iPad Game Review: Ghost Stories for iPad Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Ghost Stories is an iPad port of the board game. In it, you, and possibly a friend, take the role of Taoist monks working together to rid a village of the evil Wu Feng and his not so merry band of invading malevolent spirits. The gameplay is dice and card based, making the iPad the preferred version for those of us who don't want to play this game sitting at a table or who don't like to keep track of individual game pieces and/or game scoring.
To win Ghost Stories, players must exorcise the incarnation of Wu Feng before the last ghost of the draw pile enters play. Sound simple? It's not. So far, I've played this game at least 10 times on "easy" and haven't won a single game. This isn't to say that I haven't had fun, however. Especially when played with another human, this game is hugely enjoyable; whether or not you win. There is a highly detailed help section (32 pages!) to get you started. I recommend you read it at least twice before diving in. In addition, tapping the magnifying glass will allow you to get information about every icon and tile on the game board. When used in conjunction, it is possible to learn this game on your own, although expect a steep learning curve.
What makes this board game unique is the intricate set of rules that not only allow players to work cooperatively, but requires it. In fact, the rules are so well constructed that the game does not utilize a traditional AI. Instead, the designers needed only to program the rules in order to make the gameplay on an iPad identical to that of the actual board game. Yes, this means that you can play the boardgame entirely by yourself.
The board is made up of a 3 x 3 grid of cards, which can be arranged before the start of the game. Each of these cards represents a different part of the village, and they all have unique properties. As gameplay progresses, you will encounter Haunter ghosts, which will attempt to reach the game board. If they succeed, they will flip a village tile. Three flips and you?re dead. The other type of ghost is called a Tormenter, which nicely lives up to its name by making the game more difficult. To defeat these ghosts, monks must move to an adjacent tile and attack it by rolling dice, playing Tao tokens, and using village and monk special abilities. Again, this is not as easy as it sounds. Winning the game requires the defeat of Wu Feng. He is an especially difficult boss ghost who must be exorcised before the last regular ghost card comes into play. Succeeding at this will result in a very unusual occurrence: winning the game. At first, the rarity of this event irked me. I found myself wanting the easy setting to be even easier so I could achieve some early success. Ultimately, I backed away from that position after playing a game of Klondike (solitaire); another card game that is notoriously hard to win, yet keeps pulling me back in.
Although the on-screen help and the built-in manual make learning this game possible, it begs for an actual scripted tutorial. Lastly, Ghost Stories could benefit greatly from Game Center integration and online play, which would elevate it to the status of instant classic.
Ghost Stories sports high resolution reproductions of the game cards and tokens. While the animation is minimal, it doesn?t leave you with the feeling that corners were cut. This is, after all, an adaptation of a board game and as such can get away with graphics that, while not flashy, are crisp, clean, and functional.
Ghost Stories has no music of its own, nor does it allow you to access your music library; in fact, launching the game with music playing results in it being quickly muted. The sound effects are excellent, however, adding nicely to the moody, dread filled atmosphere (I meant that as a compliment).
Ghost Stories is a rewarding game, but a difficult one. While you shouldn?t expect to learn it in a single session, it is well worth the effort. I found this game to be an excellent adaptation of a well-engineered board game, and especially fun when played with a friend. Be forewarned; expect to lose often and badly before you are finally able to wrap your brain around it. When you do, however, I would appreciate any advice you can muster.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - Crisp, clear, and beautifully drawn cards and tiles. Sound: - 3 - Great sound effects but no music (not even your own). Controls: - 5 - Accurate and intuitive interface. Gameplay: - 5 - A super complex boardgame that rewards those that persevere with a gaming experience like no other.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Treat each game as a puzzle. Figure out the correct sequence to tackle the ghosts and your chances of winning will go up considerably. Try not to rely on luck to successfully exorcise ghosts. The proper use of village tiles to accumulate Qi and Tao tokens is key here. Each monk has a completely different set of powers so don?t just go with your favorite color!