“Alone. Yes, that’s the key word, the most awful word in the English tongue. Murder doesn’t hold a candle to it and hell is only a poor synonym.” – Stephen King
Sunshine Manor is an 8-bit horror RPG and prequel to the 2016 16-bit game Camp Sunshine. Players take on the role of Ada, a young girl dared by her friends to enter a haunted house where she encounters demons, ghosts and a lot of blood!
Developer: Fossil Games
Released: 28th October 2021
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
Available on: Steam
This game is being reviewed as part of the Indie Game Collective (IGC) showcase.
Sunshine Manor wastes no time in introducing its violent horror themes as it opens with a Mr Aitken making a deal with a fortune teller, seeking fame as TV personality Mr Sunshine, not realising that the cost would be much higher and more gruesome than he could imagine. A number of years later a young girl named Ada is challenged by her friends to enter the old Aitken house, now considered haunted. Upon entry, however, her companions were taken by demons who Ada was able to harm with a mysterious power. She finds herself trapped and talking to a ghost, soon to realise she must embark on a mission to save her friends and free the spectral residents.
The narrative design is well implemented and the story progresses at a pace that keeps the player engaged without feeling rushed. The dialogue is also well written and despite the lack of voice acting there is a good sense of characterisation with each person, ghost and demon having their own backstory and feeling like a distinct and individual personality.
Ada finds herself exploring Sunshine Manor encountering ghosts, whom she must help to realise they are dead before she is able to jump through a portal to a specific demon’s lair and help free them by completing a range of challenges and boss encounters. These include puzzles, mazes, platforming and combat to name a few and they can get a little tricky as the game progresses.
There are a number of enemies scattered throughout the manor, they come in a variety of forms and have different abilities to overcome. For example, some move in patterns and shoot things while others will pursue Ada until she reaches a new area. Ada’s mysterious power grants her the ability to harm demonic enemies or dash but this does have a cooldown so it must be used thoughtfully. Any contact or direct attack from a demon will cause the player harm.
There are fixed save points in the manor, these can be used an unlimited number of times and will also heal Ada. However, these save points are not always easily and quickly reachable meaning that death can sometimes be quite punishing, especially in the different demon’s lairs.
Sunshine Manor presents a variety of creepy and gore-ified scenes in classic 8-bit pixel graphics and it suits the narrative and gameplay perfectly. The environments, characters and effects are detailed and varied. In addition, there is a different well-considered colour palette and theme for each level or dungeon.
The game’s retro-style soundtrack is a highlight and features a selection of tracks ranging from softer, spooky music to energetic, tension building tracks. Each piece matches the various horror environments well and the OST remains atmospheric and creepy throughout.
Overall, Sunshine Manor is a spooky and fun experience. The 8-bit pixel art graphics fit the game perfectly and add a soft edge to the high levels of gore whilst the retro soundtrack helps to instil a sense of fear and really amps up the creepiness of the game’s horror elements. The gameplay is varied and exciting, presenting a slight challenge that is satisfying rather than frustrating to overcome. This title will appeal to a wide range of players, is great value for money offering 4-6 hours of playtime and is very easy to recommend!