A PC strategy/puzzle game from 2003 from where you take on the role of an undead civil servant, a Ghost Master in charge of a group of ghosts tasked with scaring the living for a variety of reasons.
There are ghosts of people, animals and even general feelings, each with their own powers. These are further divided into Elementals, Frighteners, Sprites, Vapors and Horrors.
Each ghost has its own 'Fetters' or objects/areas they can be attached to while in the mortal world.
Missions involve scaring 'mortals' or tricking them into doing you bidding. It's not that simple though: to scare effectively you need to work out what the mortals fear, their conscious and unconscious fears as well as what is likely to rattle them enough to cause them to go insane.
Hailed by PC Zone as a 'Sims beater'; you can guess how that went.
This game provides examples of:
- All There in the Manual: There was an official strategy guide. This supplied one with
uselessinformative tidbits that couldn't be found anywhere else, such as that Old Man Carter once commissioned a self portrait from The Painter, Harriet is Irish-American (you wouldn't tell — she's Not Even Bothering with the Accent), and the reason Fingers has cement shoes is because that was how they disposed of the body.
- Asshole Victim: A great many of the people the player has to haunt/scare in this game are quite awful human beings who at the very least deserve to be scared out of their minds.
- Ted Gable. Head of the Alpha Tau Fraternity, he's responsible for the Hazing of Wendel (a recruitable ghost) which resulted in Wendels suicide. And arguably, the entire Fraternity, since they all had a part in it.
- Gramma Hutz. A sweet old Lady who loves visitors ... but hates seeing them go, and poisons them so they stay forever. Has killed at least three people - a cosmetics vendor, an electrician, and a repairman; all of which became restless spirits.
- Detective Norman Franz, a corrupt cop responsible for the death of policewoman-turned-vengeful-ghost Blue Murder.
- Don Bartholomew. A mafia don who at the very least had his pianist killed ... for playing a tune he didn't know the Don disliked. And that's the only crime of his the player is explicitly told.
- Professor Krauss. A Mad Scientist who murdered his own wife and whose research into demonic summoning lead to at least six people having their souls devoured by the Darkling (though admittedly, the player had a bit to do with that last part). Krauss is also the only (alive) character in the game shown to wield a gun, and threatens a few college students with it.
- Bridge Logic: In the Blair Wisp Project, you need to have a ghost cause an earthquake to knock down a tree to create a bridge across a chasm. This ability isn't available by default, requiring you to spend plasm or find a secret.
- Buried Alive: One ghost, the spirit of a Native American chief, can do this to mortals. Stonewall the Earth elemental can also do this, but down to the person's waist.
- Cement Shoes: 'Fingers', a former piano player for Don Bartholomew, is shown with cement shoes, plus tendrils of seaweed floating up from them. Makes for some Fridge Logic as he clearly states he was shot. I guess There Is No Kill Like Overkill.
- Counting Sheep: Referenced by humans that are sleeping or have fallen asleep, by a picture of a sheep being vertical over a fencepost. Should you perform the Dream Demon ability on them, and they will also see a sheep, but a very demonic-looking one, accompanied by Drone of Dread.
- Deadly Prank: Wendel, one of the ghosts in the "Weird Seance" level, was the victim of a fraternity hazing that, in his own words, "really was suicide."
- Demonic Possession: Sort of, the only real demon-like ghost is the badass Darkling (some ghosts can possess mortals and make for hilarious bodily function manipulation.)
- Don't Go in the Woods: There are a few locations that take place in the woods, on at a cabin where an occult summoning ritual takes place (Sound familiar?), and another on a farm.
- Dream Weaver: Sandmen can induce and play with sleep, but Hypnos is the closest Sandman to this trope, since his Signature Move can make the people see nightmares.
- Elemental Powers: Anything's a go, except maybe the element of Void and Space (if you count it as an element).
- Emotion Eater: Mortal fear gives you power, in the form of Plasm.
- Fear Discover Power: Various powers can uncover a mortals conscious or unconscious fear, using this against them fills their terror bar faster.
- Foreshadowing: During the first Hospital mission, the top floor can't be accessed or viewed by the player; but Professor Krauss' associate can randomly come down from the top floor. Considering she doesn't spend enough time down to be properly scared, that seems rather random ... until the last mission, where it is revealed that Krauss and his associate have a secret Lab at the top floor to experiment with the Darkling.
- Game-Breaking Bug:
- Occasionally a mortal would freeze up, preventing them from fleeing, often making the mission Unwinnable.
- If you hit someone with a haunt while they're in a scripted action, it may break the mission. An example is in Summoners not included, where haunting a student at the right time confuses him
- Ghostly Chill: An ability of many ghosts is to create a chill in the area near their fetter. In particularly powerful cases, this trope is upgraded to An Ice Person.
- Go into the Light: What happens to all the ghosts at the end of the game.
- Griping About Gremlins: In the game, gremlins are the ghosts of animals killed by pieces of technology. They have ability to destroy machines and electronics but can also manipulate the luck of mortals.
- Guide Dang It!: You'll have to think a bit to figure out how to accomplish anything other than scaring people, but the only way you'd find the two secret ghosts without a walkthrough is through pure, blind luck.
- Headless Horseman: The Dragoon.
- Haunted Fetter: Each ghost can only be assigned to certain types of fetters depending on what kind of haunter they are, e.g., electrical themed ghosts can be assigned to a microwave or refrigerator or the like.
- Fortunately, the game is rather merciful on what counts as some objects you wouldn't expect to be found in game locations; for example, if a particular ghost can only be bound to a corpse, you can freely do so with a bear rug, a taxidermy, or a preserved organ in a jar. And even then, some ghosts can create Trojan Gifts that count as anything for this purpose.
