20/10/2017

BOGEY MANOR (ARCADE)

Today’s game is called Bogeyman Or, where you’re given a few facts about a monster and have to guess whether it’s the infamous child-scaring Bogeyman or some other nightmarish creature. No, wait, my mistake. It’s actually a 1985 arcade game from Technos called Bogey Manor. Fortunately it has nothing to do with golf.


What it does have is a title screen featuring a wonderful blood-drenched logo and this superb cartoon ghost – a slime-ghost, even, going about its ghostly business and leaving a trail of ectoplasm wherever it wanders. Actually, it’s got kind of an upsetting face for a cartoon ghost, don’t you think? Ghosts have always struck me as the least terrifying Halloween monster, but I’d be more inclined to fear them if they all looked like angry mutant sea-lions made from snot. Oh, hey, is that why this is called Bogey Manor? God, I hope not.


Bogey Manor doesn’t offer you any story or explanation before you insert your coins. All you get is the order to “get ready” and the knowledge that this is only house number one. Presumably there will be a multitude of houses, and those houses will have ghosts in them. Will the ghosts need to be busted? Probably. Hang on, I’m going to revise that to “definitely” because I’ve just seen Bogey Manor’s arcade flyer and it says the game features “a theme reminiscent of GHOSTBUSTERS” and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean the musical theme. Let’s hope that busting in Bogey Manor makes me feel good. It would be nice to feel good for a change.


It’s straight into the action once you hit start, and here’s the first screen of Bogey Manor’s first, erm, manor. You play as the little red-and-blue chap at the bottom-right of the screen. His name is Fritz – no, really – and appropriately enough he seems to be dressed in a bootleg Power Rangers costume. Well, it's the right time of year for it. At the top of the screen is a ghost, and Bogey Manor has once again delivered a really cool-looking ghost: still green, still slimy and with an expression formed from melting facial features that suggest the ghost is being subjected to a lingering afterlife of constant misery.


Bogey Manor is a simple game, mostly – but it’s one of those games that’s surprisingly difficult to summarise succinctly. I’ll begin with the very basics. Every manor has four screens (East, North, West and South) and you can move between them by walking off the left or right off the edge of the screen. The rooms are all connected in a loop, so if you keep walking in the same direction you’ll eventually end up back where you started. Each screen also has four floors, which you can move between by walking up and down these staircases. In most houses, only the floor Fritz is standing on is illuminated, so you’ll have to travel between the floors in order to find your real target: these crystal balls.


The true goal of each house is to find all of the crystal ball pedestals contained within and give them a good whack with the stick Fritz is carrying around. Break all the crystals in a house and you’ve cleared the stage. Well, nearly, but we’ll get to that. So, that’s Bogey Manor in a nutshell. Explore the houses, avoid the ghosts and smash all the crystals. I hope you’re not the kind of player who needs a reason to be doing all these things, because I don’t have one. It’s not like the ghosts ever leave the house – a house that, for all we know, might be the ghosts’ home. They’re minding their own business when Fritz barges in and starts smashing up their glassware with no clear goal in mind, so if you do need a sense of motivation then “Fritz is kind of a dick” is going to have to be it.


I managed to find a magical ring that made all the floor visible at once, which definitely helped in tracking down the last couple of crystal balls. It also made it clear that the wall in the top-right corner is in the shape of a ghost. I did worry that I was suffering from some kind of Halloween-related pareidolia but no, that’s obviously supposed to be a spooky wall.


Once you’ve destroyed all the crystals, there’s one last thing to do before the stage ends: escape from the house as it collapses around you. The exit door is on always on the bottom floor, so here’s a top Bogey Manor tip for you: make sure you always get rid of the crystals on the upper floors first. Fritz might have the brass balls required to enter this ghost-infested mansion, but his bravery far exceeds his athleticism and he’s not exactly light on his feet. He’s a bit slow, even, and because the house collapses from the top down you probably won’t get Fritz to waddle his stumpy little legs down to the exit before he’s buried under the falling masonry. Clear the bottom floor last, though, and you’re already near the door and you’ll have no trouble escaping.


