Overall 6.00
I first backed Ghost Song on kickstarter back in about 2013, a one man project. Back then it looked like a unique Metroid like game with a cool artstyle, fast forward a decade and Ghost Song finally was finished and released into a world that has had countless Metroid like games release in that time. Ghost Song went through some revisions in this development, none bigger than the influences that came from Hollow Knight, if you are going to borrow something, borrow from the best. What happened though is Ghost Song doesn’t feel like it has a unique premise, instead it’s an amalgamation of various Metroidvania tropes.

Ghost Song has you play as a sort of robot/humanoid being that crash lands onto a dying planet that has sucked in other ships, stranding other groups of humans and aliens. Like Hollow Knight and its inspiration Dark Souls, the story is told in a second hand manner. You learn the back story of why the planet is filled with aggressive alien life forms by speaking to the various NPCs that litter the world. You learn a bit about each character but there aren’t really much of any side quests, maybe one or two and like souls games they are more suggestions than quests. There are no markers of logs, you just find NPCs in different areas as you explore. Ultimately the story is ok, I came to like “blue” as you are so called and enjoyed some of the banter with the group of survivors you come across. But exciting this story is not, and that can be detrimental to the game when there are no real highs.

As Blue you explore a desolate alien landscape and learn new skills to access more areas, you get the idea. Like hollow knight the game has a “souls” mechanic where if you die you lose the gel you use to level up, run back to your corpse to gain the lost gel. You can spend the gel at specific save points to level up different aspects of your suit.

Not sure if melee was always going to be a major focus on the combat before Hollow Knight but clearly it went in that direction as melee attacks are a large part of combat. The standard Metroid like blaster has really short range and overheats quickly slowing down the fire to a trickle. The overheating has a secondary effect, it makes your melee attack be more powerful. Your melee attacks are tied to a stamina bar that lowers when dashing or running as well. A third meter governs a special attack (think Metroid missiles) which can be customized by one of the many different attacks you find. The combat system strikes a nice balance where you are switching from one kind of attack to another as one feeds the other. Combined with the dash which gives invincibility frames the game gives plenty of options for combat.

I also like the variety in melee weapons; it starts simple with a spear but later weapons can be a giant mechanical fist or a huge disc you can launch. Sub weapons have even more options, not all great, but some that send little goo monsters that attack on their own are helpful, in the end I mostly just stuck with the classic missiles. Like Hollow Knight there are a load of mods that can be applied to give different perks. One can increase melee damage you give but also how much you take. Some give boosts in strength, in life, in luck. Some can add effects to your dash and so on. I did not find them all, the game seems to have plenty of secrets but the map is awful at telling you where they are cause it marks nothing for you, instead you have to leave markers but even then the game doesn’t tell you where potential secrets are like Metroid does.

Everything I described above works well and it’s clearly borrowed from Hollow Knight and that’s fine. The issue is the application of those mechanics, how is the game world and enemies? Well not great, simply put Ghost Song has a boring world that’s not fun to explore and pretty simplistic enemies that don’t pose much of a challenge nor lead to any exciting fights. So many of the enemies are just small creatures that simply run at you, or float at you and they take almost no skill to take down. Then there are the more humanoid monsters that are like zombies, they just stand around until they spot you then just charge, so you can simply dash past them as they come. Their large life bars and the few occasions when they bunch up is the only reason I died in this game outside of the bosses.

Speaking of bosses, these fair better than the standard enemies but there is nothing that memorable. At least bosses have projectiles requiring more jumping and dodging. One memorable one is this scary screaming female thing that seems more Resident Evil creature and sort of just lands from the sky into different rooms as you explore. Most of them are basic bosses with identifiable patterns, I beat them all rather easily. I do like that there seems to be quite a few optional bosses, I might have even missed one or two, I am always for good secrets but again in this game they might be too hidden.

The main goal of the game is to collect ship parts and return them to the hub. In one of the worst ideas I’ve seen in a modern Metroid game, for some damn reason every time you find a ship part deep in the world you have to bring it all the way back to the hub and you can’t warp. I don’t know why the developer thought this would be a fun mechanic, whether he wanted to pad for time. It’s one thing if the trip back takes you to new locations or have unique new events happen, but outside a few new enemies getting in your way, you just traverse the same path you took. A complete waste of time. This happens four or five times, I don’t get it. The best part of Metroid games is going deeper and deeper into the game world, occasionally finding shortcuts that connect it all together. The pacing of a Metroid game works when you have constant discovery, forcing backtracking that adds nothing to the game completely destroys that flow.

The graphics are very nice with a artstyle that pops with bright colors and well animated sprites. I don’t think the world is all that interesting, it feels like it’s all bland tunnels, it all starts to blend together. Nothing stood out about the music either, I can’t recall any track. It takes a good 10 hour to beat with maybe 5 more hours to really find everything, it didn’t over stay it’s welcome and felt satisfying in terms of length.

Ghost Song feels good to play, it’s a solid Metroidvania with Hollow Knight influence that hits all the notes you expect. It just doesn’t excel at any one area and has some really annoying design decisions. It’s a shame cause I think there is a base for a really great game, all the elements are there. It’s a fine game but if you are looking for a Metroidvania to play there is plenty better out there.
Posted by Dvader Mon, 23 Jan 2023 02:33:59
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