Ghost Song assessment: a melancholy Metroidvania with a touch of Hollow Knight

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Ghost Song is a 2D Metroid-like that is all the time a feast for the eyes, however a frequent frustration on your head and palms. Its beautiful artwork course depicts a vibrant alien world that bubbles and throbs with bio-mechanical life, the place spore clouds and fleshy natural tunnels stay facet by facet with floating metallic skulls and impenetrable thickets of wires and cables. It’s an interesting place that appears to morph and alter with each passing map section, calling to thoughts the animated techno gunge of Akira and Metropolis one minute, and the flowering brilliance of Alex Garland’s Annihilation the subsequent. Its roots sink deep, making a world you may need to discover each final nook and cranny of as you delve deeper into its underbelly to seek out out why you are right here.

But Deadsuit, your android-like protagonist, makes for a barely rusty-feeling companion at occasions, missing the grace and class of Nintendo’s Samus Aran, and the nimble dexterity of Team Cherry’s anonymous knight. It will tide you over till Silksong arrives, for positive, but it surely additionally by no means fairly sings in the way in which you’d hope.

From the off, it is clear Ghost Song owes an important debt to Metroid and Hollow Knight. Deadsuit herself may be a smaller and fewer imposing presence than Nintendo’s fearsome bounty hunter, however her arm cannon and glowing visor really feel like they might have been an previous swimsuit design that is been saved from the recycling bin. You’ll ultimately purchase different weapons to make use of in tandem with the arm cannon, together with a spear and a really massive (and superb) Buster-like sword, however capturing stays your major methodology of interplay with this unusual, impenetrable world, and the way in which that you must plant your toes with a purpose to intention freely along with your analogue stick could not really feel extra Metroid-like if it tried. Heck, there are even little yellow bugs that go spherical and spherical hugging the suspended platforms in Ghost Song, similar to the little yellow spiky dudes firstly of Samus’ 1986 debut.

The spectre of Hollow Knight emerges when your well being bar hits zero, with Deadsuit emitting an eerie shriek and blinding mild as she sheds her assortment of nanocells and teleports again to the closest save level

The spectre of Hollow Knight emerges when your well being bar hits zero, with Deadsuit emitting an eerie shriek and blinding mild as she sheds her assortment of nanocells and teleports again to the closest save level. These nanocells are collected from each enemy you are taking down, and are what that you must enhance your swimsuit’s energy, well being, and sturdiness at particular (and really Chozo-like) improve statues. As in Hollow Knight, and certainly each different Soulslike you have most likely performed within the final 5 years, you’ll be able to go and retrieve these nanocells by returning to the location of your demise, however they will disappear for good when you fall once more alongside the way in which.

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There’s solely a small smattering of save factors to be discovered right here, however thankfully its hallways aren’t so full of enemies that getting again ever turns into a lot of a chore. It solely begins to turn into significantly problematic if you unintentionally stroll right into a barriered boss room and get completely mullered inside the first 5 seconds, leaving you caught in a perpetual cycle of both ‘gitting gud’ or abandoning your cells altogether – the identical because it ever was in FromDelicate’s Souls games, primarily.


A robot warrior stands in front of a purple forest of heads and hands in Ghost Song

A robot warrior runs through a tunnel of skulls in Ghost Song


A robot warrior aims their arm cannon at a white, frog like biped in Ghost Song

Thankfully, these losses are by no means fairly as painful as they’re in different Soulslikes. Upgrades nonetheless steadily creep up in value over time, however whereas a foul demise in Elden Ring, say, can see you lose 1000’s, if not tens of 1000’s of runes in a single location, Ghost Song not often offers in something greater than a few hundred. 1000, absolute tops. And sure, it nonetheless takes a good bit of labor to earn these cells again when you do have the misfortune to lose them altogether, however when even end-game upgrades come to lower than 3000 cells a pop, it simply helps to make all of it really feel a bit extra manageable and fewer like a grind.

