Publisher: Francis Cota
Release Date: 12 July 2018
Price: $9.99 / £8.99
Reviewed by Josh Brant
One of my favourite genres in video games has to be the Metroidvania; the progression, the combat and the exploration all come together in one enjoyable package when done right. Ghost 1.0 takes the humour of the developer's previous title UnEpic and transfers it from the fantasy world to a sci-fi setting.
Embarking On an Adventure
In Ghost 1.0 you play as the aptly titled Ghost, who is, literally, a ghost. Actually, it’s hard to tell what she is at first as her spirit can float around between different androids called Nakas and inhabit them. A mercenary who’s been contacted by two nerdy looking guys - Bugan the engineer and Jacker the hacker - they task Ghost to break into a space station in order to hack it from the inside.
The main goal for this infiltration is to combat the Nakamura Corporation, a robotics company that is seemingly up to some nefarious things. It’s your job to follow the orders of this dynamic duo as you continue to learn about what’s going on at the space station.
During this quest, you’ll uncover facts that change the landscape and understanding of not only what you're fighting, but of Ghost herself. Anyone who has played UnEpic know that the developer's story presentation is lighthearted, but there are a few interesting elements at play under the surface. For example, it hits on some themes about the human condition and the rights of those who may not be considered part of mainstream society.
If you consider yourself a geek from the 80’s or 90’s in particular, Ghost 1.0 is going to be right up your alley in terms of jokes and pop culture references. From Blade Runner to Space Odyssey, you’ll feel like it’s specifically catering to your tastes.
Taking Down the Man
The game is not going to overly impress you with stunning visuals, but Ghost 1.0 does present its world and its characters in an interesting way. The space station you explore features many different backdrops, from garden areas draped in greenery, to industrial steel hallways. The perspective is from a pulled-back angle, similar to UnEpic, where Ghost and enemies are small in comparison to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, some of intricate details that are present get lost in this perspective.
When navigating the UI, there's a decent amount of information on screen, with gun selections, mission information, ammo counts and so on. Thankfully, the menu features a mini-map where all the vital information for rooms you need to visit is displayed. However, you have to enter the menu each time to look at it, and I wish there was a way to bring the mini-map quickly up on the screen instead of having to go into the menu each time.
Sound design is impactful and accomplishes what it sets out to do. Audio effects are distinct and while the voice acting may not be the best here, it works in an awkward charm kind of way. Soundtrack wise, the music aligns well with Ghost 1.0’s setting and gameplay, with some catchy tunes and great tech ambience depending on what's occurring on screen.
Inhabiting the Weak Minded
Ghost starts the title with the ability to jump and only carries one primary weapon, though this can be supplemented with three secondary weapons that you can find on the space station. You use the right analogue stick to aim your shots and the left stick to move Ghost around. There is an emphasis on accuracy if you wish to survive past level five, because Ghost 1.0 won’t take it easy on you in terms of enemies or challenge, but the aiming reticule will give you some indication of the spread of each shot.
When firing your weapons, you have unlimited ammo after a fashion. There is an ammo counter, but ammo will regenerate over time. Early on when you only have one weapon and a few enemies to deal with that may seem fine, but if you don’t find a secondary weapon by the time you get to the second set of stages, you'll be in for a rough time. With the amount of enemies on screen, your primary weapon will run out of steam rather quickly, and this means you could be running around with no way to fight back, waiting for ammo to regenerate.
Secondary weapons are interesting in their variety, with artillery such as the cybernetic frog launcher which hurls destructive frogs at your enemies. Whether its a simple or complex weapon, the key is getting the rhythm of your shots right.
As you move room to room, you’ll have a variety of enemies thrown your way; from turrets that can snipe you from a distance, to bots that will charge you and spit poison air in your face. You’ll need to to stay mobile and take out enemies while picking up ammo recharges and health packs along the way. There's a good emphasis on combat early on and it doesn’t slow down too much over time. The level design offers a consistently satisfying challenge as you progress.
Combat is chaotic for the most part, and that's a good thing. There’s enough variety in enemies, different weapons and powerups to keep it fresh each time you start a new run. Enemies in fact, are where Ghost 1.0 shines brightest. Some bots can only be hit from a certain side or foes such as the ninja bot will disappear into the shadows after it throws some shurikens your way. The variety keeps you on your toes throughout your mission.
Your combat skills will be put to the test if you trigger an alarm when hunting down new skills and powerups. These alarm systems get progressively tougher as you run into more and more of them. When one is activated, you’ll have a time challenge that you’ll have to fight your way out of as Jacker tries to take down the alarm as fast as possible. Your main goal during this time is just to survive the onslaught of enemies.
Any great Metroidvania comes with the expectation of amazing boss fights, and this is another area where Ghost 1.0 succeeds handsomely. Each boss has unique mechanics that will push your skills to the limit, forcing you to react on the fly depending on their weaknesses and characteristics.
There are also puzzle sections which consist of you leaving your ghost mech to possess other enemies as Ghost. This will leave her main shell vulnerable and if you’re not careful, lead to a quick death. While taking over another bot, you may be able to interact with certain doors or switches, or even destroy other bots that would have given you problems in your regular form. Utilising these mechanics offer some fun challenges in figuring out what pressure plates, switches or lasers need to be activated or avoided in order to progress.
Overall, Ghost 1.0 surprises with its depth, fun factor, and compelling puzzles and combat. The gameplay and levelling up kept me engaged with Ghost while trying to take down this evil corporation. Despite some frustration in a handful of sections that required impeccable precision, Ghost 1.0 is thoroughly enjoyable and easily recommendable for fans of Metroidvanias or action titles in general.
Pros & Cons
+ Humorous and clever narrative
+ Great combat and puzzle gameplay
+ Engaging music and sound effects
+ Fun bosses to defeat
- Imprecise controls at times
- Lack of a cohesive mini-map