Ghost in the Sheet
First posted on 27 March 2008. Last updated on 17 October 2013.
Shakespeare named it "the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns"; Sophocles called it "the greatest of evils". Death is a defining character of our culture and the inescapable finale of our existence: it is (almost) the only certainty in life. For ages, mankind has struggled to find meaning in the conclusion of life, often regarding it as just a transition between different planes of existence. The Afterlife, thought to be filled with the imagery of Heaven and Hell, is believed to be where the soul will travel to exalt or repent for deeds acted in the previous life.
Ghost in the Sheet, developed by CBE (Cardboard Box Entertainment), takes a droll peek at the condition of a condemned soul who must endure a sour hereafter. You play a nameless character who, after being ran over by a bus, has been transformed into an invisible ghost wrapped in a sheet as he passes through the white light at the end of the tunnel. To his surprise, he meets, on the other side, a hefty and ill-mannered creature who explains to him that the ghost catching society is dealing with serious problems of late in the hereafter and that he has been assigned to a mission to investigate. Apparently, many souls have been reported missing before reaching the end of the tunnel, so he must go to a factory to find out what is the reason behind their strange disappearance.
Initially planned only as a small, 6 screens long exercise of a game, Ghost in the Sheet is ultimately released as a fully developed standalone title. It is a game within the classic style of HyperCard adventures. The game is created by Czech artists Jan Kavan (writer, sound designer, and game director) and his partner Lukas Medek (writer, graphic designer). Their previous collaboration includes the game Destinies, which also showcases Kavan's talent as a writer and an accomplished musician as well as Medek's talent as a designer. After releasing an earlier build of Ghost in the Sheet for beta-testing, the design team was overwhelmed by the positive reactions of the gaming community and the media. The team eventually decided to abandon the freeware project and approach a publisher to secure a wider release.
In order to surpass your existence as a mere specter, you are granted the power of telekinesis which allows your spiritual character to interact with physical objects. The supernatural powers which you will learn work in perfect tune with the nature of the puzzles in the game, as some of them can only be solved with the able use of psychic abilities. Each of these powers is represented by a different, illustrative icon on screen. Ghost in the Sheet is essentially a puzzle game, where the progression of the narrative depends on your ingenuity to surpass these intricate challenges. Though well planned, some of these enigmas require extreme persistence in order to be solved. Between the empty rooms and interactive mechanisms, you will also relate with several other unusual characters and learn about their fears and motivations.
As it happens with most adventure games, spaces and objects are laid down such a way that you must scour through each area carefully in order to discern minor details that are essential to your quest. In this game, the visuals allow a clear definition of most objects, spaces, entrances, and exits. Even though all the locations are rendered in high resolution and with occasional animations, there is an accentuated feeling of tediousness arising from the deserted factory spaces that are nothing more than a cliché of cluttered offices, corridors, and large warehouses with long pipes and industrial machineries. The majority of the spaces are simply too homogeneous and uninteresting to explore. Even the choice to use an abandoned factory as the backdrop is highly questionable, as it does not seem to be very propitious to a story that concerns the metaphysical and supernatural realm.
The game has an engaging soundtrack composed by Kavan, ranging from burlesque style scores such as an accordion version of Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" to more gritty, suspenseful arrangements. The voice acting is surprisingly good, with a good range of uncommon voices, namely the deep, echoing voice of your ghostly character. The cut scenes, deliberately minimalistic, are composed of black and white sketches which, possibly to the visible amateurism of their composition, are indeed quite amusing to watch and go very well with the sharp script and whimsical dialogs. The diary is very well written and filled with curious remarks, as well as being a resourceful compendium of crucial clues that will help you with your quest to free the remaining ghosts and, ultimately, defeat the dreadful entity which have captured them.
Ghost in the Sheet is, admittedly, a small budget title. While a few questions can be raised about some less opportune design choices, it is uncommon to find such an amusing and complete work among small indie adventure game titles. However, it is also clearly visible that the development team may have been better off, at times, putting its resources to different use in order to make the game a more pleasing and fluid experience. In short, Ghost in the Sheet will most likely captivate gamers who seek a different kind of dark comedy beyond the quick, superficial humor. The game's inspired and prolific storyline, unusual cast of characters, and unique atmosphere will find no equal among the current inventory of adventure games.