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Geist (GameCube)

67
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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.9
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5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  STU2 (72)
Written on  :  Jun 13, 2006
Rating  :  4.14 Stars4.14 Stars4.14 Stars4.14 Stars4.14 Stars

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Summary

Geist- It Will Possess You...if you give it a chance

The Good

One of the more interesting games I have ever played, Geist is a game that should be experienced by everyone, regardless of your taste in genres.

A supernatural action adventure, Geist places you in the shoes of John Raimi. You infiltrate the Volks corporation, get your spirit separated from your body, meet a strange little girl who died nearly 80 years ago, accidently help set loose a demon, change genders (and even species), discover a vast underground santuary home, and beat up old men in wheelchairs. Quite alot of things to do in this 10-15 hour game.

Geist is a hard game to categorize. While at first it might seem to be a shooter...it's not, really. Shooting a gun is merely the combat system of the game. It's difficult to describe. It does not follow a lot of the rules of a typical FPS. You do not go around collecting ammo or grenades, you can't pick up and choose different types of guns, and alot of the functions of typical guns, like sniping and secondary fires, are not present either. However, the multiplayer is a typical (and by Gamecube standards, very excellent) FPS game, and there are a variety of types and bots and weapons to choose from.

Geist borrows elements from a variety of different games. Most of the first person interactivity of the game can be traced back to "Breakdown" on the Xbox. That was one of the first games to physically show your hands doing common movements, like pulling a switch, twisting a screw, picking up food and eating it, etc. Geist is very similar.

Another game, or rather genre of games, that Geist borrows heavily from is the old point and click adventures on the PC. Those games would set the game world up so that you had to do this and that, normally in a certain order, while providing lots of graphical eye candy to look at but not touch. Geist takes a similar approach: while there might be dozens of objects in a given room, only two or three of them are truly interactive and possessible; you essentially have to do what the game designers want you to do. This approach to game design encourages only a little bit of creativy on the gamers part, but allows many attempts at scripted humor and drama.

Sadly, many professional reviewers marked the game down precisely because of that. They didn't seem to understand the game very well, and as a result Geist was butchered by the press. They seemed to believe that if you are able to possess things in a game, you should be able to possess everything in a game. That would be near impossible to program, and frankly would have made the game boring. Not every game can be Ultima VII...

A note on the boss battles: they do not follow a set pattern. In many games you just have to memorize how a boss will respond, and then at what time you need to fire or hit that certain sweet spot. In Geist, you have to figure out each bosses weakness and exploit it, and then hit the weak spot. It definitely puts life into that "3-hit rule" of boss battles that Nintendo is popular for.

This game also has amazing level design. I'd easily put it on par with the amazing Eternal Darkness. Some of the locales are breathtaking and inspiring. The underground home that was built in the 1920's is especially amazing. It's rare for first person games to put so much thought and creative energy into just the environments.

Another thing that makes the levels so great is that they are scaleable. Meaning, you can walk the area as a human, see certain things, and then possess the body of a rat, and see the same things, then notice cracks in the walls which you can run into and around the room to various ledges and cracks. The detail to the level design is simply amazing.

One more thing: I want the soundtrack. Most of the music in the game is amazing, although one or two songs get a little repetitive.

And it's always funny to me when I hear sound effects that have been recycled. In Geist, the door opening is the exact same effect used in Goldeneye. That old familiar "chatch" sound...

The Bad

I have to mention the final boss battle. While I'm all for having a final boss that is a challenge, and this one certainly is...it should be a challenge based on player skill and a small degree of luck, not based on the cheap little "bitch attacks" of the boss. The boss fight is one of those fights were you are shouting at the screen "How did he hurt me?" or "Why am I getting hurt by nothing??" As far as I can tell, in a typical fight, you are hurt by either A- the opponent's attacks, or B- the environment (lava, etc).

Geist introduces something new: an invisible and random "energy field/game pathway" that throws you either into the ceiling or ground unexpectantly and does damage to you for no explainable reason. All of a sudden, you just lose control and are hurt. And then the boss spazs out and hurts you even more.

Even after I figured out how to beat the boss, I probably still wasted a good half an hour just hoping that I might get completely lucky and avoid these damaging "throws" while avoiding the real boss attacks and returning fire. Frustrating it was.

Which brings up a thought- Are there any games out there that have a final boss that is impossible to defeat, because the designers created it to be impossible? As an object lesson or such?

Another subtracting note might be some of the design of the puzzles in the game. In one section, you have to find a bag of medicine for a man lying on a medical table. You know where the bag is (on a shelf) because you saw a flashback of it earlier. However, that shelf could be anywhere. I was wandering the corridors for quite a while just trying to figure out where to go next; turns out I had to run through a fire, taking half of my health away, before finding the room I needed. Then I died, but at least I knew where to go, and that I needed a fire extinguisher.

On a minor comment...part of the game's M rating is listed as "partial nudity." Wouldn't that imply that there is at least some nudity? The only "nudity" in the game is in the infamous locker room shower scene, and the ladies in question are completely covered in soap or towels. Hardly enough to warrant a mention.

The Bottom Line

Geist was blasted by the game journalists when it came out in 2005, but if it had been released as a 3rd or 4th generation Gamecube title, it would have become a must own. While the shooter mechanics are not up to par with a current shooter, the knowledge that the FPS aspect is just one part of the whole package elevates this game to a standard of excellence and creativity that the is definitely not the norm in the game industry.

Geist: a spectral masterpiece deserving a next-gen sequel.