Back in 200X, my mom was obsessed with a game. That game haunted me…not because I was so bad at it, but because my mother was so good at it. That game was Peggle. Ghost Cleaners reminds me of Peggle in many ways. Most importantly, those reasons do not include an obsessive middle-aged woman who forgot how to make lasagne properly when she married a man from Iowa.
Ghost Cleaner, on on the Steam Store for a mere pittance of $5.79, is a haunted house-themed puzzle game about using physics to your advantage and trying not to put your fist through your screen.
It is a refreshingly modern looking game, though it does smack of Flash graphics. Games in the sub-$10 category tend to take the retro and nostalgic but quite cheap 8-bit graphics route. Not Ghost Cleaner. It is high res, with crisp sound effects, non-obtrusive background music, and smart controls. How smart are the controls? One button, that’s how smart. Occam’s Razor is the best razor, that’s what I say.
The rules are simplistic. You are a child of some sort who has run away from home after a high school science experiment has materialized uncounted millions of specters, and it is your job to clean up the mess. See, I like games that have a message: do your homework, and your chores.
Like Peggle, your avatar in the actual play space takes the form of a weird drone with a gun on it, and you aim around the screen to shoot at either blue or purple objects (bricks, balls, paddle-shaped things, etc).
Also, the levels have great variety. They each offer their own unique challenge that extends beyond what angle you must fire your pinball (or whatever the hell it is you fire out of that drone cannon). Take the following image.
The bricks are all arranged in a pinwheel, with a central rotation point. You figure out where you want to place your ghost ball and…
What the hell are you going to do with THAT mess? And what about the next level?
Absolute madness. That madness, however, is the charm of this game- the levels change so many times during play that it consistently renews itself, despite the compulsory storyline, delivered in comic-book style after every ten stages.
Despite being the heir apparent to Peggle, it continues to distinguish itself as you play. The whole point is to eliminate all of the purple objects. Yeah, it’s another one of those games. You have to smash a certain color thing, only you can’t- you are ALWAYS hitting the wrong block, you run out of shots, and then it’s time to buy a new laptop because this one has a fist in it!
BUT!! To beat the level, you needn’t hit them all with your shots- you can merely knock them into oblivion. See, the purple balls are often connected to the other ones- or each other, and can be pushed around, or broken off in a string and dropped off the screen. If they fall off the screen, you may not get the point bonus, but baby, those bricks are cleared!
Once you come to the realization that you may be better off cutting the serpent’s tail off instead of its head, the game completely changes…and you become truly free.
See, I mentioned putting my fist through my screen earlier. I’m done with that noise now. I’m past the violence. I’ve found that now that I do not have to actually destroy the purple blocks with a shot, that I have gone through myriad changes both in mind, body, and spirit.
My blood pressure is lower. I smile more. I laugh. I laugh again! I’m laughing right now! Ha! I love children now. I talk to people on the street instead of displaying open hostility. I leave tips at Starbucks instead of snarky Yelp reviews. I mind the gap.
I pet a puppy the other day. In public! I baked a cake from scratch.
See, life isn’t about mindless completionism. It isn’t about meticulous details and forcing yourself to do things without joy. Life isn’t about the “no”! Life is about the YES!
Ghost Cleaner is a light-hearted casual puzzle game that offers a refreshing twist on the pointy-shooty brick-breaker. It offers enough variety in level design, mechanics, and physics play to give great bang for the buck. Just don’t tell your mom.