Review: Ghost 1.0

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Review copy provided by developer

If your platformer has good combat and you give plenty of chances to use it, you’re most of the way to making a solid game right there. That’s what you’re getting with Ghost 1.0, a fluid, intuitive shooter built around arenas full of robots to junk. At least, that’s what the foundation of this one is. There’s quite a bit more built up around that, including map exploration, skill trees, item shops, multiple upgrade systems, and a fairly chatty plot. Not all of those will strike the right chord with you, I’d wager, but the bulk of this one is quality enough to be very much worth it.

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The Nakamura Corporation is the de facto authority on Earth thanks to their breakthroughs in robotics and AI. That doesn’t sit well with some folks, most notably Jacker and Boogan, who have their hearts set on stealing Nakamura’s secrets from their space station stronghold. Getting into the fully automated facility is no mean feat though, which is why they hire the titular Ghost to infiltrate and confiscate. Ghost is a digital agent who can possess robots like a vengeful ghost, a skill that will be extremely useful and relevant as she tears her way to the heart of Nakamura’s operation.

You’ll get a few twists and turns in the story but it mostly serves as a backdrop for the characters to snark at. Ghost 1.0 loves its characters, and will bombard you with a surprising number of voiced cutscenes as you progress. Sometimes it’ll have some relevance to the plot but it’ll always be some kind of witty banter between Jacker, Boogan, and sometimes Ghost. The dialogue is stilted enough to suggest that it’s translated, and the delivery is aggressively amateur, but I’ll admit getting a few chuckles out of it from time to time. Only a few, though… Boogan and Ghost are solid characters, but Jacker is the classic anti-social hacker with awkward jokes and some questionable opinions, so you might find yourself skipping cutscenes after all.

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That’ll get you back to the action faster, which is where the game really shines. Ghost 1.0 is a shooter at heart, giving you loads of guns and jumps and dashes and lays them all out intelligently on the gamepad so you can flip and roll and blast away. You’ll come across enemies pacing the many halls of the space station but the main avenue of combat is tripping the alarms, which is unavoidable if you want to access special goodie consoles. Alarms turn the room into an arena, locking you in with waves of enemies until Jacker can clear the alert. The mixes are always clever and the rewards are great, so once you know what to expect you’ll probably want to hunt down all the alarms you can for quality lootin’ and shootin’.

You’ll earn energy cubes from most everything, which is the game’s currency. There are shops all over the map which offer consumables, permanent upgrades, new passives skills, and a host of weapons to either replace or compliment your primary pistol. Some of these items can also be found after clearing a room and triggering a shower of sparkles. Collecting all of them grants you a bonus item, meaning sometimes you can save your cash for bigger upgrades. Don’t hang onto it for too long, though, because dying wipes all your money and it can come fast in this game if you run afoul of the wrong enemies. As much as I’ve been enjoying this one, I lost thousands of cubes because of some particularly brutal traps and a boss that was able to kill me after I had killed it.

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There are some annoyances like that to be found, like some awkward platforming and tricky enemies, but they’re the exception here. Exploring the Nakamura Space Station is quite a bit of fun, between the shooting and upgrading and progressing. It’s not a proper metroidvania, mind you, as you only need keycards to access new areas instead of skills. Several metraoidvania-ish skills like air dashing can be found in the skill trees, which include loads of passive bonuses unlocked by finding upgrade points along the main path. All these progression systems become totally worth it when you can make ruinous acidic weapons with rapidly regenerating ammo and the like.

On top of it all, Ghost 1.0 is a pretty long game of about 8 to 10 hours. The station is expansive and there’s plenty to see, do, and hear (if you’re sticking out the cutscenes). I’m a big fan of the nice, clean art and fluid animations, and the sound design is decent aside from the weapons which sound like ghosts of actual firearms themselves. Say what you will about the writing, but this is a solid sci-fi shooter with a wealth of content to explore. There are even alternate game modes like missions, where you embark on shorter adventures to complete specific goals. Really this is one any platforming aficionado should check out, since you don’t see this particular mash-up of combat and upgrades that often.

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