Thanks to Unepic Fran for the review code
Title: Ghost 1.0
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 07/19/2018
In this metroidvania adventure, you take control of a hired agent known as Ghost, who aids a group of hackers with a goal of exploring a vast space station, using her spectral powers to take control over enemies! But there seems to be more to this mystery lady than meets the eye…
A loooooong, loooong time ago during the Wii U era, I picked up a fun looking game under the name of UnEpic. It was a charming, if goofy metroidvania with a silly premise, and had a simple look to it, yet still stuck out to me due to having a ton of love put into it, even with voice acting!
Years later, the same developer created Mini Ghost and Ghost 1.0, the latter of which is available here on Nintendo Switch, as the game I’m covering right now. This game definitely is a step up presentation wise, going for better looking 2D art, much better voice acting with the occasional cutscene kicking in now and then, and the glowing, varied sections of the space station provide a much better atmosphere than the castle labyrinth of Unepic.
Indeed, Ghost is a smooth playing game, and while the whole presentation isn’t going to blow you away by any means, it still comes together pretty well for an enjoyable experience. The music is pretty excellent as well, and while maybe it won’t come off as one to put on your playlist, it still fits the game greatly.
Ghost 1.0 offers two modes for playing the adventure, but both ultimately lead to a metroidvania experience where the main goal is to explore the vast space station and progress deeper within, using new items and weapons to take on enemies and avoid detection. You can either play in a traditional, classic mode which gives you linear items and respawns you in a save room upon death, or a roguelite mode, which keeps the same game structure, but shuffles around items for crazier weapon loadouts, and comes with a harsher penalty for death.
Trying both of these modes, I found each of these to have their own benefits: Roguelite was super fun for a faster-paced, more tense experience, while Classic was pretty easygoing, and the one I decided to primarily stick with for my first playthrough and the sake of the review. There’s even a series of missions you can unlock in the main menu, which pretty much throw you in a gauntlet tasking you with clearing a specific set of challenges, time-attack style, so that’s another way to play.
Control-wise, Ghost 1.0 uses a scheme akin to a dual-stick shooter, with the back two triggers being used for jumps and attacking, and the two sticks being used to move and aim freely. It may seem a little weird going away from a traditional button setup, especially when this is a side scrolling game that you really wouldn’t think benefits much from free aiming, but I found myself getting pretty used to the controls in no time at all, and the extra aiming precision was more than enough to get the job done in both handheld and docked modes. You can obtain a variety of secondary weapons, from wide shots, explosive bombs, and more, and these are used via the R button, plus you can obtain temporary items to use with the D-Pad, so you have a decent arsenal to build up over the adventure. All in all, seems like a typical metroidvania, with your usual affair of clearing locked passages, obtaining items to reach new areas, and defeating the occasional strong enemy.
Yet, there are a few notable things that make Ghost 1.0 a bit more interesting. The biggest comes from the titular main character: seeing how your main hero is well, a ghost, they can eject from their robotic shell at any point and float around the current room, either to reach something far away, or to hijack enemies or bypass certain objects, ala Avenging Spirit. That means you can have quite a lot of fun hijacking enemies and using their weaponry to take out other foes, or making the current room a lot easier. Hell, you can even phase through walls, so if something is on the other side of a wall, you can even take advantage of this! Granted, you can’t do too much in these bodies, and if your main body is destroyed in any way you’ll be sent back to a 3D Printing station, which work as the save/recovery points. Luckily, you can choose which one to respawn at, but you’ll still lose all of your funds/items depending on the mode, so it’s best to be careful and not get too carried away with the mechanic.
The other aspect that kicks into gear is the mechanic of Alert Levels: plenty of rooms in the game will have security alarms that you can trip, and doing so will trigger the station’s security system. While your hacker friend tries to disable this, you must fight the consistent waves of enemies, and the more alarms you trigger, the higher the alert levels will be, so you can play a bit of risk and reward to gain more cubes from enemies (which are used to purchase from the shops, serving as your currency) or evade alarms to minimize detection. Along with this, you have a typical skill tree system, with upgrade points being obtained over the course of the game for you to spend, either on benefits for yourself, or your allies to improve aspects such as the length of the security alarm, your overall health, attributes in ghost form, etc.
Considering how Unepic was one of my very first indie metroidvanias ever back on Wii U, I’m pleased to say that Ghost 1.0 is far more polished and an overall better experience, especially with the multiple play modes and satisfying mechanics, and I can’t believe that I foolishly let this game rot in my queue for so long. There is a little bit of trial and error with the roguelite mode and alarm system, and some areas can be outright aggravating until you figure out what you’re supposed to do, but ultimately, Ghost 1.0 proved to be a really fun time, and I’m definitely going to chip away more at this game over the next few months to fully complete it: having enjoyed the side game Mini Ghost on Steam many years back, I wouldn’t mind seeing more games in this universe come to fruition!
At the end of the day, the game is just a purely solid Metroidvania: outside of the titular mechanic, it won’t do much to reinvent the wheel, just stick to solid traditions, but either way, you’ll have plenty of fun whichever mode you choose to play the game, and honestly? I ultimately found this to be far more engaging than Unepic, which is a lot harder for old me to come back to. And that says quite a lot about this game’s quality, if it can outdo the nostalgic game made to be a nostalgic throwback to begin with: double nostalgia!
I give Ghost 1.0 an 8 out of 10.