News on Beta & Cancelled Games

The Haunted Mansion [GBA – Cancelled]

The Haunted Mansion is a cancelled adventure game that was in development around 2002 – 2003 by Pocket Studios, planned to be published for GBA by TDK Mediactive, the same company which published The Haunted Mansion for PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube. The games were based on the homonym Disneyland ride and the home-console versions were released in the same year of the Haunted Mansion movie (also based on the Disney ride).

This canned Game Boy Advance version was quite impressive for its 3D graphic, something that was not common on the console. Players would explore the mansion Resident-Evil- Style, finding keys and avoiding enemies, plus some on-rails sections on a classic mine cart.

It seems the GBA version of Haunted Mansion was canned when TDK Mediactive was bought by Take-Two Interactive. As wrote by a former Pocket Studios developer on Youtube:

“I was a coder on this game. The main reason for its non release was the TDK the original publishers being bought out mid development by Take2. I’m certainly not in the know as to what went on between Take2 and Pocket but after the takeover it was clear the game wouldn’t get a release. Lets just say Pocket wanted to hit its milestones to get paid and fill the contract and Take2 tried to make that hard.

As for the game. Publishers were at the time were eager to have games that were more 3D-ish, especially lower end publishers with less than amazing franchises as it made the game stand out from the flat 2d, iso games that almost every release was. The simple fact is the GBA doesn’t do 3D well, but I think looking back nearly 20 years and saying the 3d is broken isnt really fair. Personally I think some of the art in this game is lovely. I still think this game is technically impressive… Did anyone notice the transparent ghosts???? If any other game does transparency on the GBA I’ve not heard of it.

TBH the gameplay sucks. The card game was absolutely pointless, and the free roaming made the game weirdly empty and slow. I think a number of the team wanted to do a more side on 3d platformer affair, but that was ruled out fairly early as death/weapons was something you couldn’t do with this Disney property.”

Some years ago a ROM of the game was leaked online, so at least we can marvel at its technical achievement.

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Reverence (TSI) [PC – Cancelled]

Reverence is a cancelled FPS that was in development around 1996 by TSI (Three Space Imagery), planned to be published on PC by Cyberdreams. The game looked like a mix between Duke Nukem, Hexen and Exhumed (PowerSlave), with a strange blend of tibetan – gothic – egyptian – norse mythology settings. Luckily a playable alpha of the game was preserved in 2015:

“You have been chosen by the gods themselves to determine the future of the human race. According to them, humans are weak and pathetic and don’t deserve to exist anymore. You need to pick up a bunch of guns and energize yourself with a wide array of spells and defeat them one by one.

The leaked alpha version can be considered almost a full game. It appears to have all levels with most of the graphics, music and sounds. The game is divided into four big realms, each with its own theme. Realm of Osiris, an Egyptian god of underworld full of lava lakes and fire demons; Kokyangwuti, Hopi goddess of life, desert-like world; Frejya, Norse goddess of love whose realm lies under the vast waters and last but not least, Manjursi, Tibetan god of wisdom, who has a vast dominion in mountains.”

TSI was founded by Alberto Menache in the early ’90s, creating innovative motion capture software for games and computer graphics. Their collaboration with Cyberdreams covered at least two games, one of which was the released Noir: a Shadowy Thriller, but then the publisher had to cancel most of their projects. As we can read on Mobygames:

“In 1995 an “internal shake-up” had taken place at Cyberdreams: the investors removed management and installed a “turnaround management team,” that would make a transition to 3rd party publishing. It wouldn’t help. Cyberdreams only managed to publish one more title, Noir: A Shadowy Thriller (1996). In the meantime a lot of projects (almost all action games) were announced / taken into development: Species, Reverence, The Incredible Shrinking Character, Blue Heat, Ares Rising, and Wes Craven’s Principles of Fear. Sometimes they had been in production for years.”

Reverence was canned and TSI moved to other projects such as TV commercials.

Thanks to RareAlone for the contribution!

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Prince of Persia Redemption [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3, PC]

Prince of Persia: Redemption is a cancelled reboot of the classic series, that was internally pitched at Ubisoft Montreal (FoxTeam) around 2010 – 2011, just after the release of The Forgotten Sands. The project was mostly unknown until May 2020, when fans finally noticed a video uploaded on Youtube in 2012 by an anonymous user. By looking at this footage, the game looked like a mix between 3D Prince of Persia, God of War, Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed: a cinematic adventure game with huge monsters and time-rewind mechanics.

As wrote by former Ubisoft animator Jonathan Cooper on Twitter:

“Wow – haven’t seen this in ages. Amazing work from animation director Khai Nguyen (For Honor) and team. This target game footage (pre-rendered game pitch) inspired our own pitch for Assassin’s Creed 3 as they did such a great job making it look like real gameplay.

Sadly Ubisoft are generally quicker to cancel Prince of Persia games than others IPs because AFAIK original creator Jordan Mechner still holds license rights so the profit margins are lower. Would love to see a new one though. I’ve always wanted a PoP set in contemporary Iran.”

We can assume The Forgotten Sands did not sell enough for Ubisoft to invest more resources on another title, preferring to focus on the more profitable Assassin’s Creed series.

Thanks to Jason for the contribution!

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Splinter (Stromlo Entertainment) [PC – Cancelled]

Splinter is a cancelled Six-Degrees-Of-Freedom shooter that was in development around 1998 – 2000 by Stromlo Entertainment, planned to be published on PC by Electronic Arts. While the game is basically forgotten today, it was quite hyped at the time by gaming websites and magazines, with journalists seeing it as the next Descent mixed with Half Life, offering complex story and interesting game mechanics.