Now we’re on to house number two. The gameplay’s the same, but things are spiced up by a fresh mock-Tudor look to the backgrounds and some new enemies of varying levels of Halloweenosity. There are Frankensteins, and you can’t argue against their Halloween credentials, especially when they’re the classic flat-top and green skin variety. Then there are these furry little hairballs that scurry around, getting Fritz’s way – and, of course, Fritz dies in one hit, so watch out for that. I was going to call them Critters or demonic tribbles or something, but then I realised what they actually remind me of are the McDonalds Fry Guys.


As well as being big lumbering units that can and will block Fritz’s path, the Frankensteins also have the ability to throw an angry strop near these pink sections of the floor. Doing so makes those sections of floor spin around, which will hinder Fritz’s movements. If you’re on the pink floors while they’re spinning, you’ll either be catapulted into the ceiling and hang there for a moment before falling back down (usually into the arms of a patrolling Frankenstein) or you’ll fall through the trap door and onto the floor below. It’s generally not difficult to avoid these traps, and you might not want to avoid them because you can use them to your own advantage. Fritz can hit them with his stick, and they can stun certain monsters while they’re spinning, and that can come in handy in later, busier houses. I even managed to quickly escape to the floor below a couple of times by purposefully spinning the floor while standing on it, although that’s a risky manoeuvre because you’re equally likely to embed yourself in the ceiling as you are to fall to the floor below.


House three introduces another Halloween mainstay with the wicked witch, and what fun-looking witches they are too, with pale faces and curious elongated jaws that look more like the bleached skulls of some abyssal fish than anything else. However, it’s hard to warm to the witches because they attack with projectiles (which look a lot like the delicious potato-based snack Hula Hoops) and I’m sure you realise how frustrating it is to deal with projectile attacks in a game that’s played almost exclusively in long, narrow, horizontal corridors with a player character that can neither duck nor jump. Then, just when you think you’ve gotten over your hatred of the witches, a different version of them turns up later and their projectiles warp you to a different part of the screen if they hit you. I think I preferred it when they just killed you outright.


The hordes of deadly monsters might seem overwhelming, and once you get past house six or so then yes, they are, but Fritz can fight back. He does have a stick, after all, and surprisingly it can be used to batter ghosts into submission for a little while. However, you can’t just run in and start swinging, oh no. First you have to stun the enemies by using the “trick” button. According to the flyer, this “scares” the monsters, and once they’re scared you can get to whacking. Putting aside the seemingly ludicrous prospect of scaring a Frankenstein, what Fritz actually does is make his hand big and kinda... point his finger near the enemy. Thus I have come to the conclusion that Fritz’s plan is to use the old “what’s that behind you!?” technique and then batter the monster when they look away. He’s a crafty one, is Fritz.


House three also has a fantastic “haunted cabin in the woods” look to it, with the dramatic highlight being this big monster face peering in through the wall. In fact, all the different house types have something creepy in the top-right corners of their rooms, and only in the top-right corners, which is a bit odd. I suppose it’s because the top floor is a bit taller than the other three.
Repetitive placement of leering otherworldly horrors aside, Bogey Manor does look good and definitely has plenty of the Halloween spirit about it, with the unfortunate exception of Fritz himself. Like, it’s good that he’s safety-conscious enough to wear a helmet while exploring these dilapidated houses, I’d prefer it if he was, I dunno, a regular trick-or-treater or even if Technos had-gone all-in with the “theme reminiscent of Ghostbusters” and made him Egon Spengler.


