I first learned of Sunshine Manor while writing a news article about its release date. The game is a prequel to Camp Sunshine, which admittedly, I have not played. However, upon researching the indie, I found a ton of things I liked about it: pixel art, story-driven narrative, inspiration from classic horror games, and 80s music. Sunshine Manor is certainly the stylish game I was expecting. The gameplay, sadly, is a little frustrating.
What’s the perfect activity for kids on Halloween night? Trick-or-treating, of course! Ada and her friends visit the creepy Sunshine Manor looking for some candy, but when they knock on the door, it falls open, seemingly abandoned for years. With too much adrenaline and sugar pumping through their veins, the kids decide to explore the manor for a spooky adventure. Upon entering though, a mysterious cloaked man drags Ada’s friends away and a barrier blocks her from exiting. Luckily, Ada has psychic powers to defend herself. But are they strong enough to save her friends? And will they be able to escape alive?
“Each lingering soul takes the player to different versions of the manor, and in those worlds, the music is fantastic.”
For starters, the atmosphere is spot on. Despite cartoony 8-bit graphics, the beginning feels like an early Resident Evil with the eerie exploration of a large manor. Each lingering soul takes the player to different versions of the manor, and in those worlds, the music is fantastic. It’s starkly opposed to the hushed whispers and creaking walls that Sunshine Manor starts with—its head-bobbing 80s style synth that makes each alternate reality unique from one another.
The story itself is a well-known trope. That being said, as a game drawing inspiration from 80s horror flicks, it feels appropriate. Though, the pacing in Sunshine Manor is unfortunately muddled by somewhat tedious gameplay. Key items will suddenly appear in rooms already explored, forcing the player to go back and forth. Further escalating the tedium, the dash mechanic is tied to a gauge that drains and refills slowly after each use. It’s impossible to dart around quickly, and the game requires players to re-explore the entire manor constantly.
Dodging and attacking is a focus inside the spirit world. It’s fairly easy to dodge as enemies are generally on a fixed line. Similarly, bosses have a set order of attacks that need to be evaded or countered. There are some irritating segments involving moving platforms and edges to fall off; save points are few and far and between, making these parts especially punishing to mess up. As well, on more than one occasion, I would be immediately attacked if an enemy happened to be near the door I was entering. With only 4 ticks of health between save points, gameplay in Sunshine Manor can get prickly fast.
“Sunshine Manor looks amazing, sounds amazing, and is a decent length, but there’s a lot I didn’t enjoy.”
I also ran into a few bugs on my playthrough — two of them being soft locks. Progress could not be saved in these instances; for one of them, had I not made multiple save states, I would have lost my game entirely. While these are issues that can be ironed out with patches, my experience with Sunshine Manor was not as positive as I was hoping for.
Sunshine Manor looks amazing, sounds amazing, and is a decent length, but there’s a lot I didn’t enjoy. Items suddenly showing up in rooms already explored is vexing. The spirit world segments are tiresome, at times, and bugs lost me chunks of progress. It’s still worth checking out for those who like stylish top-down action and 80s callbacks. As for me, I’ll be happy with just the OST.
Sunshine Manor is available on PC via Steam.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC, code was provided by the Publisher.