As we can read on IGN:

“When we highlighted this aspect of the game as well as the combination of organic enemies (e.g. wasps) and manmade adversaries (e.g. flying drones) and compared it with similar elements found in Half-Life, Greg Paltra was quick to add his thoughts: “Half-Life was a really great game. We were already well into development when it came out and we had our first look at it. We could really appreciate what it had to offer. Anyone who played Quake or something and then played Half-Life would realize the difference in the world they had created. I think we have tried to do the same sort of thing with Descent or Forsaken — we’ve got their basic game mechanic, but we’ve added the whole richness of the world and a believable story and a sense of character to really bring that genre to life. I think Half-Life really set the standard for what a game should be for the next generation of software that is out there.”

Players would take the role of a US military trying to retrieve a secret weapon called MERC, a sci-fi craft which can miniaturize itself to go undetected in restricted areas. It seems you would also find yourself miniaturized, exploring such places as ants-nests and shooting down huge insects. As we can read on IGN:

“Splinter is set in present day Blount Island, Mississippi at a secret government laboratory that is home to The Roanoke Project. It is a highly classified attempt by military scientists to perfect the science of nanotechnology and miniaturization. Research has led to the development of molecular robotics, self replicating manufacturing systems and the crowning glory, the Micro Emergency Response Craft now known simply as The MERC. It is a craft with the most advanced weapon systems ever produced and it can be miniaturized to the size of a quarter. Its ability to penetrate the most secure facilities ever devised has made it the most valued piece of military hardware on the planet. One little problem has come up though… it’s missing. “

“The cinematic background and relationships of Stromlo are very obvious in the character driven storyline but perhaps is most visible through the cinematic cutscenes that appear throughout the game. The movie scenes are done completely in CGI by visual effects house Animal Logic. The Sydney based company has worked in television and film with credits including The Thin Red Line and The Matrix.”

“Across the five levels, there are between 5 and 10 sections within each mission. The environments vary a lot, from very organic environments like the ant’s nest to man made environments like munitions factories. The diversity in the architecture, lighting and even the gameplay changes across each mission and within each mission. It’s something that people have responded to very strongly. We’ve got very favourable reports especially compared to something like Descent and some of the other games that are out there where its all been seen and it’s all been done and I think what we’ve got is very new and it’s very diverse within its own content.”

“The range of weapons gains some flexibility with secondary fire for all of your armaments. You start with a basic mini-gun that has a secondary fire like a shotgun all barrels fire together. The strategy of laying a stream of fire into an approach ant followed up by a close-up all barrel blast seems like fun. Other weapons include a heavy cannon, rocket launcher, grenade launcher and flamethrower. The secondary fire of the flamethrower (a big fire ball) and the rockets were probably our favourites in terms of visuals and ant killing mayhem. “

“There will be no floating weapons, or powerups in the game at all. Resources will be collected from organic and man made sources using the ‘Resource bot’. Organic sources such as fungi or dead insects can be converted into fuel for the flamethrower. Man made enemies may have ammunition you can use as well. Your prototype MERC is also fully equipped with all the weapons you will need in the game ¿ however the weapon system has been code locked by Trilling. You will need to link with other crafts you down to upload the codes to unlock your weapons. “

The team was also working on another game for EA, titled “Hydra”, which was also canned in early development:

“We were very lucky that Tony had an existing relationship with EA and we were fortunate at the time that EA Australia were looking to do some work with Australian developers so we had an introduction which led to a co-publishing deal for our first two projects. Stromlo’s second title Hydra will be based on a completely new engine and it will also have a strong focus on characters. It will be a different sort of game. We’ve done quite a bit of work on the new engine and some preliminary work on the concepts and characters but we’re really not ready to talk about it — you’ve really got to get your first one out there and keep your focus on that!”

Unfortunately EA killed the team when pulled the plug on Splinter, as we can read on PC Powerplay magazine (issue 054, 2000)”

“Melbourne-based developer, Stromlo Entertainment, has closed its doors following EA’s withdrawal of financial backing for the Descent-esgue shooter, Splinter. EA allegedly felt that Splinter too closely resembled Forsaken, which sold poorly worldwide. Despite the fact that Splinter was nearing completion, EA pulled the plug, forcing the company to undergo liquidation. Several former Stromlo employees have now moved on to other local companies including Auran and Blue Tongue.”

We don’t know how much of the game was completed before the cancellation, but we can hope someone could find a playable proto in the future as it looked like it could have been a cult-classic if only released.

Thanks to jackgrimm99 for the contribution!

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Yoshitsune Densetsu [SNES – Cancelled]

Yoshitsune Densetsu (義経伝説, Legend of Yoshitsune) is a cancelled action RPG that was in development around 1993, planned to be published by ASCII on the Super Famicom / SNES. The game told the fictionalized story of Minamoto no Yoshitsune a “military commander of the Minamoto clan of Japan, that after evading death made his way past Hokkaido and sailed to the mainland of Asia, re-surfacing as Genghis Khan“.

It seems Yoshitsune Densetsu would have been supervised by popular mangaka Shotaro Ishinomori (Cyborg 009, Skull Man), possibly for character design and story concept. The protagonists were four men and women who have slipped back in time from the present age to the Kamakura period. Although the story would differ depending on the selected character, the main plot would always lead Yoshitsune to become Genghis Khan.

Some images and previews for the game we published in old japanese magazine, shared on Twitter by gt198x.

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