The next house has the quirk of being constantly illuminated, so you can see exactly what’s going on at all times and also get the full effect of being under the spooky Mona Lisa’s watchful gaze the entire time. So what can we see? Well, there are some doors in the background and yes, Fritz can enter them by pressing up on the joystick. Going into a door makes you come out of a different door on the same screen, although there’s no indication of which door you’ll exit from and so I tended to avoid using the doors because whenever I did I always seemed to step out right in front of a monster.
Speaking of monsters, the new one here is… another witch? There’s one at the top of the screen. It’s got green skin and a broomstick, so if it’s not a witch then it’s a very unwell janitor. I’m sorry? What’s that? It is a janitor? Well blow me down, so it is. As well as killing you if you touch it, these mop-wielding monsters can clean up the stage around them. Sometimes they’ll scrub the doors in the background and remove them from play, but far more frustrating than that is their ability to fix crystal spheres that Fritz has previously smashed. They must be getting paid by the hour because they’re in no hurry to fix the broken crystals, but they can do it and having to re-locate a crystal I’d already broken definitely got me killed more than once.
Anything else new in this house? Well, one of the doors in the haunted mansion was pulsating with a mysterious light, so naturally I stepped through said door as soon as I could because it’s probably full of cakes and puppies.


Turns out the door contained something even better – the power to transform Fritz in Super Fritz. I guess he really is a Power Ranger, and he’s getting one hell of an upgrade here. I genuinely laughed out loud the first time I saw this, and it’s just so ludicrously over-the-top that I can’t help but love it. Even his shoes get an upgrade. Fritz is Iron Man and Inspector Gadget rolled into one brightly-coloured ghost-avoiding package now, although I never did manage to get him to fire his Fritz Laser Gun. Not pictured: the Mega Fritz Noise-Cancelling Undergarments, Super Fritz’s Totally Sweet Ride, The Hyper-Secret Fritz Pass-Card That Grants Access to the Hidden Archives of the Vatican.


Super Fritz’s main power is that he can jump between the different floors of the house without needing to use the doors or the staircases. Not terribly exciting, but extremely useful. Make the best of it while you can, because the transformation doesn’t last forever and eventually you’ll change back to regular, stick-swingin’ Fritz. In fact, if you’re the kind of person who cares about high scores (and shooting for the Top Players table is probably the biggest motivation for playing Bogey Manor) then you might not want to be Super Fritz, because there’s a points bonus for finishing the stage without using the transformation.


Once you reach house five, you’ve seen just about everything Bogey Manor has to offer. The final new enemy is revealed, and it’s a flying Medusa that drifts across the screens while daintily holding her skirt. Makes sense to me, presumably these haunted houses are filthy and she’s not wearing any shoes. I’m not really sure what Medusa’s gimmick is supposed to be, if she even has one: mostly she just flits around the rooms in a surprisingly easy-to-avoid fashion. Oh well, at least her sprite looks nice.


With just about everything in Bogey Manor having been introduced by this point, now it becomes a matter of survival, clearing as many houses and racking up as big a score as you can. That’s something I spent longer doing than I thought I would have, because it turns out that Bogey Manor is actually pretty good fun. It’s a simple game that feels – very strongly feels – like the very definition of an “arcade game”, you know? Like, if someone tasked me with creating a game that felt like a mid-eighties coin-op there’s a good chance I would have come up with something very similar to Bogey Manor: single-screen, monster-dodging action where the player has to activate certain parts of the game world to clear each stage with only limited offensive capabilities to protect them and a power-up that transforms you into a “super” version of your character. I probably would have also given my game a “spooky monsters” theme, but that’s just coincidence. It’s very easy to draw an evolutionary line from Pac-Man to Bogey Manor, but Bogey Manor also has the benefit of possessing enough interesting gameplay quirks to keep it that bit more interesting. It's especially nice that it finds a good balance between having to strategise your movements to avoid monsters and reach the crystals, while still giving you a chance to escape with quick reactions when things go wrong.


One of the things that kept me playing Bogey Manor was a sense of mystery. The basics of the game are simple to grasp, but I had the constant feeling that there was more to it that I wasn’t quite understanding. For instance, the crystals you need to smash come in three different colours. Are the colours somehow linked to the appearance of Super Fritz’s Magical Quick-Change Wardrobes, or the room-illuminating pieces of jewellery that may or may not pop up in each stage? I’m not sure, but I think they might be. Or there’s the fact that around room twenty, I realised there are a bunch of spots in each stage where you can hold up and attack to smash up the background. You get points for doing this. You can also reveal hidden teleporter doors this way. Are there any other secrets to be found using this method? I haven’t got a bloody clue, but I wouldn’t bet against it and if you’re looking for a mostly-forgotten arcade game to really obsess over and take apart in minute detail, then Bogey Manor might be a good bet.


