Ghost Song: a Haunting Hands-on Preview
Few modern video games exhibit the power to instantly draw the player in from the moment they boot the title up. In an era of big budget, blockbuster game releases, true art often feels pushed by the wayside.
Ghost Song, developed by Old Moon Games, is one of the exceptions to the formula that has taken ahold of the video game industry. Hauntingly beautiful and an addicting challenge, spending time with Ghost Song is both an exciting experience and a lesson in impeccable game design.
For those unaware, Ghost Song is a 2D metroidvania title. Set on the dangerous moon, Lorian V, Ghost Song blends the exploration emphasis of Metroid with an implicitly told, engaging story
Earlier this week, Ghost Song opened its cavernous corridors for a public beta. Despite being a very early build, it was impossible to not be amazed at just how exceptional Ghost Song already feels.
As soon as Ghost Song’s opening moments unfold, it becomes clear that this is a game developed and designed strictly out of passion. The stunning visuals of Ghost Song take center stage immediately from starting the game, allowing players to see and experience the alien landscape of Lorian V.
Enough cannot be said about the art design of Ghost Song. Each character and environment the player encounters is expertly crafted and capable of instilling an emotional reaction in the player. The rich detail found in the character models and environment are immensely pleasing to the eye and immerse the player in mere seconds.
Upon gaining control of the playable character, the Super Metroid influence on Ghost Song is easily notable. Even outside of any visual similarities one might notice, Ghost Song plays a lot like the Super Nintendo title, which is nothing short of exceptional.
Much like the metroidvania classics before it, Ghost Song places a massive emphasis on exploration and discovery. For the beta, players are dropped into an area of the game with no information or references as to what to do or where to go. Moving forward through the caverns and passageways of Lorian V is the only option that presents itself. Upon beginning exploration, the expansive playable area begins to wind about, adding excitement and a sense of broad scope with each new room uncovered.
To navigate through the varied rooms and locations in Ghost Song, players will not only have to master basic jumping and dashing, but also uncover different abilities that allow access to previously inaccessible areas. Metroidvania lovers will instantly take to this notion, and are sure to enjoy scouring each room in hopes of finding a new power to get their hands on.
Even in its early stage of development, Ghost Song still plays well. Games with a heavy emphasis on exploration require tight controls in order to successfully make it through each area. Thankfully, Ghost Song seems responsive to player input, with fluid animations supporting each movement.
Although it does sport tight controls, this is not to say that survival in Ghost Song is guaranteed. As you explore more of Lorian V, expect a challenge in both tough platforming and dangerous foes. Learning to properly control your jump can be a bit of a learning experience at first, but spending a short amount of time with the game allows for quick mastery. Upon growing comfortable with the platforming elements, unlocking the game’s Wraith Dash and Triple Jump makes you remarkably agile and moving quickly through rooms is an exciting rush.
In terms of combat, Ghost Song pleases. As previously stated, some battles in the beta build can be tough, but Ghost Song never seems unfair. Each encounter can be tackled with the playable character’s default weapon – a rapid shooting arm blaster – and made simpler by unlocking hidden powerups and secondary weaponry. Learning how to react and deal with foes, especially the larger enemy types, is a huge source of enjoyment in Ghost Song’s beta. The relative difficulty of balancing quick movement and challenging combat certainly lends credence to Ghost Song taking as much influence from Dark Souls as Super Metroid and the resulting blend is invigorating.
The true homage to Dark Souls in Ghost Song, however, is delivered through its ambiguous narrative structure. While the beta obviously leaves players without the rest of the game’s context in mind, meeting NPC characters and interacting with them, as well as paying attention to subtle environmental details, are indicative of a game that requires its players to think, explore and learn from their surroundings. This kind of story and narrative structure is hard to pull off well, but the Ghost Song beta has two specific encounters with NPC that instantly intrigue and pique the player’s interest with their haunting dialogue and vague allusions. Fans of mysterious stories and characters should be very excited to experience the narrative the Ghost Song will offer upon release.
The Ghost Song beta is an amazing experience. Old Moon Games has done an amazing job with the game’s development so far. Featuring an impressive map to explore (roughly 1/5 of the expected size upon release), top-notch visuals, and tight gameplay, I can safely say that the hours I put into Ghost Song’s beta build are among the most enjoyable I’ve spent on a game this year.
Expect huge things from Ghost Song, the smart money is on this little title becoming one of gaming’s biggest successes.
For more information about Ghost Song, head over to the game’s official site.
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