Thanks to Lone Wolf Technologies for the review code
Title: Spooky Ghosts Dot Com
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 10/02/2019
In this metroidvania, you take control of a ghost hunter named Ruby, who sets out to investigate a haunted mansion after taking up a job offer to investigate it! Upon arriving at the mansion, she realizes this is a far more dangerous mission than anticipated, and thus she has to traverse the entire building to find the client.
Spooky Ghosts is a metroidvania going for a pixel art style, not an uncommon sight. Kinda like Elliot Quest, this game doesn’t really pay tribute to any generation or system in particular, just using a simple color palette that reminds me a bit of PICO-8 titles and later Atari 7800 Games. Oddly enough though, this presentation somehow suffers from irritating frame stuttering at random points while exploring rooms, so somehow even this simple look isn’t really doing the game much favors. The music here is very generic, and can easily be overshadowed by the game’s simplistic sound effects, so don’t expect to really remember much of anything.
Spooky Ghosts tasks the player with exploring a mansion, traversing through the multiple areas within to find a client. Per standard metroidvania fare, you do this by exploring for new equipment and items, and using those items to open up new areas or shortcuts within the mansion. After an initial area where you get to learn the ropes of the gameplay, you’re sent to the first spacious area of the game, where you’re pretty much free to go in any direction you can.
The game is still somewhat linear, but some bosses and locations can be accessed in different orders depending on which ones you choose to take on, and what items are needed to get to certain areas. The game world in general isn’t too terribly big, with the whole thing being traversable in around an hour and a half if you’re going in blind. Still, there are fast travel methods to take up, most notably being the cats hidden around the mansion. If you find one, you can pet it to make it happy, which will prompt it to tell a bigger white cat to trust you. Depending on where you find this white cat, he’ll want a certain amount of these smaller cats to be petted, and if you did enough, he can take you to his other locations, allowing for a reasonable fast travel system.
Combat in this game isn’t really that great though. You have a basic weapon for the majority of the game, and the fire rate is slow. Enemies still die relatively quick to it, but bosses and some later enemies can feel like sponges, leading to me getting incredibly bored with the combat by near the end of the game. You do get a charge shot that can blow open wooden roadblocks and deal more damage to enemies, but this also takes quite a bit to charge, and you never get an upgrade for your firing rate, so the spongy foes are still a problem. What I eventually did was just use the dash upgrade to avoid most of the enemies, after getting enough currency for the game’s shops.
In fact, the currency for this game is pretty easy to come by, spongy enemies aside. They come in the form of candy corn, and nearly every enemy in the game drops them. There are two stores in the mansion, and they each contain a hidden health upgrade along with an important inventory item, so buying the item first is recommended, especially since one of them increases your invulnerability time. Once you buy everything though, there’s zero use for the currency, making it easier to just skip enemies after you have enough.
Unfortunately, as alluded to earlier on, Spooky Ghosts does have some irritating frame issues. For some reason that I can’t really fathom, this game would just stutter or pause at random as I played through the game in handheld mode. It wasn’t gamebreaking like some other games that do this, but it’s consistent enough that it did originally put me off from the game, and it’s certainly annoying for those who will notice it. It seems to be caused by whenever an enemy dies or if you kill multiple foes at once, (usually with the charge shot) since the game doesn’t really like the explosion effect. Still, this game managed to engage me enough that I marathoned the entire adventure on a long car ride, and while this was my biggest gripe with the game next to the enemy sponges, I still found this to be a brief, yet enjoyable adventure overall, even if I feel other short metroidvanias are a lot more polished. There are a couple of difficulty options for a tiny bit of replay value, but otherwise once you beat this game, you’ve seen all there is.
In conclusion, Spooky Ghosts is a fun mini metroidvania that I enjoyed far more than I expected to. While the whole adventure will take you around two hours to 100%, it’s still an enjoyable romp with a decent difficulty curve, although the slow firing of your shot is a consistent gripe from start to finish that not everyone will be able to get past. It’s a simplistic entry in the genre, but like Xeodrifter, that’s perfectly fine, and while I wish this game was way more polished, especially on the technical front, it’s not a bad way to spend a car ride or afternoon if you want a brief mission.
I give Spooky Ghosts Dot Com a 6 out of 10.