Ever since I saw the movie Ghost (how many years ago was that?) I’ve been idly musing about a game in which the player must avoid death’s agents. It goes something like this: at the start of the game, your character (along with several other people) has just died in a mysterious accident. Your ghost is standing over your body, in much the way that ghosts are frequently portrayed as doing so in popular film.
Shortly thereafter, a group of extremely scary-looking shades materialize (from underground, from behind objects, etc) and they begin to drag the ghosts of the recently-deceased into the underworld. This is the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to any of these people, so they are all kicking and screaming like lunatics as they are dragged away.
Fortunately, your character is able to escape the shades. This is an extremely unusual occurence — it happens no more than once in a million deaths. (There must be something special about you.) And so the game begins. You must roam the world as a ghost and try to figure out who killed you and why. And get revenge, of course!
Throughout the game, you are being hounded by shades bent on dragging you to the underworld where you belong. As your continued freedom increasingly upsets the lord of the underworld, he sends more and more powerful shades after you. Fortunately for you, you start the game with one very important power: the ability to possess living humans. When in possession of someone, it’s as if you’re alive — the agents of the underworld cannot harm you and you cannot see them. Furthermore, possessing people is pretty much the only way for you to accomplish most of the game’s objectives (since you can’t do much as a ghost, other than walk through walls. That will occassionally prove useful, but when you need to speak with people or manipulate objects, you’ll need a body.)
In order to win the game and appease the lord of the underworld (so that his agents no longer hound you), you’ll need to deliver him a particularly tasty soul as substitute for your own. (This is not immediately known to you — it’s a mid-game plot development.) As luck would have it, that tasty soul just happens to belong to the villain who killed you! You see, he’s been extending his own life through unnatural means, and the lord of the underworld is very eager to finally collect him.
The “only” consequence of dying when you’re in possession of another person is that you become a ghost again, and thus, you are vulnerable to the shades’ attacks. You can fight the shades (with powers that increase over the course of the game), but if they harm you enough, you get dragged to the underworld and the game’s over (i.e. time to reload from saved game.)
I think you can do some really interesting stuff with the transition from possessed human to ghost. Just one minor, repeatable example: when a body you’ve possessed is killed, your ghost as well as the ghost of the possessed person is released. Unfortunately for the person you possessed, s/he is sure to be culled when the shades arrive to grab you both. How creepy would it be to look back over your shoulder and see the shades dragging away the shrieking ghost of the poor jerk who you just got killed? It would certainly make you think twice about possessing innocent people and putting them into harms way. On the other hand, it might make you enjoy possessing “evil” people even more.
Anyway, this is just the kernel … I’m well aware that ideas are easy and execution is not. That said: what do you think?