Ghost 1.0 – Do androids fear Ghosts?

Ghost 1.0 is a 2D platformer in the “Metroidvania” genre, and it’s made by the developers Unepic fran. It’s set in the future and your role in this somewhat cyberpunk: ish world is to infiltrate a spaceship hanging around in low orbit around earth. Now, I’m not an expert on this genre, even if I have played a few, so I can’t say for certain if it’s a Metroidvania game to its core, but I do think it’s a fair bit linear to truly be a Metroid-like game. However, I had a really good time playing, and even if I didn’t have to search every nook and cranny to find my way through the game.

You play as Ghost, some kind of infiltration expert for hire, recently taken on by the two hacker nerds Jacker and Boogan to infiltrate a low orbit station owned by android creators Nakamura Corporation. The reason for the infiltration is curiosity, as far as I know. As with all futuristic cyberpunk stories about AI, androids, and hacking, this story does slip into the same old tropes, and while I didn’t mind it, it’s pretty easy to see where the narrative is going, even when the game is trying to be coy what it is about. The story by itself is not amazing in any way, it works and sets the atmosphere, but what stands out are the characters. The hacker team is lovable goofballs, and Ghost (you), the woman of the team is pretty good as well. The writing shows great banter and dynamic of the crew, and I can’t help to smile when they argue with each other.

However, it does stumble around, unfortunately, especially if you are like me and are fed up with identity politics. It doesn’t happen often, but there are a few jabs at white fit men – since apparently, they are the protagonists in every game ever, according to the game’s writing. I guess the devs have never played Tomb Raider or any of the countless games that have a female lead. Now, this is probably just a bad joke, but at this current point in time, it’s tiresome. It does not ruin the experience, yet, it’s there, and it had me rolling my eyes hard when everything had been so pleasant otherwise.

Blasting mommy robot and her kids

The gameplay is tight, at least with a mouse and keyboard. I tried to play with a controller at first, but I couldn’t get it working properly. Also, I think that was for the better since you will be flicking around your mouse a lot when aiming – it can get pretty hectic at times, and the crosshair movement is slow on the controller. While the main objective is to shoot enemy robots, you can also hack and take control of them which is used for causing general mayhem without any risk to you and for solving puzzles. Many of these puzzles require both dexterity and at least some intelligence in the figuring-out-department. I never felt totally stumped, so the puzzles didn’t slow me down much, which is a good thing for the general pacing.

It wouldn’t be a Metroidvania if it didn’t come with a lot of different upgrades, both to weapons, and skills. And there are a lot of ways to get them too. There is the usual skill tree, which comes in four categories – personal upgrades, buffs during alarms, and so on. You upgrade by finding static skill points in different locations on the map, usually next to where you find door keys. Then you have “souls”, you can collect, and these are hidden in the scenery that gets activated on movement or doing something specific, and these upgrades are all random from what I can tell. It’s everything from memes, to in-game currency, to actual upgrades to your character, like weapons or health boosts. Then you have the currency in form of yellow cubes that enemies drop. You can also get them by doing special alarm challenges. The challenge is some kind of a horde mode, you get attacked from all sides and have to survive a few minutes until the alarm gets shut down. This gives you a huge boost in money, and sometimes souls. And these can be repeated, which allows you to grind a bit if you need cubes to buy new stuff.

The nerds

While the souls, and skill upgrades get you new things, the really good stuff comes from the store. Here you can get new weapons, but also major buffs to health, and special upgrades like having you shoot behind you or drones that help you fight – which is very useful indeed. All this adds up, and in the later stages of the game, if you played your cards correctly, you can become really powerful, just below an android killing god actually. I think it’s a good contrast to the beginning of the game, where you only have access to a puny plasma pistol and die easily to any hostile robots.

Death is not the end, since you can be recreated in a 3D printer. These 3D printers are placed all over the space station and act as a saving station. Both for actually saving your game, but also for saving your state in the world, equipment-wise at least. If you die after picking up new upgrades those are at risk of being dropped when you bite the dust. You can pick them up again if you can get to your place of death, but that is not always possible. I died in a few awkward places, and while I could see my upgrades floating around my place of demise there was no way to reach them. And with that, I recommend saving a lot, even if it means doing some backtracking. You will also lose all your money on death, which I think is an incentive enough not to perish unnecessarily.

The normal traversing of the map isn’t too hard if you are careful and make use of your skills. I’m not saying it’s super easy, though, since I died a lot on this stage too, both to map hazards and enemies. But what got me the most was the boss fights. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of boss fights overall, but I think these were fairly well done and balanced, even so, I died a lot here. Thankfully, the corpse runs aren’t too far. Usually, there is a 3D printer (save station) relatively close by, so I can only thank the devs for that consideration. Anyway, while you might get stuck like me at the boss fights, they are not impassable brick walls. If you have trouble with one, you can always go around and grind for a bit to get a few needed upgrades. I had to do that on one certain boss, and suddenly thanks to the new equipment the boss got his ass handed to him. This is a gameplay approach I appreciate – when the difficulty depends on the player, how much you are willing to invest, and not only autistic skills most of us mere mortals can’t reach.

You have 20 seconds to comply

The visual style is sleek, and it looks great, both background graphics to characters, and the cartoon-like cutscenes are fine too. Effects are satisfying to witness, even if it gets a bit messy when there are a lot of things going on at the same time. But I have never played any of these kinds of games that didn’t become like that at one point or another. The animations are also great and are perfectly synced to the controller movement. In other words, it’s a joy to play and witness. The sound is good, it got all the expected futuristic sci-fi sounds – more bleeps and bops than you can count!

Music, while nothing stood out to me as especially memorable, it worked fine as background tunes to the action. It does change dynamically depending on what kind of situation you are in, so that’s nice. The voice acting is superb and adds to the charm of the characters. I liked the two nerds, and I think the voices fit them perfectly. Another great thing about the voice acting is that it’s not overused, like in many other games that can’t help themselves to shove as much inane dialogue as possible into their title, so the risk of becoming annoyed is low, which is a big plus for Ghost 1.0.

Overall, I had an awesome time here. Except for the unnecessary stumble into modern politics, but beyond that, I can’t fault the game for anything. Everything from the gameplay, to the sounds, and story, even if predictable, was excellent. The game isn’t exactly short either, at least not for a first playthrough. I thought it was going to be an eight to ten-hour adventure, but it lasted me close to sixteen. I highly recommend Ghost 1.0, and I hope they make a sequel someday since I want to see the trio in action again.

Thanks for reading.

/Thomas


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