The Guardian of Darkness
Well chew my hoop. Check this out: a game starring Billy Corgan out of rock band Smashing Pumpkins. Better still, it's a game in which Billy Corgan out of Smashing Pumpkins has to go and explore a bunch of haunted houses; he has to thwart hordes of ghosts and demons and spooks and spirits using a range of magic spells. Great!
Here's the plot: Billy Corgan has left Smashing Pumpkins following a row over a plectrum. Upset and sorely disillusioned, he decides to shun showbiz entirely by quitting whining in time to music, and training to be an exorcist monk instead. He joins a monk correspondence school that advertises in the back of Thirsty Fireman Monthly and, following years of intense training, discovers how to harness mental energy and command the hidden power of prayer. He's a magic monk! Hey presto!
His powers are impressive. He can levitate. He can shoot balls of energy from his fingertips. He can cook rice just so. Abracadabra!
As his fame spreads, he is invited to join The Gate, a sinister sect whose members act as guardians of the shadowy margin between life and death. The Gate send him on a series of missions, and it is these missions which comprise the game.
You can see what sort of game this is. If we stuck just one screenshot to the underside of a Formula One racing car and made you lie beneath the road peering upward through a manhole cover while the vehicle zoomed overhead at 200mph, the nano-glimpse you'd get would be enough to tell you that it's a bit like Tomb Raider.
And you'd be right. What you wouldn't see, however, is the positionable camera or the RPG elements - the in-game conversations, the inventory, or the sprawling map - all of which lift Guardian Of Darkness out of the dustbin of apathy and into the tray marked 'Ooh, That Looks Like It Might Be Quite Good'. Billy Corgan is just a bonus. We mentioned the missions. What we didn't say is how varied they are. There are ten in all, veering from traditional gothic nonsense in old-fashioned spooky mansions, to kooky Ghostbusters hilarity in haunted burger bars and the like. Emerging victorious is a matter of jiggling about with objects and puzzles while simultaneously knocking the shit out of spooks with your high-falutin' magic spells. In other words, it isn't just Tomb Raider - it's Tomb Raider meets Alone In The Dark meets Scooby Doo. In full-on accelerated 3D-O-Vision. And starring Billy Corgan out of Smashing Pumpkins.
Oh, alright, it isn't Billy Corgan at all. It's a bloke called Ekna. We'll be reviewing the game in full just as soon as French developers Cryo have done typing it all in. Till then you'll have to content yourselves with just looking at the pictures.