- Haunted House: Many of the locations you're assigned to haunt already have a few spirits trapped inside.
- Haunted Technology: Ghosts with the Electrical Fetter. As stated in a tutorial, the fetter needs to be must than just simply electricity and needs the subtle electronic manipulation in order to be a usable fetter.
- Homage: Lots of, in the level's title cards, with Wizakejak (who looks like the local Wile E. Coyote Expy) but the main one, of course, are The Ghostbreakers
- Incendiary Exponent: Arclight, Firetail or Sparkle can make any cutscene more awesome by setting fire to mortals in the background, or the foreground.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: "Deadfellas", "Poultrygeist", and the list goes on. Not to mention the description of Painter stating "No one wanted to hang his paintings, so he hung himself".
- Indian Burial Ground: And somebody built a shed on top of it. Also parodied in the "Poultrygeist" mission, with an ancient chicken (and turkey) burial ground.
- Informed Ability: Averted big time. Every ghost has abilities and none of them are proclaimed. However, the Darkling's soul-eating abilities is pretty much not usable.
- Kavorka Man: Dr. Seth Greenwood. Half-bald, wears glasses, has an affair with half the nurses in the hospital.
- Luck-Based Mission: Any mission that involves getting mortals to do a particular thing
has an element of this, at least if you want to complete the level quicklyalmost entirely involves goddamn luck.
- Mirror Scare: Tricia and Lady Rose are ghosts who inhabit mirrors and have an array of mirror-related powers.
- Murder by Cremation: This is how Flash Jordan was killed. The nosy news reporter had to hide in a coffin to avoid being uncovered by mafia Don's goons, and was cremated by accident with everyone thinking they are cremating the Don's deceased grandmother.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Although never outright stated, Professor Krauss being freed from the Precinct Station by his associate after enough of the police force has been scared away can be seen as the Player enabling that escape by distracting the police. Which leads directly to the Professor later trapping the Darkling and using it for experiments.
- Obvious Beta: Not in the typical fashion, but the game ended on a cliffhanger, despite the lack of sequel. Thankfully, the final mission, bringing a more satisfying end, was released for download via the internet and packaged with the Steam version.
- Odd Name Out: The emotional ghosts are Shivers, Fingers, and... Painter.
- Similar are the fire-themed ghosts: Arclight (who is classified as the Mane, but still centered around fire), Firetail, and... Sparkle. Justified, since Fire Elementals can also be bound to electrical fetters, and Sparkle is more oriented at Haunted Technology.
- Offscreen Teleportation: One doesn't have to wait after binding a ghost to one room before binding them to another — which must lead to a peculiar effect for the mortals, as they can see the ghost they just ran away from in the room they just ran into.
- Our Banshees Are Louder: In the game, banshees are vengeful ghosts of insane women who can manipulate weather, in addition of wailing, screaming and noise-making. Double subverted with Brigit, who, instead, weaponizes quiet powers, such as Stage Whisper and Hearing Voices. Yet she herself is not quiet in any sense.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: Very, very different, and all over the place. Aside from your typical Bedsheet Ghost, you can encounter former humans and animals, assorted elemental creatures, animated abstract concepts, and even the rage of the aforementioned chickens as a blood-sputtering Hive Mind.
- People Puppets: The "Domination" power for one person, the "Dance Macabre" for everyone in the vicinity. This does not scare as much as makes the "puppet" go psyched out.
- Scary Scarecrows: Scarecrow, who is, predictably, a scarecrow. Even more, it is not supposed to scare crows away — it can scare others with crows.
- Shapeshifting: Two ghosts (Harriet and Wizakejak) have the ability to transform into a visible mortal that isn't their fetter, before being able to walk around without need of proximity to same fetter, and then they can commit Bodily Horror - in Harriet's case, seriously resembling of The Exorcist.
- Shout-Out: Many of the names of the mortals, the names of the missions, and even some of the ghosts are shout outs to pop culture references.
- Speaking Simlish: Mortals, when talking amongst themselves.
- Stealth Pun: The strategy guide says about Hogwash's origin story: "A surfing groundhog? Surely he must be making it up." Which would make it, well... hogwash.
- The Trickster: The same two Shapeshifter Ghosts as before. Another ghost however, one who uses mirrors as her fetter, can create a clone of anyone who looks into her surface.
- Totally Radical: Hogwash, a groundhog with a technology fetish, speaks this way.
- Unwinnable: Certain missions had characters that could banish some of your most vital ghosts, were you not careful. This could effectively drive a player mad.
- Unfinished Business: Ghosts that are trapped in certain locations are usually there because they still have a grudge against the living or something they want you to do for them.
- Valley Girl: Tricia, one of your haunters.
- Variable Mix: The game switches among a set of soundtracks based on the situation. However, camera height is a factor in deciding the chosen music, as you may find in The Blair Wisp Project.
- Villain Protagonist: Kinda. The Ghost Master is no friend of the living, and it's quite clear the narrator enjoys the more sadistic parts of the job. For the most part, though, your job is to keep the supernatural world respected, help ghosts with moving on from being caught in single places, and in one case solve a murder.
- Who You Gonna Call?: ...Ghostbreakers! And they are not afraid of no ghost.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: All mortals have two fears (conscious and subconscious) for the player to exploit, ranging from creepy-crawlies to storms to water to being hunted. Things that relate to their fears will scare them as well (i.e. a mortal scared of water will also be scared by storms).
- The "Phobia" power can weaponize this trope, making a person become afraid of a certain thing (like, for example, Bridget can induce fear of loud noises). If there's a ghost with the ability of causing these things to appear, hilarity will ensue.