That stated, there was a second across the halfway level the place I used to be severely contemplating doing a little bit of grinding, although, as I’d seemingly hit a wall in my capacity to progress. Your predominant aim in Ghost Song is to retrieve 5 particular ship parts that can allow you to and your newfound human survivor buddies restore their vessel and (hopefully) escape the planet’s static discipline that introduced you all (and the ruins of many different ships) crashing to the floor within the first place. Borrowing from one other Metroid-like corridor of famer, Ghost Song pulls an Axiom Verge 2 right here by putting these 5 factors of curiosity in your map by default, placing the onus on you to discover a viable route and choose your means in direction of them.

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A robot talks with a human in front of a large space ship in Ghost Song

In traditional style, a few of these goals want particular talents with a purpose to attain them – your double jumps, wall jumps and dashes and the like – however discovering these power-ups triggered fairly a number of sticking factors for me. You see, there are many bosses you may encounter throughout Ghost Song, styled as different survivors who’ve been corrupted by the planet’s oppressive environment. Some are obligatory, however most are solely optionally available, and defeating them will usually internet you an additional missile kind on your arm cannon, or a brand new module on your swimsuit, corresponding to providing you with a small window of invincibility if you sprint, for instance, or the power to sprout therapeutic vegetation at your toes. These are all ruled by how a lot energy you’ve got out there to plug into them, and presents a satisfying sense of selection in how one can package Deadsuit out. A few bosses, although, will yield these crucial leaping talents you want, and understanding which of them that you must defeat and which of them you’ll be able to skirt round (as a few of them are actually fairly tough) could be difficult.

“There are numerous bosses you may encounter throughout Ghost Song, styled as different survivors who’ve been corrupted by the planet’s oppressive environment”

This actually got here to bear after I was making an attempt to get to my second ship part. The game tells you which of them one you must head to first, however after that leaves it as much as you, and having exhausted all different routes, I used to be primarily left with two choices – and each appeared to contain combating tremendous tough bosses that locked you into their respective arenas. I simply didn’t appear remotely geared up to cope with both of them at that specific second, though a swimsuit module I ultimately discovered off one other boss that exponentially elevated my firepower consistent with my present swimsuit stage definitely did assist fairly a bit in that respect.

But Deadsuit herself additionally feels fairly stiff within the palms, her soar by no means fairly providing the vary or stage of management that you must dodge projectiles, and her sprint to get previous enemies all the time seemingly falling wanting the place you want. You do develop a sure muscle reminiscence for these items over time, but it surely’s straightforward to get overwhelmed in these fights, particularly when Ghost Song’s extra run of the mill enemies do not supply wherever close to the identical stage of problem.

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A robot falls through a metallic cavern in Ghost Song


A robot warrior talks to a diver inside a cave in Ghost Song

A clunky protagonist I can stay with, however that freeform construction of ‘go wherever in any order’ additionally falls foul of a few of the similar pitfalls I encountered in Axiom Verge 2, particularly that the course that you must go in to really discover these bosses and parts is not all the time as apparent or intuitive because it may appear in your map. Once once more, there have been occasions after I needed to head in virtually the wrong way to get the place I actually wanted to be, making it tough to guage when you’re truly making progress. Having suffered by means of that with Axiom Verge 2 earlier within the 12 months, this second-guessing of the map display screen is one thing that is been engrained into my psyche with Metroidvanias now, but it surely additionally simply made me recognize the class and sense of readability you get from having easy little waypoint markers and mini ‘hey, my scanners positive are selecting up one thing bizarre over right here!’ goals in Metroid and Hollow Knight. Some would possibly name them too hand-holdy and that a part of the enjoyable is nosing by means of its squelchy caverns and the like, however my endurance does even have a restrict for these items.

As it seems, a kind of tough bosses was solely optionally available in the long run, and the opposite concerned a monster that really fled the scene after some time, which means I did not must waste my time bashing my head towards it in spite of everything. From then on, it was all comparatively plain crusing, and by the top of my ten hours with it I’d even realized to guage Deadsuit’s sprint accurately.

I loved Ghost Song general, however that center act droop did virtually kill it useless for me, too, which is a disgrace, as beneath all of it, this can be a very completed Metroid-like for such a tiny dev staff – and it’ll definitely fill that Hollow Knight formed gap in your life whereas we look forward to Silksong, particularly when you’re a Game Pass subscriber. There’s nonetheless lots to admire about what Old Moon have made right here, however there are sufficient fluffed notes within the combine that it simply stops wanting being a harmonious entire.

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