It helps that it’s a nicely put-together game, too. The graphics are lovely, with a lot of charm in both the backgrounds and the monsters. Highlights include the truly defeated look of the Frankensteins once you managed to hit them with the old scare-and-slap, presumably intended to portray the absolute shame of being mugged off by a child, and the vengeful appearance of the ghosts when they recover from a beating. The music’s good, too. The flyer describes it as “Spookey (sic) Organ Music,” which it isn’t but it sounds as close as you’re likely to get with the audio capabilities of a 1985 arcade game.


Of course, none of that matters much if the game doesn’t play well, but fortunately Bogey Manor does okay on that front, so long as you remember it is, as I say, a 1985 arcade game. By that I mean it’s rock hard once you’ve gotten further than house five or six. Monsters are everywhere, a single mistake means death and I don’t think there’s any way to get extra lives, but that was par for the course at the time. It’s hectic and difficult but rarely feels too unfair, and thankfully it mostly controls well and Fritz does as he’s told aside from the occasional issue with getting him to walk up or down the stairs.


So you might be thinking “does Bogey Manor have an ending, or is going for a 'surprise, Fritz was in Hell all along and his eternal punishment is to smash crystals and swear at teleporting witches for the rest of time'” kind of vibe. Well, here’s the thing: there is an ending, but I couldn’t seem to trigger it. I made it all the way to house forty, which seemed like any other stage at first until I realised there were two glowing doors. So, I became Super Fritz and then went into the other door to emerge as Mega Fritz. He’s purple and invincible and it really felt like there was something I was missing about him, but I finished the stage anyway and moved on to house forty-one.


So far, so familiar. Mega Fritz was gone, so I heaved a heavy sigh – even though I enjoyed Bogey Manor it does get a bit wearing after forty stages – and cleared house forty-one. Then the game sent me to… house forty-one. Again. And again, and again. At this point, as far as I was concerned stage forty-one is where Bogey Manor ends, and I was all set to complain about the lack of an ending, maybe one where Fritz becomes the new Prince of the Underworld after having beaten all its inhabitants into submission. But then I saw a video of someone beating Bogey Manor by clearing stage forty. They finished the stage and an ending played, and I have no idea what I did wrong that prevented me from seeing it. It could be all manner of things, I suppose. Maybe I didn’t smash enough background elements, maybe I took too long, maybe it was an emulation error.


And the ending? It’s a very simple one: just some text on a black background. It reads “The evil is destroy. Peace. And what happened to Fritz. Only the gods know. Thank you.” Now that’s an ending that’s just weird enough for me to be pissed off that I didn’t manage to unlock it myself, because it implies the gods sent a champion to fight the monsters but they created him in the form of a tokusatsu hero.


See what I mean about mysteries? Bogey Manor is full of them, but sadly I don’t have the time – okay, I don’t have the patience – to unravel them all. I’m still glad I played it, though. It’s a slice of arcade action with a very “classic” feel to it, infused with just enough gameplay quirks to keep it interesting and liberally coated in a thick sludge of Halloweenosity. Thank you, Bogey Manor, for giving me the opportunity to make a Frankenstein look like a proper chump during this Halloween season.


And so we turn to the Halloween-O-Meter, where Bogey Manor scores a more-than-respectable eight out of ten. That ghost on the title screen is worth a solid five points all on its own, and the inclusion of Frankensteins, witches and shadowy, fanged faces peering through the splintered wood of a haunted cabin net it the rest of the points. It could have scored more highly if the main character didn’t look like the mascot for a cycling safety cartoon.

4 comments:

  1. Fritz seems to be having a bit of Batman syndrome going on, naming all of his stuff after himself.

    You don't suppose he is one of the lost dead Robin candidates Batman used to have?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hang on, that'd mean Fritz is is superhero name, I wonder what his *real* name is?

      Delete
  2. Tooling around on steam, I came across a game that you should totally play.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See, now this I might actually purchase.

      Delete

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