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iOS Review: Ghost Stories

Brad Cummings
United States
Connecticut
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From gallery of thequietpunk
The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad.
Current Price: $5.99
Developer/Publisher: Repos Productions
Version: 1.0
Size: 48.1 MB
Multiplayer: Pass and Play.
AI: No.
Itunes link:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ghost-stories-the-boardgame/i...
 
 


The Good:
- Beautiful graphic design.
- Decent information management considering the complex rule system.
The Bad:
- Limited to two players.
- In need of a few minor updates and features.
 
From gallery of thequietpunk
Gameplay:
Ghost Stories is one of the more popular of the modern co-op games. It is famous for its quality art and dismally low win percentage. Its entrance into the iOS market is unique and exciting.

Ghost Stories is a pure co-op game where 1-4 (only up to 2 in this version) players take the role of Taoists attempting to protect a village as an army of ghosts led Wu-feng attack. The game continues until Wu-feng appears and the players exorcise him, if they do this, they win. However, the players can lose by many means: if all of the players die, if 3 village tiles are haunted (flipped over by ghost abilities), and several other methods. To aid the players in exorcising the ghosts they each have special abilities as well as tokens to help in dice rolls. The ghosts have abilities as well which can hurt the taoists and their efforts. It is one of the more complex cooperative games and a more thorough explanation can be found here on Board Game Geek. Players must use all of the tools at their disposal to turn the odds in their favor and come out victorious.

Ghost Stories is a challenging co-op game and works well as both a solo and multiplayer experience. Despite all the plethora of games available on iOS, to my knowledge, Ghost Stories is the first co-op available.
 
Implementation:
Admittedly I have been anticipating Ghost Stories as an app for almost a year. It is a co-op game I have enjoyed playing in game groups but could never bring myself to purchase as I feared it would not get use in my personal gaming collection. Despite my personal hype, Ghost Stories does present the co-op genre to the iOS in an impressive and quality way.

Ghost Stories has been lauded for its excellent artwork by many in the years since its release. It is great to see that the same quality artwork has been transmitted to the iOS version. From the opening screen to the victory screen (or more often the defeat screen) the app is decorated with bright high quality images of the physical game art. One of the biggest challenges facing the designers of this app had to be the information management. There are many counters, chits and statuses to depict in Ghost Stories. It is far from perfect but it appears the design team was able to present all the information in a usable form in spite the relatively small screen real-estate on the ipad. This is in part due to the fact that the game Ghost Stories itself uses a lot of symbology. Luckily, the game comes with a help function that will explain the meaning of almost any symbol while staying in the game. There are even added functions like a deck counter and a side bar that explains every option you have available at a certain time. This said, things are small and, in my opinion, this rules out almost any chance of an iPhone version.

From gallery of thequietpunk
The interface of Ghost Stories is one of its most crucial elements. Yes, it looks pretty and the core game mechanics or solid, but if the method of control is faulty it will not succeed. As stated above there is a lot to take in to consideration and control in Ghost Stories, and it appears that Repos has managed to present everything is a useful fashion. To start, the menus are clear and easy to navigate. There are options to start a new game or resume previous game and there is also an in game leader board. While the game does not include an interactive tutorial, there is a set of written rules with image examples. There is also a magnifying glass icon that will explain anything featured in the game. However, an interactive tutorial is very needed, without previous experience with the game it could be challenging to pick up the rules, but not impossible. The in game interface is fairly well designed. There are many positive features such as a back button (that works in all situations except after dice rolls) and an excellent side bar that tells you exactly what options you have at any phase of the round. When starting a new game the board will be automatically randomized with tile positions and character abilities, but the active player board you choose will not always be placed in the logical position (the lower side of the device) but this can be easily moved and kind of gives the virtually feeling of setting up the board. In-game everything you can interact with is highlighted and marked so you can quickly see your options. Honestly, despite the unavoidable clutter of the design there is still a great amount of ease in the interface.

Ghost Stories currently has some limitations. First of all the game has limited player options allowing play with only one or two players (this has been reported to be improved in a coming update). Also there is no online functionality of yet, though I personal feel this would open a new can of worms as a solution would have to found for players to communicate with each other as the game requires almost perfect cooperation. However, if the option were present it would be something worth experimenting with. The pass and play features of Ghost Stories make it good for playing certain situations where playing the physical game would be impossible such as traveling. You can even arrange the player boards in such a way that players can set the device between them to play, though the side bar prompt information does not rotate to face the second player. I think the most important elements of Ghost Stories is its solo play. The game allows you to play with one or two Taoists and challenge the game solo. The unforgiving difficulty and end game scoring system create a desire to replay. It really works wells for commuting and because Ghost Stories can be played solo in its physical form you are getting the full experience in app form.

There are a few minor improvements that could polish the game even further such as removing the frame rate counter from the lower left corner and clarifying or fixing some of the end game statistics (it currently seems to count all ghosts you have ever exorcised). There are also a few needed features that could be added including an interactive tutorial as well as a randomizing button for game set up, as currently you have to go back to the main menu and start another new game to get a new random set up. All in all the game provides a solid experience, but as with many apps it could use a little more polish.

Conclusion:
I want to and do like Ghost Stories. It is an app that manages to distill a very complicated game into a manageable form. The game is still very challenging and makes for a great solo or 2 player experience. It will improve as new features and updates are released but if you are a fan of difficult co-op games, I suggest you pick this up now.
 
Rating: 3/4 Good
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Subscribe sub options Mon Aug 1, 2011 2:00 pm
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