Memories of dressing up in a costume, and going out trick or treating on Halloween night are some of the fondest I have from when I was a kid. Going door to door, greeting your neighbors, and getting bags upon bags of candy really brought us all together and gave us a real sense of community. However, there was always that one house that every kid avoided. There were rumors of course, but no one ever really knew why. Well, other than it looking like a house straight out of a horror movie that is. And in Sunshine Manor from Fossil Games, that house is well… the Sunshine Manor.
After working up the nerve to scout this spooky villa during a lucrative Halloween night, Ada and her friends cross the threshold, only for her companions to be spirited away by a dark and menacing entity! Now Ada must explore this dilapidated mansion in search of her missing mates, all the while helping the resident spirits resolve their woes, and uncovering the dark mysteries of Sunshine Manor.
Horror is one of my favorite genres, but a branch within that genre that hasn’t been quite as thoroughly explored as the rest, are those in the 2D realm. I’ve played many that have blown my mind with their atmosphere and storytelling, which isn’t exactly the easiest thing to execute when you think of pixels and sprites. That said, time and time again, the talented indie devs of the world keep usurping my expectations.
So, when Sunshine Manor stumbled onto my radar, with its bold retro inspired visuals, my pixel-senses started tingling. That and it seemed to have just the right amount of spooky themes, plus a fun set of exploration based mechanics, to whet my appetite for the impending Halloween weekend!
Going into Sunshine Manor, I was a bit hesitant due to it being touted as an RPG. Not that a good horror RPG wouldn’t be fun, but in a lot of ways a horror game is much more at home as a concise and atmospheric experience, instead of a longer drawn out adventure with turn based battles and walls of text. Much to my surprise, and pleasure however, it turned out that Sunshine Manor was much more of an exploration based adventure game, with a hint of action.
Like many horror games that came before it, you’ll find yourself exploring the environment, trying to find various items to satisfy an objective in order to progress, and at the end of each new area, you’ll encounter a boss. All of which I very much enjoyed. What made it stand out from other horror games like it however, was that instead of constantly being stalked by an ever present evil, you’re instead trying to help each of the resident ghosts by diving into their purgatorial worlds, and expunging the evil that’s holding them there. And that’s where you’ll encounter most of the enemies, and of course each of the bosses.
What I liked most about this setup was that each new world you entered was completely distinct from the last, with its own visual style, enemies, and obstacles. Ranging from a gorey meat factory, to a slimy sewer. All with a very pleasing 8bit aesthetic that reminded me of early 2D PC games like Maniac Mansion. From a gameplay perspective, Sunshine Manor is relatively simple. You only have one attack that’s on a slow recharge timer, and very straightforward objectives where the only thing expected of you is to wander around until you run across the item you need. Outside of the one puzzle that required me to spell a name near the end of the game, it didn’t take much effort to get through. Not that that’s a bad thing of course, in fact, it never felt like the game needed to be anything more than that.
Although as a whole, Sunshine Manor was satisfying to play and never felt like it needed to be more than it was, I do think that it could have used more complexity. Maybe more thoughtful puzzles, or a few different abilities to mix up the boss and enemy encounters. One of the best parts of the game was when you could explore the sewers within the plumber ghost’s world, in a little submarine. It had unique physics, and obstacles to avoid, and eventually you get the ability to attack similar to how you would in a shoot ’em up. More things like that would only enhance the experience in my mind! Tightening up the controls, speeding up the action a bit, and squashing some of the minor bugs, like the game not automatically reloading after you die, would go a long way as well.
I really did appreciate how low key the game felt though. It was a short but sweet experience that left me satisfied when the credits started rolling. So in my humble opinion Fossil Games is doing it right and I hope to see more with their future games.
Without a doubt, if you’re looking for a short laid back experience for All Hallows Eve, that never asks too much of you, but still flirts with the lighter spookier side of horror, then I don’t think you can go wrong with Sunshine Manor!
If you’re interested in checking out Sunshine Manor for yourself, you can find it on Steam on October 28th. Just in time for Halloween!