Since revisiting The 7th Guest for our GameBlast21 marathon stream, I’ve been on a bit of a full-motion video (FMV) binge. I know the genre still has plenty of critics but modern releases can be far different from those published in the 1990s.
It’s not all fuzzy video, cheesy lines and hammed-up acting nowadays (although you can still find that kind of stuff if it’s what floats your boat). For example, Contradiction: Spot the Liar! is a great detective mystery where it’s up to you to gather clues and track down the murderer; and The Madness of Doctor Dekker is an excellent atmospheric thriller played via text-parser. Then there’s The Dark Side of the Moon, one of my favourite recent titles thanks to its lovely cast and science-fiction storyline.
Sadly, it’s going to be rather difficult for horror FMVs to shake off their bad reputation. Let’s face it: older releases such as Night Trap and Harvester, which I found to be a confusing and cringeworthy mess when I played it back in October, are known for being schlocky and gratuitous with plenty of fake blood. This notoriety automatically tarnishes current titles which attempt to do scary FMV in the right way and they have to work that much harder to get the positive attention they deserve.
Perhaps GHOSTS will be able to do something to change this though. After Kevin from The Lawful Geek sent me an email earlier this week to let me know about the project, I’m now a backer for the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being written and directed by Jed Shephard in partnership with Visible Games and Limited Run Games, and they’re promising to create ‘a horror experience that aims to truly chill your blood and send FMV games screaming into the modern day’.
Players step into the role of a television producer who operates the outside broadcast van for a failing cable channel called FrighTV and it’s up to you to make their latest show a hit. GHOSTS previously had millions of viewers glued to their screens as a group of ghost-hunters explored haunted locations around the UK – but it was dropped as it became less popular and languished on freeview for several years. That was until it was snapped up by your channel and rebranded for relaunch in 2022.
As your team look around the most haunted place in London, it’s not only their safety you need to worry about. There are noises coming from all around the van, strange neighbours and a weird urban legend about The Long Lady. Sightings of this spirit have chilled the bones of residents for decades and she is said to appear looking through the windows of the houses on the street during times of tragedy. The rumour is that if you look directly at her face, you die…
You’re in charge of what’s shown to the viewers at home and you’ll have to think on your feet as you react to every moment to keep things interesting during the live show. You’ll be able to see all the feeds streaming from cameras around the location as well as heart-rate monitors observing each of the cast. You decide what gets broadcast and your choices can affect the future of the show, as well as perhaps the safety of the team; luckily, you’ll have a few tricks up your sleeve to help you ‘spice up’ the night and keep it entertaining.
The description on the Kickstarter page reminds me somewhat of Not For Broadcast gameplay-wise, a title where you take over the national news and control what’s reported about a radical government. In GHOSTS though, you’ll also have access to various documents, videos and audio files which have been collected by the local community over the years. Can you decipher them to help understand what’s going on, and discover something which will stop the horrifying events from unfolding?
Not too much is given away in the promotional trailer but there’s a nice scene at the end which could give us an idea of the jump-scares to come. The five members of the cast are introduced here and all have an impressive array of acting experience. Regular visitors to the blog will already be aware that I’m a total coward when it comes to anything scary so I know what they’re thinking right now: why on earth would I become a back for a horror game that looks pretty frightening?
Well, there are two reasons other than it being an FMV. The first is that the real-time version of the game is only playable at 22:00 in your local time-zone so everyone playing in your area will be doing so at the same time. You’ll see a classic test card if you load before then but if you can crack its puzzle, you’ll get access to a version where you can save your progress. There are consequences for all your choices though and the Kickstarter campaign warns that playing it safe isn’t always the best option.
Later Levels (@LaterLevels) April 08, 2021
The second reason is that, if you decide to leave your station at any point during your playthrough, the game will register your lack of movement and end your session. And you can probably guess what that means for your team: desertion of duty will result in the cast being killed off in a variety of gruesome ways. You’re responsible for their wellbeing along with the future of the GHOSTS show so take a bathroom break, grab plenty of snacks, turn off the lights and get comfortable.
Almost 25% of the project’s £165,000 goal has been raised at the time of writing and there’s still just under a month to go before the deadline of 07 May 2021. I think it’s safe to say that when GHOSTS is released in February 2022, we’ll be streaming it using our night camera – but my other-half will be on the controls while I hide behind a cushion. I’m not good with the horror genre at the best of times, let alone when FMV makes it look as though it’s real people being haunted…