems a ghost can't pass through closed/locked doors (?) so you will need a human host who can. Humans (and animals) can only be possessed when they have been spooked enough to let their guard down as indicated by the colour of the aura surrounding them. get it glowing red and their body is yours for the taking but the process requires Raimi to possess objects such as bins, computer terminals and machinery - anything that can be used to scare the unsuspecting victim into the red zone (a piece of machinery can be blown up for instance or the paper in a bin made to suddenly burst into flames). It's usually a multi-stage process with several objects needing possessing and using as scare weapons before the target caves and succumbs to their fear.
It sounds original and really fun and at first it is. The first few possessions are magical and you'll be hard pressed not to smile at the results of your ghostly antics. Unfortunately, this is also Geist's major downfall as it quickly becomes apparent how restrictive the freedom in the way of possessing objects actually is; you are forced to possess certain objects in a certain sequence and it all boils down to to simply working out which objects they are and what order they need to be used in. This allows the fun to rapidly drain away, revealing an extremely linear experience intent on pushing the player down pre-determined routes. A little more freedom would have been nice with a wider range of possessable objects and a choice of how to use them which would have allowed for multiple ways in which to complete an objective. It certainly would have lent the game some much needed replay value of which Geist possess next to none at all.
Then there's the aforementioned identity crisis; is it an FPS? An adventure? A survival horror? It seems that even N-Space doesn't know because there are elements of all three squashed together in there. Possess a host with a firearm and the game becomes an FPS which is how it will be for around 75 percent of the time. Sadly, the action is dreadful; weapons are restricted to only what the host was carrying and ammo is unlimited removing any sort of strategic approach. Not that you'd need to think tactically though as the AI seems content with running headlong into hails of bullets or 'taking cover' behind crates that only shield their legs. These sections become boring very quickly and fail to help the game stand out at all in the FPS crowd. Later areas of the game have you wondering around an eerie, deserted mansion and solving puzzles involving light beams and rotating statues in order to open doors. It's a massive change of pace from the FPS sections and more than reminiscent of Resident Evil's convoluted door opening puzzles and setting. There's even a mini stealth section where - while possessing a dog - you must avoid the guards in a room and reach the other end. The overall result of this blend of genres is a piece of software that doesn't know what it wants to be and is hard to categorise.
Gameplay issues aside, there are other noticeable criticisms that re impossible to ignore. Bosses for instance are mostly repeated throughout, looking very similar, having similar attacks and a common weakness - their mouth. Graphics are a mixed bunch with environments looking pretty good from a distance perspective but also bland, un-interesting and forgettable. Character models are nothing special either, generic and instantly forgettable with badly rendered facial features that contrast sharply with the admittedly decent environments. Predictably, N-Space also included plenty of busty women as if to compensate for Geist's shortcomings; women - whether in secretarial outfits, lab coats or military gear - all have huge breasts. You can even possess a similarly equipped female garbed in just a small shower towel at one point. Well done N-Space. Or not.
From the mostly negative tone of this review, you'd assume that Geist is a total failure but that isn't completely true. There are many original and humorous instances (the first boss for example requires you to possess his grenade, roll it back at him and detonate it in his face) that break up the dull moments and the prospect of stumbling across another that'll raise a slight smile is just enough to keep you plodding on to the game's conclusion. The problem is that there aren't enough of these moments and you'll all too often find yourself wondering "Why didn't they make it like this?" or "Wouldn't it have been cool if I could have done that?". This and the overall lack of polish marks Geist down as a confused and distinctly average effort that will be quickly dismissed and forgotten by most while being fondly remembered by others for its ideas and what could have been.
6 / 10