Mansion of Hidden Souls is a peculiar game. Everything about the game was creepy. The poorly rendered graphics added an odd vibe, while the plot and setting were downright strange. I was pleasantly surprised by the game however. A friend and I played through the game together and enjoyed solving the puzzles and unraveling the game.
Developed by System Sacom and published by Vic Tokai, Mansion of Hidden Souls was released for the Sega CD in 1994. My friend and I took on the role of a young boy looking for his sister who has run away to a creepy mansion in the woods. He soon discovers that people who stumble upon this mansion are turned into butterflies, and that his sister finds this appealing. He then sets out to find her and get out of there.
There were plenty of obstacles standing in his way though. The game is played from the first-person perspective, meaning my friend and I took on the role of the young boy directly. We chose where to go in the mansion and explored it in its entirety. The game uses pre-rendered backgrounds so it has a distinct look to it and is quite detailed, but due to the Sega CD, the game appears very grainy. Rather than sprites which were predominately used in games of that era, pre-rendered graphics looked like “realistic” interpretations of items.
We chose which direction we wanted to go and the young boy would walk where we told him. We stumbled upon objects or areas that could be interacted with and, at the right time in the game, something important would happen. Everything in the game is there for a reason, there isn’t anything extra. By the end of the game, we had utilized everything that we could interact with, which led to a lot of backtracking.
Mansion of Hidden Souls takes place entirely in the mansion and it is a fairly large environment to explore. Each room has a theme and they are all quite varied. The majority of the rooms also contain a butterfly, who was once a human. The butterflies retain their ability to communicate with the boy and some are helpful while others are spiteful. The great thing about being on a compact disc is the ample storage space allowed for voice acting. The unfortunate thing about the voice acting is how poor it is or what I should say is the voice acting is comedic; each butterfly had a unique accent that was butchered by the voice actors.
Early on we had limited access to the mansion as we lacked keys, but in one of the rooms is a black painting that gives a glimpse of what we need to interact with next. This was very helpful. A lot of the puzzles my friend and I figured out before checking the black painting, but with so many intricate objects to interact with, and some uses being less obvious than others, it was great to have something to turn to.
For the first half of the game, we explored each room, learning where objects were and received input from the butterflies. Once we retrieved the main character’s sister (early on in the stages of human to butterfly transformation) we had to escape from the mansion’s owner. At this point we received a clock and had one hour (in-game time) to complete the game. Time didn’t pass when we stood still which meant we could think about what to do, and it seemed as if we had ample time to check the black painting. This time limit added an interesting dynamic that we didn’t find annoying thanks to the ability to save in case we did make a mistake (which happened a few times) and died because of it.
I took a gamble with Mansion of Hidden Souls. I saw it for sale and having never seen a copy of it before, purchased it. I didn’t have any intention of playing it as soon as I did, but I found a peculiar, yet halfway compelling adventure that was short enough for my friend and I to complete in one sitting. We made a lot of the connections about the use of objects ourselves but the ability to seek out the black painting for what to do next was helpful. Mansion of Hidden Souls was a creepy game that I had more fun playing through than I expected I would.