While the name may be inviting, the dark secrets of Sunshine Manor will have you jumping out of your skin.
Retro games have a unique charm. Technical limitations made creating visually impactful experiences difficult for most developers. This never stopped them from trying, however, and games such as Chiller and Maniac Mansion offered quirky yet solid horror experiences for audiences of the era. Sunshine Manor from Fossil Games is a love letter to this flavor of nostalgia, complete with visceral 2D pixel visuals.
You are Ada, a little girl out with her friends on Halloween night. After being dared inside a spooky mansion, your friends are captured by a shadowy figure before your eyes. When it approaches Ada, however, a hidden power awakens within her and gives you the power to push the entity back. After you’ve used Ada’s new powers it’s up to you to explore the mansion, find your friends and solve the mysteries of this shadowy home.
The world of Sunshine Manor is presented with gorgeous pixel visuals viewed from a top-down point of view. Though you have a bird’s-eye view, vision is limited as you’re only able to see the area immediately surrounding Ada when you’re moving through the mansion. This choice allows the sound effects to shine using various creeks, bumps, and other spooky noises. It makes exploring the dark mansion a tense affair when combined with sporadic lighting effects and eerie details in the visuals and creates an environment ripe for jump scares.
The game doesn’t disappoint in this department either. The shadowy figure that nabbed your friends when you entered the house is still at large as you explore the mansion and solve puzzles and it’s looking for Ada. This creature will pounce at you seemingly at random, with chances of encountering it higher if you’re seen by the mysterious searchlight orbs scattered throughout the house. Even if it can be deterred with a single attack in most cases, this element makes the tension of the environment palpable and will have your eyes constantly darting to the edges of your field of view to not be caught unaware.
While you’re looking for Ada’s friends, you’ll discover that they’re not the only ones that need your help. As you solve puzzles in the mansion, you’ll free the spirits of the former master of Sunshine Manor. These spirits will recall their previous lives before asking you to help them and pulling you into the spirit world, flipping the game on its head.
Being pulled into the spirit worlds of the various ghosts you find transforms the mansion into nightmare prisons for the ghosts you speak to. Each world is different and comes with its own puzzles and enemies to overcome. Some of these are relatively simple, while others can be a bit more cryptic, but the aesthetic change that comes with traveling to these realms keeps the game fresh and interesting. Different locales, thematic chiptune tracks, and even action-packed boss fights inhabit these spirit worlds and each one reveals more and more about the mysterious broken-down manor.
While the atmosphere is solid and the worlds are varied and engaging, Sunshine Manor isn’t without its flaws. The game does a great job setting up atmosphere and jump scares from the beginning, but this element gets lost as you begin to explore the world. The worlds Ada enters are exciting with fun themes, which makes the downtime between them feel dull and uninteresting. This is also true for Ada’s attacks.
You may be using it in interesting ways during boss fights and other puzzles, even switching outfits to change the properties, but it ultimately always feels the same. These qualities add up to give Sunshine Manor a feel that isn’t very different from other puzzle-adventure games. While the sound design and thematically sludgy chiptune soundtrack are fantastic, they end up doing a lot of the heavy lifting, along with the sinister charm of the visuals, to keep things fresh.
There’s a lot to love in Sunshine Manor. The story of Ada’s search for her friends is fun and has many dark twists and turns. The worlds you enter and the entities they hold are always a blast to play through, with some holding moments of pure terror or haunting unease. The rich lore of the world also helps flesh out these qualities to immerse you deeper into the chilling narrative of the game. While the gameplay can become a bit bland and the action tends to outpace the horror elements, Sunshine Manor’s great aesthetics and fun soundtrack may be enough for those looking for a casual horror experience.
-Beautiful pixel art visuals
-Fun chiptune soundtrack
-Rich and engaging narrative
-Awesome world design
-Exploration can become tedious
Review key given by PR. Sunshine Manor is out now!