Sunshine Manor (PC) Review

Does this more linear and formulaic prequel to Camp Sunshine offer up enough puzzles, scares, surprises, and atmosphere?
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Sunshine Manor – developed by Fossil Games and published by Hound Picked Games – serves as a prequel to 2016’s Camp Sunshine. That said, while it expands on the background events leading up to the events of that game, it works well as a standalone experience. After witnessing the dangers of selling one’s soul for fame (and discovering the secret behind the rise of the Sunshine brand), the game jumps forward in time. A young Ada is out trick-or-treating on Halloween when a childish game of “dare” leads her and two friends into the supposedly haunted Sunshine Manor.

Ada’s friends are kidnapped by a shadowy spirit before she uses her own – previously unrecognised – spiritual power to drive it off. The evil spirits’ son, murdered by his father’s hands with the rest of the staff, asks Ada to help free them and break the curse that binds them to the manor. It’s a simple but effective framework that gives you an excuse to explore the manor from top to bottom, and occasionally delve into twisted, parallel demonic realms to battle demon lords and free ghosts from eternal torment.

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It’s hard not to like Ada. The rest of the cast – ghost and demon alike – are equally well written and entertaining.

Where Camp Sunshine relied heavily on the Slender Man formula – an open map with several key items to find while being stalked – Sunshine Manor follows a more traditional design, with linear progression through mini-dungeons. There is, of course, the “Shadow Man” to avoid in the real world, but those with quick reflexes can catch him in a spiritual blast and flee with ease. Rather, Sunshine Manor doubles down on the item hunts and puzzles, with a focus on forays into a parallel demonic realm to visually and mechanically spice up the experience.  

From a pure gameplay perspective, it’s still a simple isometric action game that has you hunting for key items and interactable objects, with the ability to consume your swiftly-recharging spiritual energy as an attack (or dash) when you encounter something dangerous. To keep things interesting, each ghost you find needs to be freed from the clutches of a demon, each with its own visually distinct realm and particular gameplay focus – think simple combat, chase sequences, platforming sections, or point-and-click style puzzles. Each of these is capped by an increasingly complex boss fight that, while not tough, still require observation and timing to overcome.

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The Shadow Man that stalks you in the real world is fairly easy to spot and stun if you’ve got half-decent reflexes – ensuring exploration or backtracking is never too frustrating. Once you’ve saved the dog, he’s even easier to avoid.

Mechanically, I found Sunshine Manor a far more involved and engaging experience than Camp Sunshine, helped no doubt by the improved quality of writing and even weirder scenarios Ada finds herself in (that and, early on, you get a cute dog companion that barks and points out the direction of the lurking Shadow Man). My biggest gripe was several sections with moving platforming sections, that if failed, forced me back to a save mirror placed before several lines of dialogue and simple cutscenes that take control away from the player.

Worth noting is that while the game forces you to backtrack through parts of the manor as you progress, the order in which you free spirits, tackle demon realms, and learn more about events leading up to the household massacre is linear. As a result, it begins to feel formulaic despite its short runtime: you find a ghost, perform a quick task in the mansion, travel to the parallel demonic world for a more elaborate mini-dungeon and boss fight, then repeat five times before hitting the finale.

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Each of the demon lords has its own quirky persona and themed realm. Unfortunately, this one was all about moving platforms over bottomless pits.

At this point, the presentation and writing carry the game, thanks to Ada’s weird but compelling persona, her humourous interactions with ghosts and demons alike, plenty of flavour text when investigating your surroundings, the gruesome but cartoonish visuals, and the excellent soundtrack. Sunshine Manor nails its 8-bit aesthetics and Zelda-esque design, while keeping each section short enough to ensure you’re always hitting a new narrative beat.

Overall, Sunshine Manor is a brisk, but entertaining isometric horror adventure that’s not too tough to be frustrating, and not too long to overstay its welcome. The shift to a linear structure removes some of the tension found in Camp Sunshine and it makes the experience feel increasingly formulaic, but it’s a far more refined experience. Ada and the characters she meets are entertaining, the demon realms mix up the gameplay, the visuals feel authentic to the developer’s inspirations, and the soundtrack is great. As a cheap and breezy experience, it’s easy to forgive a few flaws if you’re after a retro-horror experience.

A Review code for Sunshine Manor was provided to Gameblur by the Publisher

Sunshine Manor (PC) Review

Sunshine Manor (PC) Review
7 10 0 1
Sunshine Manor is a brisk and entertaining isometric horror adventure with a few flaws - primarily the formulaic progression and rough platforming sections - that are easy to ignore. It's a more linear adventure in comparison to Camp Sunshine, but it’s also a more refined experience. Ada and the rest of the cast are well written, the gameplay mechanics are more varied, and it all plays out to a great soundtrack is great.
Sunshine Manor is a brisk and entertaining isometric horror adventure with a few flaws - primarily the formulaic progression and rough platforming sections - that are easy to ignore. It's a more linear adventure in comparison to Camp Sunshine, but it’s also a more refined experience. Ada and the rest of the cast are well written, the gameplay mechanics are more varied, and it all plays out to a great soundtrack is great.
7/10
Total Score
  • Story
    8/10 Very Good
    The brisk pacing means you're hitting frequent narrative beats. It's intriguing enough to keep you pushing forward and there's plenty of entertaining banter between Ada and the demon lords.
  • Gameplay
    7/10 Good
    The gameplay feels simple but authentic to the 8-bit inspiration, with enjoyable boss fights. That said, progression begins to feel formulaic, there is backtracking, and the platforming sections are frustrating.
  • Visuals
    7/10 Good
    Cartoonish but gruesome, they never really impress but do feel authentically 8-bit.
  • Audio
    7/10 Good
    The basic gameplay sounds are all 8-bit inspired simplicity, but the soundtrack is catchy as hell.

The Good

  • A compelling protagonist and entertaining writing
  • Plenty of puzzles in both the real world and demon realms
  • Authentic 8-bit visuals and a catchy soundtrack

The Bad

  • Formulaic structure and linear progression
  • Frustrating platforming sequences that highlight the imprecise movement
Total
10
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