Ahead the door of Hobbs Manor looms, dark and ominous. Move a little closer, if you dare. That doorbell beckons. Go on, press it.
Your host, Dr Marcus Grimalkin (Christopher Lee), will graciously welcome you to his home, invite you to examine the evidence he has collected over the years, and ask you to make up your own mind whether ghosts exist or not.
After informing you that you can call on the help of five experts in the field of ghost detection, (Tony Cornell, specialist in the paranormal, Dr Susan Blackmore with her doctorate in parapsychology, Robin Furman, ghostbuster and psychologist, Father John Nuttall, Catholic Priest and exorcist and Maurice Grosse who chairs a committee on spontaneous phenomena), and delivering a warning that you 'may not like all that you see', Dr Grimalkin conveniently disappears. You are then left to your own devices to explore Hobbs Manor with the good doctor returning only intermittently to enlighten you on your discoveries.
Here is where Ghosts is quite different to other multimedia products. There are no swishing menus or word search facilities to help you on your way, you are truly on your own. You wander around Hobbs Manor at your leisure (or should that be at your peril?) to hear, see and read all sorts of weird and wonderful stories. It's much like playing a game, The 7th Guest springs immediately to mind. You really are 'there' looking around and interacting with the program, and there are a few surprises in store if you peer into strange looking bottles, cupboards, or kitchen wash tubs. Even the walls may not be what they seem.
Have a look at that skull on the mantelpiece and the story of the cruel Duke and his fatal decision will be played out before your eyes, or select a seemingly ordinary photograph for other ghostly stories. The glove on the bed has a macabre history if you care to hear about it. You will also find a glossary with definitions of everything from 'apparition' to 'ouija board' to 'vampire' and, there is the Book of Hauntings with both text and pictures covering all those old English ghost stories set in eerie castles and graveyards. And in Hobbs Manor there are a few places that are not so easy to find, you will need to locate them by picking up clues before they'll reveal their secrets.
It's quite a novel idea, this way of searching out your own information, although I imagine that there will be some who will miss the traditional menu system. The exploration component of this title, however, adds to the atmosphere along with the creaking of old wooden doors as they open, and the 'thunk' of them closing behind you. It's intriguing, and the simple puzzles add to the experience. You will find the advice of the experts interesting too. Their portraits are scattered liberally about the house just waiting for you to click on them to ask their opinions on such questions as: What are ghosts? What do they look like? Of course the sceptics amongst them will give you quite different answers to the believers.
I thought this was an entertaining title, ideal for anyone who is intrigued by the supernatural. One word of advice though. Make sure your screen saver is not set to take over every few minutes or you may be watching the Canterbury Ghost on the prowl only to be jolted back to reality by flying toasters or whatever.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 1995.
All rights reserved.