The struggling actor Clement Aitkin is the host of The Sunshine Hour, a late 60s children's TV show that just isn't pulling in the ratings anymore. In his fixation of rising to stardom, he loses much more than he bargains for when he makes a deal with a mysterious fortune teller. Fast forward to Halloween 1976 where payment is due and this deal costs him not only his grip on reality but his son's life by his own doing. Fast forward once more to Halloween 1980 and three children trick or treating stumble upon the Sunshine Manor where the murder had taken place. You play as Ada and when two of her friends are captured by a mysterious dark figure, it's up to you to explore the mansion, appease its spirits and find a way to reunite the young girl with her friends.
Sunshine Manor is simple by design and it excels within its limited capacity. Ada moves in your standard eight directions and she receives the ability to summon a magic circle around her which wards off the dark figure whenever it approaches. The crux of the gameplay is in the game's exploration as you walk from one room to the next to find and interact with objects in order to help the spirits that remain in the manor.
The horror theme has been done time and time again but quite often 2D pixel art indie titles steer clear of including anything too graphic. Sunshine Manor does not shy away from both its horror themes and its gory presentation by its use of blood, skeletons and other various body parts, both internal and external.
The feeling of being alone is often heightened by the feeling of being alone whilst also being watched. Sunshine Manor achieves this with its lack of music and unnerving sound effects. For example, you can be strolling from one room to the next in complete silence, only for heavy breathing in the distance to start rumbling; only then, it'll stop for a room or two, and then you'll hear floorboards creaking in one room. Then, you'll enter a quite room with nothing but the feint sound of a clock ticking, you'll take a left and then suddenly, you're confronted by the dark figure and the bass-heavy music begins to play, leaving you scrambling to press the button to summon the magic circle before it tries to take you.
- Simple by design
- Gory horror theme
- Creepy atmospheric sound effects
While the previously mentioned jump scares are expertly heightened by the game's sound design, there were moments where I had encountered them with little-to-no time to react. I'd be entering a room and the dark figure was standing right at the doorway, which resulted in Ada being instantly captured. It's frustrating to think that there can be times where no matter what you do, you can get caught immediately after simply opening a door.
Sunshine Manor's lack of map takes a lot of fun out of exploring the manor. While it certainly helps to create a feeling of helplessness, as a player, it often leaves you wandering around the same rooms over and over until you manage to interact with the right object. The game follows a similar structure to that of point and click adventure games and with it, many of its foibles. I like point and click adventures as much as the next guy but they are known for often being ambiguous at times, and the same can also be said about Sunshine Manor.
- Jump scares with no time to react
- Lack of map/direction
Final Score: 6/10
Sunshine Manor lays down a fantastically bone-chilling foundation, telling a story that would be welcomed around any night-time campfire. Its gothic and gory themes are heightened by its fantastic sound design, leaving the player both unsettled and reaching for their heart medication. However, the game ultimately falls short thanks to its frustrating gameplay and its lack of map, leading to a lot of aimless wandering. There's potential here but I'm afraid it just didn't quite live up to its vision.
Thank you for checking out our Sunshine Manor Switch review, thank you to Hound Picked Games for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: