Mansion of Hidden Souls

A bit of a follow-up on my tweet from earlier:

First, yes, I had a Sega CD (also a 32x!), and it was fine.

Second, to the matter at hand, I’ve been playing through The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Redux, and it reminded me, somehow, of Mansion of Hidden Souls, which was released in 1993 for the Sega CD.

I say “somehow” above because, frankly, I don’t remember much about Mansion of Hidden Souls, but it seems to me that it was Ethan Carter-like in the sense that there wasn’t much in the way of outright bad guys wandering around attacking the player. It was more about exploration, puzzles and 1993 video-game atmosphere (someone please correct me if I’m wrong on that – it’s been a while).

Not entirely, though. See, there’s a reason this game sticks out with me – it gave me one of my first all-out, god-forsaken, video-game jump-scares (can’t say for sure it was the first – that Commodore 64 Aliens game seems like it would be a likely candidate for that particular honour).

Mansion of Hidden Souls placed you in a spooky old haunted mansion searching for your sister. Your explorations eventually brought you to the basement, which included a long hallway, at the end of which was a single statue, seated and staring.

During the course of play, I seem to recall you had to pass by this thing twice – the first time, you walked toward it, headed off to another area to do whatever you had to do. The second time, you wouldn’t necessarily even see the statue – you could turn the other way when you re-entered that hallway, walking away from the statue as you made your way back upstairs.

Now, given this was 1993, this type of first-person explorationy game resembled a slideshow. It wasn’t free movement like we’re used to now – tile-based movement might be the way to describe it. You’d move forward, and an animation would play portraying the shift in your viewpoint, and you’d reach the next tile and stop. It took a second or two to do anything – it wasn’t real-time, it was press-to-move and wait, press-to-move and wait.

Here, see for yourself: below is a Youtube longplay of Mansion of Hidden Souls (the statue I’m referring to appears at about the 20 minute mark, incidentally).

You saw what the game wanted you to see. So, when you re-enter that hallway in the mansion’s basement, you don’t see the statue. You’d need to turn, specifically, to face it if you wanted to see it. Or you could turn the other way and follow the hall back to the stairs.

I did the latter. But half-way along the hall, I, for whatever reason, figured it’d be a good idea to turn around and look at that damn statue again.

So I stopped, pushed right on the D-pad, and began turning. Again, slideshow – the animation played, and my view shifted 90 degrees. I’m staring at the wall now. I press right again, completing the 180-degree turn.

And that statue isn’t sitting on its throne at the end of the hall anymore.

Rather, was right standing immediately in front of me. It had been stalking me, matching my every step down the hall, waiting for me to just turn around and look at it.

My young self, who didn’t yet know to stay well away from anything even remotely resembling a “horror” video game, was horrified, jumping all the way up to the chalky-white suspended ceiling in my parents’ basement (that’s exactly how I remember it). On the screen of the old tube TV, the statue moved, leaning forward and reaching down, no doubt crushing my poor, innocent character with its giant stone (or bronze? I don’t know, I still can’t tell) hands and terrible strength. Game over.

I reloaded or respawned or whatever, when I got back into that hallway, I didn’t look back. And this time, the statue didn’t get me.

Say what you will about the Sega CD and Mansion of Hidden Souls, but I’ll forever appreciate their powers combining to create that little moment.

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