(“Have you…” is/will be a recurring series where I talk about underrated, less known or outright obscure games, films and comics.)
It’s almost Halloween, and although over here we don’t really celebrate it like in the US, nevertheless I felt like coming up with some spooky topic. And what is more spooky than horrible, horrible voice acting? Oh… and also creepy clowns…
Today I introduce: Gast – an odd little Swedish gem(?) from 2002.
So after last week’s 3000 word long beast, I wanted to write something a bit more short and sweet. It’s Halloween season, so I thought about writing something with that in mind. But I don’t really like the traditional horror stuff around this time, I enjoy the more campy type of spooks.
Then I remembered playing this weird little game called Gist or Gast or something… I remember it was a bit scary and I thought I cover it, since it also had a clown in it, and there are these creepy clown cases that are popping up recently, so I guess it’s topical as well.
But looking back on it… well… it is scary if you are a kid like I was. As an adult it’s going to make you laugh more than anything.
Gast: The Greatest Little Ghost (English title) – or just Gast – is a Swedish game made by Idol FX AB in 2002, and published by Mindscape SA (who I’m guessing is an European subsidiary of Mindscape Interactive Inc.? It’s hard to find correct information about them.)
Did they made anything noteworthy? Well not really… they also made Nosferatu: The Wrath of Malachi which is also a less known but infamous “so bad it’s good” FPS horror game. (Jim Sterling did a brief and short showcase of it). And 3 more games not really worth mentioning. Yet here I am talking about one, but it’s their first published game, so it deserves a chance.
It’s a point-and-click (well mostly) horror game, but horror in the same vein as Tim Burton, and most likely heavily influenced by his work.
The story itself is simple: The evil clown Beleseblob (See what they did there? Because he is fat!), along with his monstrous henchmen, has stopped the magical clock of the amusement park making it dark and abandoned. You control Gast the little ghost, the caretaker of the park, who is set out to stop the clown, vanquish the nightmares, and bring back the life and joy to the amusement park.
This, of course, raises many questions: Who is this clown? Where did he come from? Why is he evil? Why is an amusement park operated by a magical clock? Why does it only have a rollercoaster, haunted mansion, and a merry-go-round? Why is a (childlike) ghost the caretaker? Why is he constantly get scared by stuff, when they can’t really “hurt him” in the traditional sense? And so on…
But anyway… you control Gast by holding down the mouse button in the direction you want him to move (I keep referring to Gast as him, but she could be a girl I guess. Just some ghost sporting the traditional reaper robes with Burton-esque eyes.) and you have to solve puzzles to collect soul stars and unlock the final rollercoaster. You ride it, face Beleseblob, and you need to defeat him to finish the game.
The backgrounds are pre-rendered 3D á la Myst, though they are pretty dark. Too dark, in fact. On some maps you can barely see anything. And the tree branches covering the path (and your view) is certainly not helping. This sometimes makes it a bit more difficult to navigating the many areas (or maps) of the game, especially outdoors – though there are some signposts to help you out.
But when it works it is pretty nice to look at and gives off that spooky, “Halloweeny” vibe – even if it’s a bit dated at this point.
I also have to mention the scare-o-meter. You don’t have a life bar in this game, but you do get scared by the clown’s monster henchmen and random environmental traps. Now these are not scarier then that one Garfield Flash game (and blatant advertisement) that a lot of us played as kids, but there are some cheap jump scares in the form of cutscenes. Of course they are pretty bad but they are accompanied by scary sound effects (in 2002’s standards anyway) and combined with the creepy, looping music, this game is not exactly for small children.
Oh, did I mention this game was rated age 3+?! Cruel parents take some notes.
So yeah, you can actually lose in a point & click game. Well that is a rare sight ever since the “golden age” of the genre ended. Though you can counteract some of these scare-points by collecting the stars or finding consumables.
The henchmen in this game are otherwise pretty bad at their job. After scaring you they suddenly break down to begging, asking you to do them favors.
But the voice acting… Oh dear Dog, the voice acting! Just listen to some of it!
My best guess is that the publisher thought “Hey, this is a kid’s game” and didn’t give a sh*t about it, but still… I’m not sure if the original Swedish is any better.
One of the annoying thing – apart from the clunky controls – is the inventory. Unlike in almost every other point & click game, here – for some reason – you only have 6 slots available at any time (excluding the soul stars which are collected separately).
On the positive side: you do have multiple solutions to some puzzles, which is pretty good and definitely the better aspect of this game – though I’m not sure if you can ever get trapped, hopefully not. I still remember being stuck and I think I needed to look up a walkthrough. But in my defense: I didn’t understand English very well back then, I mean the enemies pretty clearly say what they want out loud. It’s like they almost solve the puzzles themselves.
What is interesting that you can be outright cruel in this game. If a henchmen follows you, you can sometimes lead it to another hungry one and they kill it! In a kid’s game! I mean they were “evil” and it is a way to solve their puzzle, but jeez…
And there is also a guillotine in there somewhere, where you can also lead some henchmen that you helped and they follow you around. Great message to kids: Earn someone’s trust, redeem them, and then lead them to their doom!
Some comments about the game suggests that you can collect a large number of soul stars (50+), but you only need a small fraction of it. You only use 3 to unlock the final rollercoaster ride, so you could actually can get in really early, but you should keep on collecting a few more (A dozen or two). Because… you get a surprise arcade section.
Why is there an arcade section in a point & click game, when there was no indication before or any other puzzle like it? Who cares, it’s a kid’s game, and kids are dumb anyway, they’ll eat it up.
I mean I don’t mind, It’s not a hard section – even though I did fail on it as a kid – seems quite easy by today’s standards (Dodge incoming obstacles left or right), and require two parts pattern recognition and one part reflexes. But why is it in the game is the puzzling part, when there were no signs of it beforehand. Maybe they wanted to pad out the game’s length? It’s a bit questionable nonetheless.
Anyway, you use your stars as your hit points, so that is why you should collect more than the required 3 to enter. (And supposedly it becomes harder the more scared Gast is.)
After that there is another arcade section: A shooting gallery with the Beleseblob. Again, using your soul stars, but as ammunition this time and you will need a few shots.
If you lose here (or the previous section) you get a losing cutscene where he takes over the park and you just cry about it in the woods.
But… He goes down fast and you probably get the good ending where the kids are running towards the restored green park and Gast is happily riding the merry-go-round. I guess the kids are happy to, but their laughter sounds quite creepy and sinister regardless. Probably because there is nothing to do in that park.
You can finish this game pretty fast by the way. The playthrough I linked above did it in like half an hour.
Overall, what can I say about Gast? Despite it’s obvious flaws, it’s charming.
Clunky, weird, sometimes a bit cruel, and didn’t age well at all. But it’s not as bad as other infamous “so bad it’s good” games. It’s average, but playable, and has quite a few cutscenes. The Tim Burton like atmosphere is pretty neat, even if it’s pretty obvious.
If you want a short little Halloween adventure/spook I recommend checking it out… that is if you find it anywhere on the web, because I doubt that you can find it in retail anymore. Just keep the scary clown and the jump scares in mind if you play it with young kids.
Some sources that helped me remember this game: