In G.H.O.S.T. Chronicles: Phantom of the Renaissance Faire, you’ve been asked to investigate the supposed haunting of a local theme park. Don’t worry – you won’t have to dress up in olde tyme costumes, get your face painted, or drink ale from a leather mug to get to the bottom of this mystery, you’ll just have to find a lot of hidden objects and solve a few puzzles.
Things just haven’t been the same around the Spears Renaissance Faire since the owners died. Robert remarried shortly after his wife, Margaret, passed away, and now that he’s dead, too, his son Robbie is squabbling with Leah, the new Mrs. Spears. That would be a difficult enough situation for the park to handle, but now it’s being overrun by ghosts, too. They’re not particularly malicious – most of them just wish the park could be restored to greatness – but they are more than enough to scare off the tourists. Time to figure out what’s really going on and save the park!
Your investigation will take you through the park’s many shops and attractions, like the jousting field, skill games, the bakery, jeweler, and Gnome Home. Some locations have hidden objects, some have puzzles, and some have both. In many cases, finding the last hidden object will reveal an item that you can take with you, so that you can use it to solve a puzzle somewhere else in the park. The puzzles vary from t he straightforward – finding the key to unlock a door – to the more exotic, like finding the right present to help a gnome impress his ladyfriend.
Although Phantom of the Renaissance Faire is excellent across the board, one way in which it’s particularly brilliant is how it adapts to your preferred play style. When the game begins, you’re asked if you want hints or would rather figure things out on your own – a setting you can change at any time during the game. If you take the easier path, item lists are provided as soon as you walk into a hidden object level, and you’ll be alerted when something unusual is triggered by your actions. If you opt for a more challenging game, you’ll have to use the Magic Eye to examine a hidden object scene for clues as to what items you need to find and keep a sharp eye to notice what might have changed as you progressed.
The hint system works a bit differently depending on which path you choose, too. As many as three hint-giving fairies are concealed in each location; you can collect 68 throughout the entire game. In the easier version of Phantom of the Renaissance Faire, if you use a hint fairy she’ll fly right over to a hidden item, but if you opted for more of a challenge, she’ll just let you know if you’re getting warmer or cooler as you move your cursor around the screen.
The Spears Renaissance Faire is based on an actual theme park, and the attention to detail really shows. You really feel as though you’re touring through a genuine location, searching actual buildings. It helps add a sense of realism to the Scooby Doo-esque story that prevents it from becoming too silly or campy. You feel like you’ve actual been to the Spears Faire yourself – or at least someplace just like it – which forms a emotional connection that games with more fantastic settings can’t quite create.
Phantom of the Renaissance Faire is a beautifully done, smart game that masterfully accommodates a variety of skill levels and is still fun even on your second playthrough. (If you played on the easier setting the first time, switch to the harder version for your second try. It’s a completely different experience.) Hunting down the hint fairies is a fun mini-game by itself – you’ll find yourself revisiting scenes just to track down the fairy you missed, whether you actually need her help or not. If you’re looking for just the right mixture of puzzles and hidden objects, this is the game for you.