There are many aspects to a game that entice you to play it: the mechanics, the art, the theme; they all add to the mélange, but the one thing that ties it all together and evokes the whole more than anything else is the title: Scythe (Stonemaier), Descent (FFG), Nemesis (Awaken Realms). I may not like them all as games, but I can 'taste' the experience of each with just the mention of the name. Now, some games don't have pretensions of grandeur, yet still, the play experiences of Love Letter (AEG), No Thanks (AMIGO), and even Loopin' Louie (Bandai) leap to mind when named.
So it's a shame when an interesting game gets lumbered with a generic title: Fantasy Realms (WizKids), a recent culprit by all accounts; Adventure Land (HABA), *snore*; and now, let's have a Ghost Adventure. What's more, the names of those first six games all at least hint at what lies in wait: somehow I don't think you'd imagine a dexterity game using a spinning top to be behind this nondescript title. That's a pity because this game from designer Wlad Watine and publishers Blackrock, Pegasus Spiele and Spinboard is fun.
Evil Norse wolves have destroyed the totems of your spirit guardians save for a lone ghost mouse who must spin his way through eight different realms to save the world... Okay, I'm sure there are more outlandish premises, but not many. Practically, the players in this cooperative dexterity game are tasked with guiding a spinning top along three to eight boards, pausing to mark objectives, avoiding literal pitfalls, and jumping up and dropping down, all within four spins. With the exception of (on the hardest levels) flipping the double-sided boards and landing in specific areas, that's everything you'll be doing.
The production of the game is stellar: the two spinning tops serve their purpose well and one even comes with a gadget to super-spin it if you can't do so yourself. The thick, multi-level boards are beautifully illustrated by Jules Dubost and Yann Valéani, and spot-UV highlighted; they are substantial and very much up to the task of being constantly manipulated. The rulebook is thorough and the two scenario books - one containing 25 co-op levels and 15 solo levels, the other a comic book narrating a 16-level 'campaign' - are similarly excellently presented. Personally, I struggled to differentiate the icons showing which board was which and some of the objectives, but my eyesight is not the best.
The difficulty curve is quite steep, especially in the campaign, and - as with many dexterity games - if you're not naturally good at the basics, it can be hard to get better. Often my son would fail an attempt and pass the board to me, knowing I'd be more likely to succeed; but then, I still struggled with some missions, especially trying to guide the top along the very edge of the board. Even picking up an occasional recharge potion for another 'life' was rare enough to make for substantial progress later on.
All that said, we had a great deal of fun with Ghost Adventure and I'd suspect a lot of kids (or childish grown-ups like me) will have a good time with this strikingly unique game as well. Tweens and teens happy to cooperate will likely be best suited, rather than younger kids, because of the motor skills required. Longevity might be an issue: the challenge is going to be the same every time, so it might be one of those games that spends a few months in the cupboard until you remember it and then gets blitzed for a weekend before returning to storage. What you won't remember is the name: 'You know, the spinny-top-dead-mouse game - with the boards that you flip - you know the one I mean.'
(Review by David Fox)